Category Archives: Technology

NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – Revamping Your WordPress Website

We’ll be ‘Revamping Your WordPress Website’ on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, September 30 at 10am CT.

There have been quite a few changes to WordPress, especially in the past year. Since the start of the pandemic, there has also been a growing need for online resources and activities. Now that people have had a taste for these online resources, the need for quality online material is growing. Your library can help!

This webinar will act as a guide to help you refresh your library’s WordPress website. Here’s what we will cover:

  • What is WordPress and what changed?
  • What should I put on my website?
  • How can I learn new WordPress skills?
  • Turning a planning page into a website.

You will walk away with a step-by-step quick-start guide for getting your website up and running. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect as you’re just getting started. You can add more as you learn more. If you’re in Nebraska, feel free to email me at amanda.sweet@nebraska.gov for a planning consultation and/or WordPress walk-through.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Oct. 21 – Migrating to an Open-Source ILS in an Academic Library: How to Celebrate Successes and Bounce Back from Problems
  • Tues. Nov. 10 – Creating an Open Educational Resource: Grenzenlos Deutsch, German Language Online Curriculum

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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NCompass Live: NLC Grants for 2021

Do you have a program or project you would like to see funded? Learn how to apply for the ‘NLC Grants for 2021’ on next week’s FREE NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, September 23 at 10am CT.

The Nebraska Library Commission has made funding available for grants for 2021: Youth Grants for Excellence, Internship, and Continuing Education & Training. Join Christa Porter, Sally Snyder, and Holli Duggan, from the Nebraska Library Commission’s Library Development Team, as they provide an overview of the grants, including eligibility requirements, the application process and grant review, timelines and deadlines. They will also share some tips on writing effective grants.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Sept. 30 – Pretty Sweet Tech – Revamping Your WordPress Website
  • Oct. 21 – Migrating to an Open-Source ILS in an Academic Library: How to Celebrate Successes and Bounce Back from Problems
  • Tues. Nov. 10 – Creating an Open Educational Resource: Grenzenlos Deutsch, German Language Online Curriculum

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

Posted in Education & Training, Grants, Library Management, Now hiring @ your library, Programming, Technology, Youth Services | Tagged | Leave a comment

ALA’s Libraries Ready to Code Opens Call for Applications: Virtual Learning and Enhancement Grants

The American Library Association (ALA) has opened applications for Virtual Learning and Enhancement Grants of $1,000 available for 90 school, tribal, public, and academic libraries.

In response to increased demand for technical skills to lead and participate in virtual education during the COVID-19 health emergency, the Virtual Learning and Enhancement Grants focus on digital skill development of library staff and patrons.

Applications are due Thursday, September 17, 2020.

For the full details see the press release and submit your application on the grant webpage.

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NCompass Live: The ‘Toward Gigabit Libraries’ Project Update

Improve your library’s broadband service with the Toward Gigabit Libraries Toolkit on next week’s FREE NCompass Live webinar on Wednesday, September 2 at 10am CT.

Join us for an update on the Toward Gigabit Libraries project, funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), designed to help public and tribal librarians learn about their current broadband infrastructure and internal information technology (IT) environment. The project has been awarded a new grant from the IMLS to fund an expansion of the Towards Gigabit Libraries toolkit to increase tech capacities in rural, tribal & urban libraries. Through the use of the project’s “Broadband Toolkit” and customizable “Broadband Improvement Plan”, librarians have become better equipped to improve their broadband services and become stronger advocates for their libraries’ broadband infrastructure needs.

