How Libraries Can Keep Loaner Devices Safe With The New Emergency Connectivity Fund Program

In an effort to bridge the digital divide, part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 includes $7.17 billion for the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program. This program provides funding for public and tribal libraries and K-12 schools to purchase devices like hotspots and laptops for use away from library and school grounds.

The ECF presents an extraordinary and unprecedented funding opportunity for libraries to expand broadband equity to those who need it most beyond the confines of library walls. This is amazing, but does pose some challenges to libraries.  One challenge is that loaner devices paid for by the new Emergency Connectivity Fund require a CIPA filter to be compliant.  Here’s what you need to know about how to make sure your library and devices are in compliance. 

What is a CIPA Filter?

The Children's Internet Protection Act was enacted in the year 2000 to limit exposure to explicit content online.  The most common way that libraries use a CIPA filter is through a filter that is applied on the WiFi at the library building.  When a patron types in a website name and tries to go to a site, a DNS filter checks the webpage and decides if it meet the criteria to be blocked or not blocked.  If it's fine to visit the site, a patron goes to the website.  If it's not allowed, the patron usually sees some kind of warning message about the content being blocked.

CIPA compliance on loaner laptops

One of the more confusing requires of the ECF is the requirement of CIPA compliance even on laptops and devices that are loaned out and will not be used at the library building. This presents a challenge because, as mentioned above, most libraries apply a CIPA filter on the library WiFi itself, which makes all devices connecting to the WiFi compliant.  However, when libraries loan laptops to students for home use, the library needs to find a way to apply a CIPA filter to the device itself, rather than the WiFi it’s connected to. 

CleanBrowsing and OpenDNS Options

Although there are many options to enable CIPA compliance on loaner or roaming devices, in our research, we found two options that we think our customers will find most interesting.  The highest quality option that we found was OpenDNS, now called Cisco Umbrella.  CleanBrowsing is a newcomer in the space that shines as the lowest cost option that still fits the requirements. 

How are CleanBrowsing and OpenDNS the same?

  • CIPA Compliance
  • DNS filtering
  • Installable Software for roaming devices
  • Customizable filters
  • Saving or not saving logs
  • Customizable block pages

How are CleanBrowsing and OpenDNS different?

  • CleanBrowsing:
    • Many install options on several devices
    • Granular control over allowed/blocked sites
    • Custom settings per site
    • Friendly and easy to use interface
    • In business since 2018, startup
  • OpenDNS:
    • Many site categories on filter list
    • Scanning and blocking of installed apps
    • Multiple network and filter customization
    • Filtering per device type or network
    • In business since 2006, backed by Cisco

CleanBrowsing vs OpenDNS Pricing

*Please note prices are subject to change.  For up to date pricing information, please visit each vendor's website link in the Summary section below or get a quote directly from the vendor.

  • CleanBrowsing:
    • Plans start at $59.99/year for up to 25 devices.
  • OpenDNS:
    • Approximately $20 per device per year (based on 100 device plan)

Summary

Both CleanBrowsing and OpenDNS offer CIPA compliance options in their paid packages for loaner laptops.  They have many similarities in how they help you block malicious websites and adult content.  The biggest differences are in stability and pricing.  OpenDNS/Umbrella was founded in 2006 and is the true leader in this space.  With that refinement and experience comes a price tag that matches.  CleanBrowsing was founded in 2018 and is a startup, but comes in at a price of almost 10x less than OpenDNS.  For further research, here are links to OpenDNS, CleanBrowsing, and to the CIPA compliance literature regarding the Emergency Connectivity Fund.

OpenDNS

CleanBrowsing

ALA's ECF Overview 

ALA's ECF Overview CIPA Compliance Link

Additional Note on CIPA compliance on loaner hotspots

The ECF also requires CIPA compliance on all loaner hotspots according to the ALA compliance guide.  Many hotspot providers who work with public libraries offer embedded CIPA compliance and adult filters into the hotspots that they sell to public libraries.  So when a patron is receiving both a hotspot and a laptop from the library, if the hotspot is compliant, then the laptop connecting to it is also compliant.  This is very similar to the compliance achieved when using the WiFi at the library itself.  In this case, additional filtering is likely not needed.  However, if the loaner hotspot is not providing adult filtering, the services linked above can help you keep your loaner hotspots and loaner laptops in compliance as well.


