Speakers 2020


chera kowalski standing in front of a brick wall

Chera Kowalski

Chera Kowalski is committed to transforming the way public libraries serve communities. In her former role as the Adult/Teen Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s McPherson Square Branch, located in Kensington, the epicenter of the city’s overdose crisis, this meant volunteering to receive overdose reversal training through Prevention Point Philadelphia. Shortly after the training, she put her knowledge into action – saving six lives, which garnered attention from local, national, and international media. Chera now advocates for libraries to support substance use harm reduction efforts along with advocating for public libraries to dismantle historical and institutional power structures as a path to creating equity among library professionals and the public they serve. Chera now serves as the Assistant to the Chief of Staff at the Free Library and is a graduate of Temple University and the University of Illinois.

Concurrent Sessions

Strategy Before Tragedy: Library Worker Safety in Unsafe Times

Rivkah Sass Jarrid Keller and Kathy Middleton

Library workers understand and acknowledge that library work can be dangerous and that education and training is inadequate in addressing the threats that exist. Balancing the commitment to public service with safe work environments requires vigilance and courage.

The session will describe one library’s experience in managing a tragedy, share lessons learned and discuss the impact on library staff, the community, decision-makers and advocates as well as the challenges involved in increasing staff and public safety while working to maintain a welcoming and compassionate environment.

Accessibility VS. Inclusion: Sure There’s a Ramp Behind the Dumpster

Shawn Lemieux Jill Rothstein, Chancey Fleet, Nefertiti Matos

Is accessibility the same as inclusion? We aim to share with you the fundamental differences between them. Do you feel your library is welcoming to diverse groups of patrons with different abilities and disabilities? We will give examples of what works and things you should avoid. Every panel member has a different viewpoint. We come together in our service, going beyond the status quo, to provide essential resources and empower our patrons. We build partnerships in the community to help everyone accomplish their goals in a library setting. We come to you with life experiences, work experiences and suggestions that can span all libraries.

Congratulations, You’re A Librarian (in quarantine)! Now What…

Alessandra Affinito Kevin Kelley, Grace Yamada, Lyndsie Guy

This session will discuss how to pivot your skills to adapt to the changing needs of libraries amid this pandemic. How do you re-evaluate your role and expand your impact?  You’ve gotten the degree, you’re well established in your library, but now your job description needs to change drastically.

Examine how to navigate the current landscape through the lens of personal, institutional, and professional development. Learn how to keep your work engaging and share your expertise with a wide audience.

Campus Libraries: One Library, Many Communities

Jessica Hochman, Teresa Tartaglione, Marie Southwell, Christina Gavin, Rachel Green, Donna Gray

Every library serves many communities. The recently completed handbook for campus school librarians was initially conceived as a tool for librarians who work in buildings where multiple schools are served by one library. However, the result is a helpful resource for any librarian serving urban students. This session, chaired by the handbook’s author, will feature a panel of campus school librarians who will share some of the strategies they use to support their diverse users. We will invite perspectives from session attendees who also serve multiple communities in one library.

Who’s Your Data? On Collecting and Using Data for Services, Funding and Targeted Advertising

Gillian Robbins

A busy librarian’s first thought on data is “I cannot devote precious time to collect and analyze data that is going to sit in a file for years.” Data is the answer to improved services, tools, and programs for your users. It can also play a huge role in grant writing and marketing. Attend this session to learn about free tools, how to get started, and what questions you need to ask. Plus, learn how the Free Library of Philadelphia successfully implemented data collection in their new Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC) and how they used it to get funded.

Cautious Librarians as Trauma Stewards: Being Careful and Caring for Self and Others

Kerwin Pilgrim Tim Berrigan, Jenny Chisnell, Iman Powe-Maynard, Alicia Pritchard, Adeeba Rana

Urban library workers witness violence, medical emergencies, and people in distress regularly; they may hear memorable patron or student stories of struggle and strength. This work can take a toll on the body and mind. Many library workers feel the effects of secondary trauma but do not have the language to describe and process the experience, leading to their own emotional distress. A panel of front-line NYC library workers will share how understanding and adopting a trauma-informed lens and embracing self-care strategies can shift staff towards resilience, preventing burnout while improving patron services. Emotional trauma is a shared human experience. Use it as a heuristic to improve service & self-care.