Presenters: Carson Block, Library Technology Consultant; Stephanie Stenberg, Director, Internet2 Community Anchor Program (CAP); Holly Woldt, Library Technology Support Specialist, Nebraska Library Commission; Tom Rolfes, Education I.T. Manager, Nebraska Office of the CIO/NITC.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Sept. 9 – Discount Shopping with the NLC
  • Sept. 23 – NLC Grants for 2021
  • Sept. 30 – Pretty Sweet Tech
  • Oct. 21 – Migrating to an Open-Source ILS in an Academic Library: How to Celebrate Successes and Bounce Back from Problems

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

Posted in Broadband Buzz, Education & Training, Technology | Tagged | Leave a comment

Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian Connect 2020 Conference Discount

The 35th Computers in Libraries, scheduled to run from September 21, 2020 through September 25, 2020, is going VIRTUAL, along with Internet Librarian. Despite this change to an online venue, the Nebraska Library Commission, in cooperation with Information Today, is still able to offer a discount to Nebraska librarians who’d like to register to attend virtually.

For more information about the conference, including a schedule, session descriptions, and a list of speakers, view the conference website.

There will only be one pass type for this event: The All Access Virtual Pass. This pass includes access to all sessions, networking, and the virtual exhibit hall. It also includes access to archived session recordings for later viewing.

The discounted rate being offered to Nebraska librarians is $149 (regular $199). To receive this rate you must input our assigned discount code during registration.

Registration link: https://pheedloop.com/cilil2020/site/register/

Discount Code: NLCVirtual

If you have questions, please contact Susan Knisely.

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Nebraska’s Great Broadband Divide: Living Without High-speed Internet Access

On August 2, 2020 CBS Sunday Morning aired a story called “The Great Broadband Divide: Living Without High-speed Internet Access.” The story is about tens of millions of Americans in rural areas who are unable to obtain broadband internet and illustrates how it hampers business development and people trying to make a living in rural areas across the country. It also puts students at a distinct disadvantage when competing with others who don’t have these limitations, especially in this time of a pandemic.

Broadband is defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as achieving a speed of 25 mega bits per second (Mbps). The highest broadband speed available in the US right now is 2000 Mbps, the average speed is 129 Mbps, and 25 Mbps is what the FCC defines as broadband, which is not very fast, especially when streaming video or downloading/uploading large files. According to the FCC there are 20 – 23 million people in the U.S. without broadband, but Microsoft did a study that showed 162 million Americans lack broadband access. Gigi Sohn, who worked at the FCC during the Obama administration explained that “the FCC says is, if you serve one person in a census block, that means you’re serving everybody in the census block.”
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-great-broadband-divide-living-without-high-speed-internet-access/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab6i&linkId=95801518#app

A new report on the homework gap by Common Sense Media “Closing the K-12 Digital Divide in the Age of Distance Learning,” published in 2020, shows that 29% of Nebraska students, 95,834 of them are lacking adequate high-speed connection. This report also cited that 21%, or 68,888 of all Nebraska students, lack a device to access the internet.

Because the data is not collected at the address-level by student household the measures are elusive, however school districts are being encouraged to collect the data this fall. State Senator Tom Brandt of Plymouth, District 32, who introduced a bill (LB996) https://journalstar.com/legislature/fcc-to-invest-20b-in-rural-broadband-senator-wants-nebraska-to-be-first-in-line/article_6d4b173a-d93c-5da7-84cc-a68369a56736.html to create the Broadband Data Improvement Program, will help Nebraska identify areas without high-speed internet. However, we do have the following information from the U.S. Census – American Community Survey from 2018.

This lack of broadband availability in libraries is a focus of the Library Commission’s “Better Broadband for Nebraska Libraries” initiative. Holly Woldt & Cynthia Nigh, along with other agency team members on the Library Infrastructure Broadband Committee are working towards assisting with discovering, advocating and assisting with obtaining funding and providing information to libraries looking for ways to improve their internet speed.

If you would like to see specific information about your county’s broadband statistics follow this link and select your county.

http://nlc.nebraska.gov/stats/broadband/

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – Technology vs. Human Values: How To Take Control

Explore ‘Technology vs. Human Values: How To Take Control’ on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, July 29 at 10:00am CT.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

Have you ever felt a knot of fear and uncertainty in the pit of your stomach while using certain technology? I do. The first companies that come to mind are always Facebook, Google, and Amazon. These companies set the gold standard for technology, then teach others to do as they do, using free or low-cost tools. You may have heard the phrase: “if a tool is free, it means that you are the product”.

