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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Privacy, Labor Advocacy, and the Library

Callan Bignolli and TJ Lamanna

Many library workers have been providing education and advocacy for online privacy in their communities for years. As they find themselves pushing for safe working conditions during the pandemic and band together for organizing efforts, they need to protect their own digital privacy as well. In this talk, we’ll discuss the impacts mass surveillance is having on marginalized groups, organizers, and protesters throughout the world in general. We’ll also provide tips and resources specifically for library workers who are trying to do workplace organizing.

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.

Destigmatizing Notorious Branches

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

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.

Staying Connected Through Programming During COVID-19

Katherine Florencio, Sarah Gluck, Christine Zarett

This session will tackle one of the most pressing topics today. Maintaining community connection. “While our physical doors are closed…” us librarians want to be working hard to make sure our patrons are staying connected and engaged. But how? Especially in a crisis like COVID-19 that removes our physical gathering spaces and our usual ways of doing outreach and programming as an option. Librarians from Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center of Corona, Queens acted quickly to provide programming that gave a safe, welcoming, virtual space to their patrons. They resourced from their community, applied staff skills, and presented relevant, dynamic, engaging virtual programming. Learn from them how you can apply their experience and tips to your branches.