Public Library Insights Q2 of 2021

When analyzing WiFi insights data and looking for usage trends over the past year, we’ve identified clear fluctuations in use that seem to correlate with particular service areas, important timelines in the pandemic, and/or library outreach efforts. As we look at the data for Q2, there are some interesting changes to these numbers, along with a steady increase in WiFi usage across service areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly brought about many changes in the way patrons interact with their libraries and how libraries serve their communities. These changes seem to be contributing to the WiFi usage trends, as many libraries have extended their WiFi services by leaving it on 24/7 and creating stronger signals for patrons who use WiFi in the parking lot.

What does WiFi usage look like compared to Q2 of 2020? Interestingly, the overall trends month by month show similar growth. In 2020, there was a sharp decline in usage in March, then there was a steady increase after that. In 2021, there continues to be a steady increase and at a much higher usage rate which means more patrons are using the WiFi this year.

View Report as PDF

The following graph shows the comparison between 2020 and 2021.

Why are more people using the library’s WiFi now?

In our last report we noted that there was a new higher WiFi usage trend that appeared to start in March 2021 and continued through Q2. This could be related to vaccinations being deployed, reopenings, and warmer weather. Historically, libraries have had higher WiFi usage in warmer weather, and this is true this year. The children’s programming during summer months typically attracts more patrons than usual since school is out. One thing is clear and it's that the community needs the public library's WiFi and is showing up to use it and the services provided in the space.

The chart below shows just how much of an increase year over year there's been.

In previous reports, our data showed that library WiFi use in both urban and rural service areas decreased, but urban areas had a much greater drop. And throughout the pandemic libraries in rural areas had a much faster return to pre-pandemic WiFi usage rates compared to libraries in urban areas.

The urban populations have seen a much higher percentage increase in WiFi use for Q2 than rural areas. This could be attributed to the fact that rural areas had already regained their usage rates and urban areas are now catching up as the need increases, and seasonality, as mentioned above.

The chart below shows the change in WiFi usage during Q2 based on population size.

Weekly and monthly usage

Looking at WiFi usage trends on a weekly and monthly basis provides insight into exact times when patron behavior changed and if it correlates with any particular event. You'll see a steady increase every week this quarter in usage. There was a dip during the Memorial Day holiday, as expected. Month over month you'll see a large spike in March with a small dip in April, then continued increased usage every month through the quarter.

The graphs below show the national week by week and monthly Q2 WiFi usage.

What does this mean for these libraries and how can they best serve their community going forward?

The data is clear: WiFi is a valuable resource the libraries offer to help their communities. As libraries begin to prepare for the year ahead and planning for the future, tracking WiFi usage could prove beneficial for library advocacy efforts, operational improvements, strategic planning, and accurate reporting for the PLS survey. Having such information can give libraries the tools they need to secure funding to provide more and better services, and even help guide decisions on how to best use their space.

Carrying insights into the future.

This data solidifies the importance of public libraries within the communities they serve. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, lack of internet access was a big problem – now it’s critical. Throughout the pandemic, public libraries have continued to help patrons stay connected to school, work, and family. In addition, they continue to help provide social service assistance for their community members through filing for unemployment, Census registration, and job searches.

The knowledge we’ve gained from WiFi insights will continue to influence how libraries interact with the communities they serve. 

Questions about how to get insights for your library?  Schedule a demo with our team.


WhoFi Moves To New Office Space

We moved! Our team recently completed the set up of our new office and we are so excited to be in our new space! The new modern space fits our growing team and our vision of work.

Like many other companies and many of our community partners, we're taking a hybrid approach to our new office.  Everyone is continuing to work from home as an option for the convenience and flexibility that it provides.  But we also have our office as a place to get away from the house, that has resources that don't make sense to have at home, and as a place to meet up for face to face conversations or group meetings.

This hybrid approach of digital and in-person is how we see the future of work, and the future of communities, and we're excited to get started!