In this session, we will explore what it means to be the product of the tech generation. Is this really such a bad thing? Do the actions of technology companies reflect their values? Do these companies reflect our own personal values, and the desired values of our community? Or is the world being re-shaped by technology tools? To find out, we will explore major tech companies, dive into our own personal values, and see how it all stacks up.

At the end of the session you will have access to a variety of activities, discussions, and book group options designed to help you and your community align big tech with your own values. Keep in mind that these tools are experimental. As tech grows, we must all experiment with how to best deal with this changing landscape. Attend this session if you want to try something new and take control of how technology is shaping the world.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • Aug. 5 – The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund: Grants to Nebraska’s Small-Town Public Libraries
  • Aug. 19 – Drive-Thru User Testing

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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NCompass Live: The Taming of the Site: Helping Users Find What They Need Where They Expect It

Learn how to help your users find what they need on your library website on next week’s FREE NCompass Live webinar, ‘The Taming of the Site: Helping Users Find What They Need Where They Expect It’ on Wednesday, July 15 at 10:00am CT.

Helping users find the need-to-know information on a library website can be difficult, especially if the site’s structure itself confuses them or leads them to unexpected places. A library site may start small but grow larger and more unwieldy every year until users are lost in a maze of disconnected, outdated, or even missing pages. In this episode, you’ll find out how to update your site’s information architecture (IA) and simplify your navigational structure. You’ll also learn how identifying content owners makes content clean-up easier to finish and simpler to maintain. We’ll walk through steps to make sure your IA informs site navigation in a way that leads users the way they need to go. We’ll also discuss how to identify important content and distill it in a way that helps users get what they need without becoming frustrated. After this episode, you’ll be able to help users easily find what they need and make sure it’s still relevant when they get there!

Presenter: Jessica D. Gilbert Redman, Online Resources & Services Librarian, School of Medicine & Health Sciences Library Resources, University of North Dakota.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • July 22 – Creating Accessible Materials for Library Instruction
  • July 29 – Pretty Sweet Tech – Technology vs. Human Values: How To Take Control
  • Aug. 5 – The Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund: Grants to Nebraska’s Small-Town Public Libraries
  • Aug. 19 – Drive-Thru User Testing

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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NCompass Live: Here’s What Python Does for Us: What Can it Do for Your Library?

Learn how to save library staff time on next week’s FREE NCompass Live webinar, ‘Here’s What Python Does for Us: What Can it Do for Your Library?’ on Wednesday, July 8 at 10:00am CT.

Programming with Python can alleviate the burden of routine, time-consuming tasks for library workers. In this session, attendees will learn how Python is being used at North Carolina State University Libraries to query GOBI and produce automated monthly reports for the Collections & Research Strategy department. GOBI, our print and ebook ordering vendor platform, does not offer an API, so reports used to be compiled through manual title-by-title searching. What used to take up to 15 hours per month (and was the cause of much frustration) now takes just 30 minutes and one press of a “run” button, all thanks to Python’s diverse set of libraries and abilities. Following a presentation of this script and how it was developed, attendees will learn methods for identifying the right Python packages and methodologies for their unique needs and project ideas, even if they are new to programming.

Presenter: Katharine Frazier, University Library Technician, North Carolina State University Libraries.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • July 15 – The Taming of the Site: Helping Users Find What They Need Where They Expect It
  • July 22 – Creating Accessible Materials for Library Instruction
  • July 29 – Pretty Sweet Tech

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Free ALA webinar: “Last Chance for a Complete Count”

ALA is offering a webinar for library staff: 2020 Census: Last Chance for a Complete Count, on July 8 at 2 pm ET. Registration is free. After the session, the recording will be posted at ala.org/census.    