Trauma-Informed Care in Youth Services

Susen Shi, Genee Bright, Fairlie McCollough, Diara Rosario

Working with young adults can be a high energy environment as we take on multiple roles such as mentor, confidant, mediator, and disciplinarian. As trust is built, young adults will often seek out their youth staff for assistance, especially in areas of their lives where trauma has had an impact. This session will focus on how youth staff can support their teen patrons who have endured such traumatic events. We will go over methods in which to guide these critical conversations as well as constructive ways for staff to handle the emotional impacts these chats can have.

Healing Happens at the LIbrary

Susan Martinez Jamaica Sowell, Sarah Germany, Rebecca Alvarado

East Oakland is a community plagued by gun violence and a lack of access to healthy food and quality healthcare. The Eastmont Branch Library is partnering with the Alameda County Care Connect Program, Roots Community Health Center, and The Food Commonweal Food Justice Collaborative to build healing and reinforce community resilience through programs which highlight our traditionally African-American and Latino community’s positive attributes (storytelling, kinship, bonding through food) to improve mental, emotional, and physical health outcomes.

Where Are the Technical Services Librarians of Color?

Treshani Perera Eugenia Beh, Anastasia Chiu

Three academic librarians of color will speak on their experiences in technical services work. They will cover: the need for library workers of color in positions coded as behind-the-scenes work in librarianship, barriers that librarians in cataloging and electronic resources face, a breakdown of how white supremacy manifests in technical services workplace cultures, and ideas on how to recruit and retain library workers of color in these areas.

Happy Librarians Talk Management and Morale

Michele Cayea, Ellen Frank Bayer

The number of books, workshops, and seminars on managing libraries are endless, yet few of these resources highlight good management practices from the perspective of content employees. As a result, the most important voices — that is, those who are managed — are, ironically, often absent in the conversation on best practices. In this panel presentation, librarians from school, and public libraries will share specific aspects of their work environments that contribute to their contentment, morale, and productivity. Attendees will leave the presentation with concrete examples of programs, accountability structures, and management strategies that can be implemented at their libraries to promote a more positive workplace environment.

Real Housewives of Brooklyn Public Library: Making it work while working as a library professional

Kimberly Ross, Mina Hong, Jhani Miller, Kay Jordan-Wilkie

Living in one of the most expensive cities in the country can be a challenge, especially when the “living” wage is gasping for air. Making rent, raising a family, and caring for yourself all while maintaining compassion for the public, may seem like an impossible task, so how do so many people do it? Join our diverse panel of library professionals as they share their experiences, present some of the issues they’ve faced working in public libraries and explore solutions that can benefit both employees and employers in a round-table discussion, presented in the style of a Housewives’ reunion show.

Destigmatizing Notorious Branches

Thomas Maxheimer, Kacper Jarecki, Maryanne Olson, Amber Loveless, Shanta Gee

There are many reasons library branches can be stigmatized. We place those reasons aside for a moment and talk about the difficulties of managing and working in a branch that has a negative stigma. Even after the hard work has been invested and the day-to-day operations have improved, the stigma endures. Staff positions go unfilled for months. Gossip persists; staff are given grave warnings about applying to open positions in challenging branches. Librarians from stigmatized branches who have turned around difficult locations discuss advocacy for their branch, the impact of gossip, and what they are doing to revitalize the reputation of their branches—while still facing the frustrations of the wider library net believing the former rumors are true.

Don’t Quit Your Night Job: How a Professional Rapper is Using His Skills to Mentor Kids and Teens

Ohzhe Morris, Tor Loney

Ohzhe Morris is a recording and performing artist in Albany, NY who has received critical acclaim for his music. He is also a Community Engagement Clerk at Albany Public Library, where he runs a weekly hip-hop program for kids and teens called Mic Drop, guiding them through beatmaking, lyric writing and delivery, and recording techniques. In all of his work, he continually develops relationships, nurtures connections, and models ways of being for young people. Through sharing his own path of self-realization and expression, Ohzhe is teaching community youth that they can bring their entire selves into creativity.

Work/Study: Exhausted Urban Library Students Are Our Current and Future Information Professionals

Claudia Berger, Mary Bakija

Students pursuing an MLIS in an urban environment balance the challenges of studying and working in a city with high tuition and rents, low or unpaid jobs and internships, and working enough hours to make ends meet while maintaining a courseload to be eligible for scholarships. Before even entering the library workforce as full-fledged librarians, students face demanding conditions that will continue to impact how they’re able to function, both professionally and personally, well beyond graduation. How will these issues inform the workplaces students will enter?