 

 

Here's our new address:

WhoFi

15820 N. Pennsylvania Ave, Ste 2

Edmond, OK 73013

Our other contact information is staying the same, so please reach out if you need help with anything or just want to say hello.

support@whofi.com

You can also leave a detailed voice message at:

405-415-0434

We're excited to be in the new space and the new opportunities it provides!


Zoom for Public Libraries

Online meetings are becoming the norm for many of us for a variety of reasons. Some libraries are migrating their in-person programming to online formats using tools like Zoom or Facebook Live. Since some libraries are still are operating in a limited capacity, their physical meeting spaces may be off-limits, but online meeting spaces are still available and being created using tools like Zoom. 

So what exactly is Zoom and how can public libraries use Zoom to meet community needs?

What is Zoom? Zoom is a cloud-based video, audio, and chat communications service that keeps people connected while staying physically distanced. You can attend meetings, classes, and other programs while safely staying at home. It’s free to use, and not hard to set up.

The importance of libraries providing community meeting space has increased over the years. The remote workforce is a growing trend, and workers are looking for spaces to work outside of the home. Library meeting spaces are being used as co-working spaces, school tutoring sessions, group study, community organization meetings, and more. With many libraries closed or operating at limited capacity due to COVID-19, libraries can combine the need for space by shifting the physical meeting rooms to online spaces. 

Zoom video communications is a highly popular service that has become a necessity during the pandemic as people look for ways to connect to coworkers, family, teachers, friends, anyone they’re unable to meet with in person. Zoom provides virtual programming and chats to enable this continued connection.

How can public libraries use Zoom? 

Librarians can offer the library Zoom room reservations in the same way that physical meeting room reservations work. Librarians can also use Zoom for online programming. Record meetings and invite patrons to attend live. They can upload it to their website for later viewing or make the recording link available on Facebook. Zoom can be used for the same type of programming as Facebook live, such as storytime, yoga, book club, or guest speakers.

The main difference is using this platform as an online alternative to reserving a physical room. This offers patrons the same services but just within an online platform. Librarians can use a similar system to their in-person meeting room reservation for Zoom rooms. Be sure to promote this new service in any place you typically communicate about these things such as, Facebook, email, handouts with curbside pickups, or signage in the windows. 

Resources and tips

This article is a great resource for Zoom logistics and management within your library. 

This article is a great resource for Zoom meeting security tips. 

This is a great resource guide for setting up meetings based on type. 


Nextdoor for Public Libraries

When COVID-19 closed public libraries, librarians quickly adapted their services and outreach efforts for the online space. In this post, we continue the Libraries Online series.  If your public library is looking for more ways to connect to your community, consider creating a Nextdoor account for your library. It’s a great platform to communicate to the hyperlocal community about resources and events your library offers. 

What is Nextdoor?

Nextdoor is a private, free social network to connect neighborhoods and public agencies. Nextdoor says it’s “The neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services.” Neighbors use Nextdoor for a variety of things like finding a babysitter, getting recommendations for home repairs, posting about items for sale, and just generally sharing information. It’s an online forum for specific neighborhoods and areas of town to communicate with each other and share helpful information. 

Public agencies use Nextdoor to share information relevant to the community such as trash pick-up updates, crime updates, changes to public utilities, or organize community events. It’s a useful tool for agencies to share information that affects the people who live in the community. For libraries, Nextdoor offers a close connection to the patrons in the library’ service area. 

Nextdoor is different from other social media because it’s an online community of real neighbors. Each neighborhood on Nextdoor is secure, and you have to prove your residence to get access. It’s hyper localized so public agencies can target messages to members in specific neighborhoods, zones, or districts. Library branches can join as a public agency and contribute to the areas they serve. It’s especially useful because neighbors and public agencies, like libraries, can use it collaboratively to organize events and share information. 

What kind of things can public libraries share on Nextdoor?