New guide on adapting census outreach in response to COVID-19:  
ALA released a new publication, “Libraries and the 2020 Census: Adapting Outreach in Response to COVID-19 (PDF).” The free guide explains changes to the 2020 Census process and highlights opportunities for libraries to adapt census outreach activities.    

Check your community’s response rate:  
How does your area compare in its response rate to date? Which neighborhoods are lagging behind? Find current data to inform your outreach and messages on the 2020 Census Response Rate Map or the Census 2020 Hard to Count Map.    

Share your event on the Census Counts calendar:  
Is your library planning a 2020 Census event (including virtual events)? Submit it to the national Census Counts calendar. Check the calendar for other events from partners in your community.
Posted in Books & Reading, Education & Training, General, Information Resources, Library Management, Public Relations, Technology, What's Up Doc / Govdocs | Leave a comment

NCompass Live: Identity and Impostor Syndrome in Library Makerspaces

Learn how to master ‘Identity and Impostor Syndrome in Library Makerspaces’ on next week’s FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, June 10 at 10:00am CT.

Do makerspaces belong in libraries? Are librarians makers? As makerspaces become more prevalent in libraries, many librarians are questioning their role in the community of tinkerers and creators known as the “Maker Movement.”

Gender imbalance and a lack of diversity in makerspaces can lead to impostor syndrome, or “a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill” (Merriam Webster). Impostor syndrome can affect anyone, but studies suggest that women and people of color are more likely to experience these feelings of inadequacy.

This session will share the findings of one librarian’s examination of her impostor syndrome and consider factors that can contribute to self-doubt in library makerspaces. She will share the results of conversations and interviews with her peers, as well as strategies for managing impostor syndrome. Participants are encouraged to take time to reflect on a time when they felt out of place or unsure of themselves, and share their own approaches for conquering impostor syndrome.

Presenter: Leanne Nay, Digital Engagement Librarian, Indiana University Libraries.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • June 17 – Who are These People & Why are They in My Library? Using Empathy & UX to Understand Your Library Patrons
  • June 24 – Pretty Sweet Tech – How to Leverage Online Learning to Build New Skills

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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2020 CARES Act Grants Available from the Nebraska Library Commission

To assist Nebraska public libraries in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, the Nebraska Library Commission has been allocated $165,000 in federal funds to provide grants to libraries through a competitive grant process. These funds are administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, from the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Public Law 116-136). The funding is available to help libraries prepare to reopen to the public and adapt services to reduce the impact of COVID-19.

Online applications will be accepted through 11:59 PM (CT) on June 30, 2020 at http://nlc.nebraska.gov/grants/caresact/

All legally established Nebraska public libraries (both accredited and non-accredited) are eligible to apply. Other organizations can partner with an eligible entity for purposes of submitting a grant application for a collaborative project. Partnerships with museums are encouraged. A local match is not required.

The spending principles for these funds are driven by the language in the CARES Act:

  • To prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19; and
  • To expand digital network access, purchase internet accessible devices, and provide for technical support services.

To achieve these purposes, the funding is to be used as follows:

Primarily to address digital inclusion and related technical support, using the following types of data to inform targeted efforts:

  • Poverty/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  • Unemployment; and
  • Broadband availability.

Here are some examples of projects that would fit this grant. This list is not exhaustive, but rather intended as a general guide or resource for allowable projects:

Connectivity: Laptops, Chromebooks, tablet computers, or other devices for use inside or outside of the library; hotspots, devices with data plans; Wi-Fi extenders and repeaters; and other equipment upgrades.

Digital content: eBooks; Audiobooks; and databases.

Unemployment related: Online unemployment resources; assistance with job searches; training librarians to assist in unemployment; and partnerships with unemployment related organizations.

COVID-19 response supplies: Disinfectant sprays and wipes; masks; gloves; sneeze guards for desks and counters; and keyboard covers.

Virtual programming: Summer reading and other programs to reach at-risk, educational, or other targeted populations (partnering with museums and tribes, if possible).

