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October 2019 Library Tech Newsbytes

This month we offer news on the U.S. senators pushing back on the FCC's plan to cut funding for the Universal Service Fund and the E-Rate Program. We also bring news about Library Journal's best small library in America 2019. It's one in the troubled southern borderlands with Mexico. There's also former ALA president Loida Garcia-Febo's wellness resources for library workers, Wichita Public Library's fancy checkout receipts that tell patrons how much they save by borrowing instead of buying books, David Lee King's library tech predictions on 5G, and what e-books at the library mean for patron privacy.

It's an odd assortment, we know. Nonetheless, here's your library tech newsbytes for October and Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Senator Ed Markey Leads the Charge to Save the Universal Service Fund

Multichannel.com reports that Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and more than two dozen Senate Democrats — including the leading presidential candidates — are calling on the FCC to scrap its proposal to cut the Universal Service Fund. The fund provides subsidies for phone and broadband underwritten by ratepayers on their monthly bills. The senators maintain that the cap will harm healthcare, broadband deployment, and education. The fund is one of the primary programs used to close the digital divide. It also makes the E-Rate Program possible that so many public libraries use to get discounted broadband.

The Best Small Library in America 2019

At the ARSL Conference in Vermont in September, the Library Journal Best Small Library in America 2019 was announced. The winner is the Copper Queen Library in Bisbee, Arizona. It's located in the troubled Mexican borderlands and vigorously offers free and open access to its programs to everyone. They go to extraordinary lengths to engage an entire community. Finalists for the award included Honey Grove Library & Learning Center in Texas and Whitehall Public Library in Pittsburgh. See Library Journal's feature story here.

Wellness Resources for Library Workers from Loida Garcia-Febo

Former ALA president Loida Garcia-Febo found during her national library tour in 2019 that many library workers experience stress and anxiety brought by daily life and in their workplace with library patrons and coworkers. She worked with her ALA-APA staff members and her Presidential Advisory Board to develop resources to help library workers manage stress and anxiety. These include

Public Library Receipt Shows How Much Money Each Patron Saves by Borrowing Instead of Buying Books

Reddit user penguinska9 posted that their library "keeps track of how much you save by not buying books and borrowing instead" and shows the dollar amount on the receipt when you check out a book. Genius! I don't know how common this practice is, but the following is from a Wichita Public Library posting from last year:

"While libraries offer tremendous benefits to their communities, sometimes the benefits are more abstract or require long term studies to show the value of their programs," said Jennifer Lane, communication manager, Wichita Public Library. "Including this information is a way to easily quantify one of the ways the Library is a value to its users. …"

So far this year, the highest dollar amount saved by a customer's account is $64,734.12. And the highest dollar amount saved by a customer's account since this feature was implemented is $196,076.21.

The receipt is a feature of the Polaris Integrated Library System. This savings feature was added in 2016. According to a blog post from the Wichita Public Library, one of the libraries that uses Polaris, "The 'You Saved' feature calculates the amount saved based on the original price of the material when it was purchased by the Library."

What Will 5G Mobile Broadband Mean to Libraries?

Library tech forecaster David Lee King predicts that 5G or 5th Generation mobile cellular networks will provide more speed, better latency, and greater capacity to connect devices. What does this mean for libraries? Here are his thoughts:

  • Mobile usage will continue to grow. Make sure your websites and web services work well on mobile devices.
  • Smaller libraries that need better broadband or Wi-Fi might just make the move to a 5G setup.
  • As cities start thinking about becoming "smart cities" and using newer technology (like 5G), it's the perfect opportunity for the library to step in and take a leadership role in planning your community's future. That is, if you understand something about emerging technology trends and how they might be used locally.

He says that it will be a while yet before 5G really takes off, however.

What E-Books at the Library Mean for Patron Privacy

In recognition of Cybersecurity Awareness this month, we thought we'd mention Laura Hautala's insight on CNET on why e-books and audiobooks are a challenge to patron privacy. She boldly maintains that the new e-book and audiobook technology environment is at odds with the traditional role libraries have played as champions of privacy. Librarians stood up to the U.S. government over requirements in the 2001 USA Patriot Act to share records with law enforcement. They designed policies that require that records of the books you've checked out be deleted as soon as you return them. And they've pushed every U.S. state to adopt protections for patron records. Yet …

E-books and audiobooks make protecting privacy harder. Titles are usually provided through private companies, which can access your data. And today's software can create more comprehensive records about patrons than a simple list of the books they have checked out. Library apps create a list of everything you're reading. Patrons can also inadvertently leak their own information. OverDrive's apps let you transfer your library e-books to the Kindle app, which tips off Amazon to the library books you read. Some librarians have questioned whether patrons know that's happening and that there could be unintended consequences. What to do about this? You tell me. I'd love to know.

We hope you like our selection of newsbytes this month!