Public libraries can create posts, polls, respond to neighbors, and interact with other local agencies. Nextdoor is a great platform to share your library’s events. You can post about online storytimes, virtual events, and community outreach programs to your hyperlocal community. The same type of information you’d share on Facebook as far as events and outreach would work on Nextdoor too. In fact, you can use Nextdoor to promote your Facebook Live events. Patrons who rely on the library as their primary source of the internet can still access Nextdoor through the library WiFi (or any WiFi). 

What are the advantages of using Nextdoor for the public libraries?

It allows public libraries to engage with local communities within a space specifically designed for the local community. Advertising events and outreach programs can attract more attendees, which connects more people to the library and helps more people. Neighbors can see interactions and information the public library shares, which can attract new patrons to the library. It’s also a great way to make new community connections. 

Curious to know more about how you can monitor online program attendance? Book a demo with our team today! 


How To Use Instagram To Share Your Library’s Story

Social media is playing a significant role in helping libraries stay relevant in our ever-growing digital society. Just as they are leading the charge in digital equity. As part of our Libraries Online series, we’re sharing ways that libraries can use social media to connect to their community and promote library services. This blog will focus on the Instagram platform and how to use its visual layout to share your library's story.

Using Instagram for your library is a great way to share content, engage patrons, and promote your library’s services. Instagram is all about storytelling through pictures. And libraries are full of stories to tell! Using visual content on the Instagram platform allows your patrons to discover what your library has to offer, and gives them a way to share library services they use with their followers. 

We like Instagram for its visual platform that allows for high engagement. The ‘Instagram Live’ feature is great for programs like online storytime or DIY tutorials. And these can be saved in your profile ‘highlights’ for later reference and easy patron access. 

6 Ways To Use Instagram To Share Your Library's Story

1. Share Your Services

Your library has a lot to offer and sharing this using visual images is a great opportunity. Take photos of your curbside pick-up signs with instructions on how to do it. Or photos of the library staff helping patrons with services. Does your library offer free WiFi and park benches? Show us. Brainstorm all of the services you offer note how a patron would access them, and then show your followers with pictures while describing with words. 

2. Showcase The Library Space

While patrons may not be spending as much time inside the library these days, you can still show off the wonderful view of aisles of books or displays. Make sure patrons know where to go pick up the books they reserved online, or how to use the office services. Once your library is fully open to the public, showcase the children’s area, meeting rooms, computers, work desks, and other areas patrons use often so the community knows what they have available. 

 3.  Show Off Your Books

This is an area of endless content for libraries. Show off your books, book bundles, special displays, anything creative you can think of. Share new books, old collections, and popular titles. Showcasing your books will help patrons discover something great.

 4. Share Behind The Scenes

Feature the library staff doing what they do best and give patrons an idea of the work that goes into creating library magic. It could be interesting to understand more about exactly what librarians do and a way to help patrons learn about the services your library offers. 

 5. Create Interest With A Sneak Peak

If you have a new release coming to your shelves, a new resource available, a new program, or an upcoming event, offer a sneak peek to create a buzz or generate curiosity. This is a great way to show your library keeps it fresh and offers new and exciting things for patrons. 

6. Stay Engaged

Instagram is all about building community, connecting with patrons, and showing what your library has to offer them. As you build your online community, it’s important to stay engaged online. This means responding to comments on your posts and replying to direct messages. Come up with a hashtag for your library so you can search for those and when patrons use it in their own posts, like and repost their content. If someone tags your library account, like and comment on that post. These online actions communicate to your patrons you’re paying attention to them. 

Make Sure Patrons Know About Your Instagram

You can't share your library's story without an audience. For your library’s Instagram account to be effective, you need to have an audience. How do you get an audience? The way to grow your Instagram account is the same as any social media account, first, you need to tell people about it. An easy way to get the message out is to put your Instagram information on any printed and online materials you have. Create signs to post inside the library and in the windows with your social media account information. Give your patrons a reason to connect with you online. What do they get out of it? Are there online storytimes for kids? Will there be a virtual craft tutorial with materials available for pick-up at the library? Is this the best way to receive information and updates about what services are available at the library? Whatever it is, state that in your promotional materials. 