**NOTE: Construction projects are not allowable. This includes broadband infrastructure projects that require construction equipment, trenching, construction related trades, and “last mile” projects.

Posted in Grants, Technology, Youth Services | Leave a comment

NCompass Live: Automating Virtual Student Library Cards

Learn about ‘Automating Virtual Student Library Cards’ on next week’s FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, June 3 at 10:00am CT.

This session will describe how Scott County Library and Shakopee Public Schools collaborated to automate virtual student library card creation in Shakopee, MN. Participants will learn how to:

  1. Plan, partner, and collaborate with project stakeholders, including the Library, school district administrators, and technology departments.
  2. Deploy technical process for automating student library card creation in a SirsiDynix Symphony system. Code discussed is open source and freely available on GitHub.
  3. Educate the school community about how to use this new resource.

Presenters: Kristy Rieger, Library Technology Manager, Scott County (MN) Library; Sandra Reishus, 6-12 Media Specialist / Innovation Hub Coordinator, Shakopee (MN)Public Schools; Nathaniel Strauss, IT Manager, Shakopee (MN) Public Schools.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • June 10 – Identity and Impostor Syndrome in Library Makerspaces
  • June 17 – Who are These People & Why are They in My Library? Using Empathy & UX to Understand Your Library Patrons
  • June 24 – Pretty Sweet Tech

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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NCompass Live: Pretty Sweet Tech – How to Make Digital Literacy Less Boring

Learn ‘How to Make Digital Literacy Less Boring’ on next week’s Pretty Sweet Tech FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, May 27 at 10:00am CT.

Special monthly episodes of NCompass Live! Join the NLC’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Amanda Sweet, as she guides us through the world of library-related Pretty Sweet Tech.

How would you describe Digital Literacy to a patron without making it sound dull as dirt? With more people turning to online learning and resources during the current crisis, Digital Literacy skills are more important than ever. Learning things like online privacy and security, how to effectively communicate online, and how to find and evaluate information online are all vital to our success in the world. Yet many patrons just don’t care. It’s boring.

In this session, I will provide some ideas of what has worked in libraries I’ve visited, and ask you what has worked in your library! We won’t cover all the topics in digital literacy, but you will get a general idea of how to convert a dry digital literacy category into an entertaining learning event! Instead of advertising a “How to Communicate Online” event, call it “What Are You Trying to Say?”

Don’t bring people together over privacy and security. Connect people through a shared desire to stay safe in the wilds of the inter-webs. Make it a game that parents can play with their kids. You are caught in the inter-webs! Avoid the digital obstacles to get you and your kids out safely. Make sure to end the session with a splashy handout they will want to stick on the fridge.

These are just a few of the tantalizing ideas you will encounter in this session. If you want to learn more, check out my Digital Literacy Guidebook. More resources and ideas are being added daily this month. If you’re in Nebraska, the course to Build a Digital Literacy Plan starts on May 25th.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • June 3 – Automating Virtual Student Library Cards
  • June 10 – Identity and Impostor Syndrome in Library Makerspaces
  • June 17 – Who are These People & Why are They in My Library? Using Empathy & UX to Understand Your Library Patrons

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

Posted in Education & Training, Pretty Sweet Tech, Technology | Tagged | Leave a comment

Four Ways New Technology Is Revolutionizing the 2020 Census

From scribbled answers in 1790 to online responses in 2020, innovation has always been part of the Census. The Census Bureau has always been a leader in using, adapting and developing new technologies, but the 2020 Census will be the most sophisticated and high tech yet. 

The census began in 1790 with collected information handwritten by U.S. Marshals visiting outposts in every corner of the new nation. Every decade since, the ways the U.S. Census Bureau has tried to meet its goal of counting every person living in the United States have undergone changes as dramatic as the growth of the nation itself.

