Rhode Island librarians were well represented at the Gale Impact Live 2021 Conference on September 29th and 30th. The free virtual conference offered more than 20 sessions of professional development for public librarians. The conference was held live, but was also recorded so attendees could view the sessions after it ended.
The theme of the conference was “Connect. Inspire. Elevate.” It focused on the ways libraries adapted to provide services to their communities in the face of building closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The speakers came from libraries around the country and addressed topics including advocacy, business development, programming, and diversity and inclusivity. Both days offered a midday meditation break led by a wellness professional.
Rhode Island library staff presented on both days of the conference. On Wednesday, Karen Mellor from the RI Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS), Beatrice Pulliam from Providence Public Library, and Ed Garcia from Cranston Public Library gave a presentation titled “Pivot Your Workforce Development Efforts toward Online Learning.” They spoke about how Rhode Island libraries adapted to support workforce development during the pandemic.
The statewide AskRI partnership added Udemy as a resource, which provides access to on-demand courses on a huge variety of topics. Karen mentioned promoting Udemy to state employees who had to quickly adapt to working from home: “What happened was I kept promoting Udemy with the IT folks, and when they had a few moments to breathe, they found this wealth of courses in Udemy.” She mentioned topics including cloud-based computing, web design, coding, and network security. “Udemy was really important during this time. I had a number of division chiefs promoting it.”
Both Beatrice and Ed mentioned the self-care and personal development facets of Udemy, including things like meditation or learning a musical instrument.
On Thursday, Stephen Spohn from Ocean State Libraries (OSL) and Kelly Metzger from OLIS presented “Follow the Data Journey: Using Data to Fuel Strategic Planning and Decision-making.”
During this session, Kelly and Stephen described an ongoing partnership between OSL, OLIS, and Gale Analytics to develop a custom product that would help libraries in Rhode Island develop an understanding of the their service environment, identify gaps in service to their community, and aid in strategic planning.
With funding through a LORI Grant, Gale was able to create five custom, interactive dashboards for OLIS and OSL. These analytical tools overlay non-identifying patron information with Census, Community Insights, and Mosaic data. Analyses can be broken down for each library or library, library system, or region so libraries could see how they compare with comparable libraries/systems in the area and identify actionable steps they could take.
The dashboards have just recently been released, but Stephen and Kelly expressed excitement over the results they have seen so far. They look forward to publishing and refining the dashboards, collecting more data, and supporting Rhode Island libraries in using them to improve and extend their services.