Many of our partner libraries have adopted an online programming model that helps provide continuation of services for patrons in place of in-person gatherings. It’s uncertain when we’ll resume programming indoors, and it could vary by location, so creating connections online will only strengthen the ties to your community. And, you have the potential to reach even more people since there’s no maximum capacity for online programming. 

Staying connected to your community is important. If your library would like to learn more about how to maximize your WiFi services to enhance programming and more, schedule a demo today.


Monthly At A Glance Report Simplifies Board Reporting

WhoFi is happy to announce the release of the monthly At A Glance Report for all partner libraries.

Through conversations with our public library partners, it became clear that there was a need for a simplified board report surrounding their patron WiFi usage. Previously library directors used another WhoFi report, the Trend Summary, to show WiFi usage. The Trend Summary Report is a detailed view of the monthly usage and is great for digging deeper into usage patterns.

While directors enjoy the detail contained in the Trend Summary, they expressed a need to have a one-page report that provides a high-level view of what had taken place. With the help of our library partners, we created our newest board report called At A Glance.  

The At A Glance Report takes the numbers on the Trend Summary and turns them into a story visually and verbally. Libraries use this new report to hand out during board meetings.  Boards are then able to quickly understand the impact that WiFi is having on their community both in the most recent month and over time.

Here’s an example of an At A Glance Report. 

 

At A Glance contains a brief description of what took place in the most recent month in addition to providing comparisons to the prior month and the same month in the prior year.  These insights and quick comparisons help frame progress and help boards and decision-makers easily assess trends. Should the boards have questions based on the At A Glance report the director is able to reference the Trend Summary to help provide more detailed information.  

The At A Glance Report is now available in the Monthly Reports section for all single location, multi-branch, and multi-location systems. You can quickly print this out and give it to your board members during your next meeting.

We look forward to your feedback and the feedback from your boards on this latest offering. If you have questions about this new report or any of the reports available in the user dashboard, please contact our customer service team. 


Public Library Insights One Year Into The COVID-19 Pandemic

The past year has brought many changes and challenges. And it’s also created an environment for growth. Faced with uncertainty, libraries rose to the challenge and adapted their services to meet the changing needs of their communities. In many ways, libraries are able to meet patrons' needs now even better than before. The flexibility of these new offerings made it easier to reach additional community members, and our library partners think these changes are here to stay. It’s helped libraries stay connected to their patrons even when separated physically. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, WhoFi analyzed the data from our library partners to determine the effect of COVID-19 on patron WiFi usage. This special report includes our findings from March 2020 to March 2021.

Reflecting back on a year of pandemic life, how has COVID changed library WiFi use?

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly brought about many changes in the way patrons interact with their libraries and how libraries serve their communities. When analyzing WiFi insights data and looking for usage trends, there are some clear fluctuations in use that seem to correlate with particular service areas, important timelines in the pandemic, and library outreach efforts. 

One interesting data point, perhaps the most relevant when it comes to library advocacy for WiFi access expansion, is that library WiFi usage was never zero. WiFi use did decline, especially early in the pandemic, but then began to steadily increase across cities and towns of all population sizes. A PLA survey report showed that 98% of libraries closed to the public in March due to COVID-19. However, the WiFi data from our insights showed a national decrease in WiFi usage of only 67%. This shows patrons were accessing the library WiFi in other ways besides actually being in the physical library building. The same PLA survey also noted that 81% of libraries decided to leave their WiFi on and available to the public. Since a high number of libraries left WiFi available to the public, the drop in usage of only 67% makes sense.  

The digital divide became the digital Grand Canyon.

Public libraries have consistently worked to close the digital divide. But as the pandemic continued, it became clear that the digital divide was becoming bigger. There was a difference in how the pandemic was experienced between those with access to a computer and high-speed internet and those without. As schools finished their academic year in May of 2020, heartbreaking stories of children sitting all day in fast-food parking lots with their laptops started to emerge. They didn’t have internet access at home, and they were just trying to finish their schoolwork which was now online.  