Through the centuries, the decennial count progressed from in-person collections of handwritten answers to mass mailings of paper questionnaires in 1970. Among other changes along the way: creation of an electrical punch card tabulator for the 1890 Census and the first use by a government agency of the world’s first modern computer – the UNIVAC 1 – for the 1950 Census. It was developed by engineers John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, whose corporation was a division of Remington Rand.

In the previous century, Herman Hollerith, a former Census Office employee, invented a punch card tabulating machine used by the Census Bureau from the 1890 Census forward. Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company, which eventually became International Business Machines (IBM).

America Counts spoke with Robert Colosi, a mathematical statistician in the Census Bureau’s Decennial Statistics Studies Division, about ways technology is revolutionizing the census.

He shared four specific changes that have had a major impact on how the Census Bureau counts everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

Innovation 1: Using Satellite Imagery to Check Addresses

Before the Census Bureau can count every person in the country, it must first collect addresses for every housing unit. One way the Census Bureau uses this address list is to mail census materials, including invitations to respond online, by phone or by mail.

Census Bureau employees used to “canvass” neighborhoods in person, jotting down new addresses and correcting old ones on paper.

This long-running operation, known as Address Canvassing, is one of the ways the Census Bureau updates its Master Address File or MAF. The Census Bureau also works with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to confirm already existing addresses on file.

Address canvassing was costly and time-consuming. Employees traveled a total of 137 million miles to update the MAF before the 2010 Census.

“The number of miles we traveled was astronomical,” Colosi said. “We’re not going to do that for the 2020 Census.”

In 2015, the Census Bureau began using aerial images from a network of satellites.

The Census Bureau developed computer software that allows employees in offices to compare satellite images from 2010 to new ones taken in real time. This helps them identify new houses, apartment buildings and other units to verify in the traditional Address Canvassing operation.

Thanks to the new In-Office Address Canvassing system, census workers reviewed 100% of all addresses in the United States for the 2020 Census and validated 65% in the office, removing them from the in-field workload.

That means workers needed to canvas fewer neighborhoods in person, saving time and money.

Address listers or canvassers hit the streets in August 2019 and completed the operation two months later, on track for the 2020 Census.

Innovation 2: Introducing Online Self-Response

The 2020 Census is the first time everyone has the option to respond to the census online as well as by phone or mail.

The Census Bureau has an Internet Self-Response tool designed to make it easy to complete the questionnaire online and keep responses secure. Directions for responding online will be included in letters, postcards and other mailings sent to most homes beginning in mid-March.

Every response submitted on the internet is encrypted. That means data are changed into a code that only Census Bureau data analysts can read. Responses travel through a secure cloud computer network and the Census Bureau locks them in a “digital vault”.   

The Internet Self-Response instrument, the website for completing the census online, is available in English and 12 other languages.

Census Bureau employees, called census response representatives will also provide computers and tablets for access to the Internet Self-Response tool at places like libraries, community centers, health care centers and places of worship. This is particularly helpful in rural and other areas with limited or no internet access. 

Innovation 3: Introducing Mobile Devices to Enumeration

From collecting census responses and job applications to storing questionnaires, the Census Bureau has used millions of pieces of paper to gather and file information. Now it relies much more on technology – and much less on paper.

In 2020, census takers who go door-to-door to help people respond will collect information on smartphones using a custom application created by the Census Bureau. 

“The Systems Engineering and Integration Team created 52 systems in our ‘system of systems,’” Colosi said. “There’s a whole group of systems related to that one contract of enumeration and operations control. All of it was built by Census Bureau staff and contractors.”

To protect privacy, we encrypt all data and devices require two-factor authentication to be unlocked.

When a device connects to the internet, encrypted data immediately transmits to the Census Bureau’s digital vault – and is no longer on the device. Encrypted data are only stored on the devices until they connect to the internet.

Software in the smartphones also provides specific routes for census takers to follow to visit homes. Optimizing routes in this way helps census takers do their jobs more efficiently. 

If a device is lost or stolen, the Census Bureau will remotely wipe it clean of all applications and information.