Many libraries took it upon themselves to address this issue within their communities with the resources they had. Many libraries left WiFi on 24/7, removed or provided passwords to their WiFi, moved routers closer to the window, and began promoting their free WiFi service. Some libraries installed WiFi hotspots to extend to the parking lot, creating a ‘drive-in WiFi’ trend. Some libraries also sent out loaner 4G hotspots or installed fixed line internet connections in some neighborhoods. This helped people attend online classes, do work, or just stay in touch with friends and family.  

The PLA survey showed that 81% of libraries left their WiFi on while closed, and 12% expanded or added to their WiFi service in response to the pandemic. 

These efforts seemed to make a difference and were reflected in the data as WiFi usage began to steadily climb in Spring 2020.

Public libraries adapted quickly to meet community needs.

In addition to improving community internet access, libraries made changes to multiple aspects of their patron services. Public libraries provide immense value to the community through education, resources, and programs. The pandemic showed that the library community is more than just a building – it’s the people. And when buildings close and people are sheltering in place, the community moves online and finds other ways to stay connected. 

Libraries were quick to adapt their services to meet safety precautions – offering online library card registration, curbside pick-up for books, crafts and STEM projects, online storytimes, expanded digital resources, easier access to library cards, and curbside pick-up for other essential services (unemployment forms, PPE, food, diapers, and so much more). 

When did patron behavior begin to change?

Were there key events that could have made a difference in patron behavior and WiFi use?

Based on our data and national timeline of events, it seems so. Our report on the timeline of events shows a sharp decline in WiFi use beginning March 11, 2020 with the sharpest declines occurring on March 13th, 14th, and 15th. March 11th was the day the NBA suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus, and also the day that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive. March 12th was the day that MLB, NHL, and NCAA basketball announced suspension or pause of their events. Then, on March 13th, President Trump declared a national state of emergency. At this point, many local governments issued shelter-in-place orders, effectively closing many library locations. 

As always, correlation does not equal causation. It’s unclear if these national events were the cause, a tipping point, or a random occurrence that correlated with the data. In either case, it is clear that a trend change to a “new normal” occurred between the days of March 11th and March 15th as shown through the WiFi data in the chart below.  

What does patron WiFi usage look like now?

Our data shows that after the initial drop in WiFi usage in March, trends steadied and then began to rise around April 26. The total number of visits wasn’t as high as it was prior to shut-downs, but shows continued use despite building closures. By the end of June, the national WiFi usage rates had increased 40%, and have had another 35% increase from June to September. By the end of Q3, national WiFi usage in public libraries was at 73% of what it was in March. 

Q4 showed a slight decrease in usage. Although, there is usually a seasonal decrease in WiFi usage during the winter months. However, coronavirus cases also spiked in much of the U.S. between the middle of October 2020, until decreasing significantly towards the middle of February 2021 as shown here:

It is unclear whether it was the colder weather, the virus, or some other factor causing the decrease through the winter months. However, as vaccinations were deployed, reopenings occurred, and the weather got warmer, there is a new higher WiFi usage trend that appears to be starting in March of 2021.  

The graph below shows an overview of monthly WiFi usage from March 2020 to March 2021 sorted by population size. Now, at the end of Q1 2021, WiFi usage is at 68% compared to March 2020 and climbing back to Q3 usage rates.  

Did population size affect WiFi usage? 

Our data showed that library WiFi use in both urban and rural service areas decreased, but urban areas had a much greater drop. And throughout the pandemic libraries in rural areas had a much faster return to pre-pandemic WiFi usage rates compared to libraries in urban areas. In fact, by November 2020, rural libraries regained nearly 100% of their WiFi use (compared to March 2020.) 

Patrons in rural areas often rely on the public library as their main source of internet, and we’ve seen this reflected in the data. The table below shows the percentage of WiFi use libraries are experiencing in March 2021 compared to March 2020. You’ll notice that rural communities with populations under 2,500 are being used even more now than they were when the pandemic started. Libraries are anchor institutions from which services such as WiFi can be easily distributed to communities that lack infrastructure. Libraries can use this information to advocate for funding to secure high-speed broadband internet access and other technology resources for their patrons. 

What does this mean for these libraries and how can they best serve their community going forward?

The data is clear: WiFi is a valuable resource the libraries offer to help their communities. As libraries begin to prepare for the year ahead and planning for the future, tracking WiFi usage could prove beneficial for library advocacy efforts, operational improvements, strategic planning, and accurate reporting for the PLS survey. Having such information can give libraries the tools they need to secure funding to provide more and better services, and even help guide decisions on how to best use their space. 

Carrying insights into the future. 

This data solidifies the importance of public libraries within the communities they serve. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, lack of internet access was a big problem – now it’s critical. Throughout the pandemic, public libraries have continued to help patrons stay connected to school, work, and family.  In addition,  they continue to help provide social service assistance for their community members through filing for unemployment, Census registration, and job searches.

As we begin to emerge on the other side of this pandemic, the knowledge we’ve gained from WiFi insights will continue to influence how libraries interact with the communities they serve. 

Questions about how to get insights for your library?  Schedule a demo with our team.


Getting Social While Social Distancing

Librarians are people who want to connect with their community. Through library services, outreach, programs, and much more, libraries and librarians are beacons to all communities. So when library doors closed due to COVID-19, this was tough on the community and the librarians who thrive on serving and connecting. 

In times of crisis and economic recession, people need the library more than ever. They need someone to help connect them with free resources, social services, a safe place to use the internet, resources for job placement, or simply connection. Humans are wired for connection, after all. 

We need this and shared positivity, hope - a lighthouse to guide us through troubling times. What better organization to provide this than our public libraries? 

Just because we’re not able to physically be in the public library space, there are still ways to stay connected, enjoy personal interactions, and benefit from the services our libraries offer. Libraries continue to rise to the occasion and meet community needs through online programming and digital resources. 

This post covers how social media is being leveraged to maintain and strengthen the connections libraries have with community members. Some of our library partners have reported an even higher engagement rate since more people can access programs at their convenience. 

Using Facebook To Engage Online

Facebook is a great social platform that can be used to host community engagement pieces. There are various ways to use the platform that combine text, images and video (that can all be stored for later reference by your patrons), to create an enriching experience. It’s also an opportunity for even more program attendance than you may have gotten pre-COVID. With no space restrictions, time considerations, or scheduling issues, more people are able to attend online programs hosted on the Facebook platform. 

5 ways your library can use Facebook

  1. Remind patrons of the services you’re offering and how. For example, is curbside pick-up available? Are you offering limited office equipment use? Have you expanded your digital offerings? Are you offering curated content and book bundles? Whatever you’re doing, share it on Facebook.
  2. Promote library card sign-ups. Demonstrate how easy it is to get one online now and what you can do with it. 
  3. Remind patrons of the free WiFi service available and how to access it. 
  4. Migrate in-person programs to the online space. Storytimes, book clubs, even kid's crafts can all be recreated and shared online.
  5. Interact with other local community spaces, parks, institutions, organizations, etc to create alliances and promote the library services that help the community. 

Ideas for Facebook Live content

Storytimes

This is a popular program that translates well to the online space. We’ve heard from some of our partners that they have hundreds of people attend online storytimes now. Where pre-pandemic, the in-person attendance was smaller.  How do you do an online storytime? Go about it the same way you would normally: choose your stories, create your settings (using plushies, decorations, props etc), read and engage with your tiny patrons as you normally would. 

Live music

Libraries that hosted live music sessions during the day pre-pandemic can still showcase local talent using Facebook Live. Reach out to your local musicians and talk about the opportunity for collaboration. Or perhaps someone on the library staff is musically inclined and would host a live show? A teen band or performer would likely love the opportunity for an online audience. And it could attract more youth to the library services. 

Crafting

Crafting sessions for adults and kids alike are a popular library event. All kinds of DIY craft demos are shared on YouTube, so why not Facebook Live, too? A sewing tutorial for a mask or how to make a mask without sewing would be great ideas. Any type of craft your library would normally make available for kids is another good idea. Post about the Live session ahead of time and consider making supplies available with curbside pick-up. 

Instructions

Demonstrate how to download library-related apps or use online registries like ancestry.com, all of which are free with your library card. Consider a walk-through of applying for social services or the video version of in-person help you’d normally provide within the library building. 