Innovation 4: New Ways to Protect Data

The Census Bureau is the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy in its many surveys and programs, including the 2020 Census.

Opportunities to share and protect its data continue to grow with technology and innovation, particularly through data mashups.

Data mashups are algorithms that combine different data sources to expand graphical understanding of the data but can also find the origin of a particular set of data.  

To protect against that, the Census Bureau has developed processes to protect its data from people who might try to make such mashups. Its Disclosure Avoidance System helps prevent improper disclosure of data. This addition is one of several advances the Census Bureau has made to safeguard an individual’s data.  

“When we produced products in the old days, we didn’t have super high-tech and savvy users,” Colosi said. “The idea of computing data mashups to try and combine different data sources to find individual responses was not common. Now it is.”

All responses to the 2020 Census are confidential and protected by law. Title 13 of the Federal Code prohibits the Census Bureau from publishing or disclosing any private information, including names, addresses and telephone numbers.

“Our cybersecurity meets the latest, highest standards for protecting your information,” Census Bureau Chief Information Officer Kevin Smith said. “We work with industry experts to continually review and refine our approach to make sure we are staying ahead of threats and ensuring quick response. From the moment we collect your responses, our goal — and legal obligation — is to keep them safe.”

Census Bureau employees take an oath to keep your answers confidential. Violators face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

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Census Bureau Launches COVID-19 Data Hub

COVID-19 Data Hub The U.S. Census Bureau has released a new resource page on Census.gov to help federal
agencies, businesses, and communities make decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similar to the Census Bureau’s resources pages created during natural disasters, this resource
page includes information on population demographics, economic indicators and businesses.

Learn More

It features a new interactive data hub that centralizes already-released data from the American Community Survey and the County Business Patterns program to facilitate users’ access to data useful in pandemic-related decision making. The data hub, released as a beta version, will be updated periodically as the situation changes and as feedback is received from users.  You can sign up for COVID-19 Data Hub Updates here.
Posted in Books & Reading, Census, Education & Training, General, Information Resources, Technology, What's Up Doc / Govdocs | Tagged | Leave a comment

Pretty Sweet Tech: Building Media Literacy

PEN America and the EveryLibrary Institute are offering a Train the Trainer workshop to help librarians teach media literacy on May 27 and May 28 at 1pm Central. The toolkit they offer is versatile, however these resources are especially important as COVID-19 misinformation runs rampant, potentially endangering our communities.

As technology grows more complicated, so do the scams. In a world of social distancing, we are all becoming more reliant on technology to communicate, make purchases, and more. This workshop is about finding information online in a world filled with misinformation.

I just registered for the workshop myself. It is free and runs through Zoom. Before the workshop, take a sneak peek at Pen America’s Guide on COVID-19 and Disinformation.

Some of these tips are tried and true, others are borrowed, or might make us feel blue. But the information is necessary, helpful and timeless. Give it a try, you might learn something new!

If you want to see what the Nebraska Library Commission is doing to help build digital skills, check out my new Digital Literacy Guidebook.

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Results From COVID/Cares Act Survey

As of this week, we have received 163 responses to the COVID/Cares Act survey sent to libraries, representing a 65% response rate. The input of libraries has been valuable to NLC planning for Cares Act funding. Stay tuned for more information about that, but for now, it might be helpful to summarize the survey results.

The survey asked what libraries are doing to prepare for re-opening, and what the concerns are upon re-opening. This bar chart at the top illustrates the results, and note that libraries could choose more than one response. Cleaning, handling of materials, and programming topped the list. However, it is important to note that many libraries are concerned about the proximity of patrons in various areas of the library (e.g. meeting rooms, computer labs, etc.). Some noted a potential shift when re-opening to provide extended computer lab hours in order to accommodate needs, or providing more mobile devices for check out (inside or outside of the library) in order to provide social distance.