Bring in experts

Connecting the community to what they need is what libraries are all about. Host a live session with guests who specialize in mental health to discuss topics related to coping during a pandemic. Another group that could benefit from a connection is caregivers. Caring for young, old or sick family members during this time adds an extra layer of difficulty and complexity to an already tough job. For example, consider what kind of challenges COVID presents for people with Alzheimer's, cancer, elderly parents, special needs parents, etc. Partner with local chapters of an organization, or a social worker from a hospital or whatever’s relevant, to bring information to your patrons. 

Self-care

Self-care can take many forms, especially now.  It includes relaxation techniques. Have a yoga instructor host online classes. Do you know someone who makes their own body products? Ask them to host a demo about how to make your own candles, lotion, or something. Consider having these supplies available for pick up at your library. 

Tips for using Facebook Live

  • Make sure you have a strong WiFi connection for a broadcast that’s as clear, high-resolution, and stable as possible. Increased online programming is another reason why libraries need high-speed internet. 
  • If shooting on your phone, use a tripod to ensure a steady stream (and prevent your phone from toppling over mid-shoot!) 
  • Engage with your audience. Say hello, mention commenters by name and answer questions, 
  • Tell people ahead of time when you plan a Live stream. Post to your Facebook about the Live session, what it is, when it is, how to watch a couple of times beforehand, and then a reminder shortly before. This ensures your audience has time to plan and remember the event.
  • Remind people they can watch the Live stream from your Facebook page under ‘videos’ even after you’ve ended it. 
  • Be creative and go Live often. The more content you create, the more comfortable you’ll feel, and the more interaction you’ll get from the community. 
  • Ask the community what kinds of things they’re interested in. Create a Facebook Poll and use that as guidance to come up with new content.

Action items to start using Facebook Live

  • Set up a Facebook page. If your library needs to set up a Facebook page, this is a helpful guide to get you started. 
  • Set up admins to the page (anyone who will be responsible for creating and posting content). 
  • Download the Facebook app to your phone and practice using it as the library.
  • Use the app to create and post content when appropriate.
  • Discuss with the library team ideas for Facebook Live content and create a document to share and save ideas. 

The most important part of using social media is to have fun, be yourselves, and be creative. Your patrons will appreciate the effort and connection. And these are practices that you can continue to use even after the pandemic. Consider this an opportunity to expand the reach of your public library to do even more good. 

Curious to know more about how you can monitor online program attendance? Book a demo with our team today! 


Introducing the WhoFi Program Planner

Program Planner is the program reporting tool for modern libraries

Easily Track Your Library’s Programs For Accurate Reporting

Libraries are adapting to meet changing community needs by connecting with patrons online and in-person. The Program Planner offers a replacement to cumbersome tallying methods.  It also helps libraries better understand their patrons to further improve their service.

What is Program Planner?

Program Planner is a reporting tool to help libraries understand their programming and better serve the community. It is an easy-to-use system to schedule programs and view insights - all in one place. This tool makes it easy to schedule, manage, and count attendance at all programs and events.

How does it work? 

Create one-time or recurring programs in your dashboard. Enter the program’s PLS type, category, platform, and other relevant information. After the program has taken place, enter attendee information.  Attendance information shows seamlessly through categorized, accurate reporting.

You can also account for views to recorded programs that are posted online later.  This new tool is designed to help libraries plan and monitor both their online and in person programming attendance.

What does Program Planner do for your library?

  • Helps libraries plan programs in advance for both online and in person events.  This helps to get a full view of the community calendar. 
  • Alleviates the need for hand-tallying and storing numbers on paper. 
  • Auto-generates reports for easy end-of-year reporting.  No more complicated spreadsheets and calculators - we do it for you!

The Program Planner reduces the burden of tracking, organizing, and identifying program specific effectiveness.  It also helps with stakeholder and board reporting.  The new feature also allows multiple users access to enter their department’s programming all in one place.  It also helps library directors articulate the community impact they are having through the programs being offered. This information helps libraries when it comes to advocacy efforts.

Interested in learning more about Program Planner?  Click here to schedule a demo.