As far as staffing goes, we know that some libraries have experienced RIF’s (reduction in force), and layoffs, but this has not been the norm. Over 30% of respondents reported all staff reporting to work, and over 30% reported at least the director reporting to work. It is appropriate to note that many libraries only have one primary staff person (the director). Only 6% reported that no staff were coming to work. Numerous libraries are offering alternative services, as over 75% reported providing curbside circulations and over 40% reported providing virtual programming. 90% of survey respondents reported completing tasks associated with circulation and mail processing. This likely includes cleaning and quarantining items, and almost 75% reported maintenance, security, and cleaning tasks performed by staff.

The survey also asked about what the library’s needs are upon re-opening. Topping the list is an alternative to in-person summer reading events, and making sure items are clean and safe by providing adequate sanitizing and protective equipment. This chart at the right shows those results.

Finally, some of the open-ended answers give insight into longer-term needs of libraries to address community concerns and prepare for the future. Anecdotally, some of these responses include the following:

  • Expanding the range of Wi-Fi to areas outside of the library, allowing for users to be more spread out;
  • Device lending to community members that do not have their own (e.g. laptop, tablet computers);
  • Providing relevant information about COVID-19 to the community;
  • Online/virtual programming;
  • eBook and Audiobook availability and access;
  • Providing materials (clean and sanitized) such as books, puzzles, music, videos, games, and activity packs to quarantined or at risk groups;
  • Improve internet speed and infrastructure to handle increased demands;
  • Printing, copy, and fax services (providing with lower touch);
  • Reference and partnerships with organizations to support unemployment, economic recovery, small business, and other assistance; and
  • Hotspot lending.

Many libraries are now evaluating their technology, network infrastructure, and Wi-Fi (range, speed, etc.). Did you know that NLC offers FREE technology assessments and help to you? If you are interested, please check out our Better Broadband webpage for resources, and to move forward towards an assessment, contact ,Holly Woldt.

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Over $3.5 Million in E-rate Funding Awarded to Nebraska Schools and Libraries

On May 9, USAC released the first Wave of Funding Commitment Decision Letters (FCDLs) for E-rate Funding Year 2020. Wave 1 includes $3,573,213.39 in funding commitments for 229 Nebraska school and library applicants.

Congratulations to all Nebraska schools and libraries who have been funded! A list of libraries who have received E-rate funding is on the NLC E-rate webpage. The 2020 list will be updated as new funding waves are announced.

When your library’s FCDL is ready, it will be attached as a printable PDF to the email notifying you that your FCDL has been issued. It will also be available in the Notifications section of your EPC account, but you are no longer required to log into your EPC account to view it.

As soon as you receive your FCDL, you can go on to the next step in the E-rate process, filing your Form 486. This form is submitted in your EPC account. Information and instructions on how to do that can be found on the USAC website.

If you haven’t received your FCDL yet, don’t panic! There are many more weekly Waves to come as USAC processes more applications. This is just the start of Funding Year 2020, more approvals are coming.

If you have any questions or need any assistance with your E-rate forms, visit the NLC E-rate webpage or contact Christa Porter, 800-307-2665, 402-471-3107.

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Pretty Sweet Tech: New Digital Literacy Course

For those who are adding or revamping new digital literacy offerings in your library, the Nebraska Library Commission is offering a comprehensive course to Build a Digital Literacy Plan for your library!

There is no one way to implement digital skills. However, we can explore what our community needs, and how the library can help through a combination of developing programs in-house, working with local and national organizations to meet each community’s growing digital needs. By the end of this course, you will:

  • Define digital literacy in your own words, with practical examples.
  • Identify a target audience to narrow focus and seek the best sources to meet tangible needs.
  • Explore a variety of digital literacy categories to determine what works best for you and your community.
  • Use planning worksheets and guides to build a digital literacy plan and prioritize what and how to deal with important items.

Along the way, we will share ideas and compare notes of what worked for others in the state. If you would like to register for this course, please go to http://nlc.nebraska.gov/scripts/calendar/eventshow.asp?ProgId=19463. I’m teaching the course, so I hope to “see” you there.

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