Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Online Learning For Staff Master Post

This post is to share links for free, work-relevant online learning, Please add any you think of in the comments, and I will add to the post.

--Andrea @GLCL

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Census Notes

The entire Saint Paul Library system has been designated as Questionnaire Assistance Centers and we are so listed on the census’s web site.  What this means is that we have said that we will help people fill out their census forms.

We should always make it clear that we are not Census Bureau employees.

There will be three ways to answer the census:

  • ·     Online at 2020Census.gov
  • ·     On the phone—the number is not yet available (for security reasons they say)
  • ·      Filling out a paper form and mailing it in the post paid envelop provided.

The online form will be active from March 1st – July 31st.

At first, most people will only receive an invitation to fill out the census.  This invitation will be specific to the address and will contain a number that they will enter into the census form.  Some people will receive a paper form instead. Both of these forms will be specific to the address it is sent to.  The library, therefore, will not have blank paper forms available.

The address to go to start the online form is 2020Census.gov.  There will no doubt be scam sites set up, so don’t use Google to find the site, but enter this address directly into the browser.  This will also be the go-to site for any questions that come up.

There is no citizenship question.

The only people who will have access to the raw data are Census Bureau employees.  Everyone else will only have access to aggregate data—numbers for a particular group of zip codes.  The raw data will be unavailable for 72 years.

In past census years, there were short forms and long forms.  For this census there is only the short form.

The online census is available in 13 languages—the desired language can be selected at the top of the census page.  These languages will also be available for the phone census.  Significantly, these languages do not include Hmong or Somali.  For these languages there are printable guides to answering the form.

Reasons for answering the census and making sure you are counted:

  • ·         Federal House of Representatives districts are allotted by the census.  Minnesota is projected to “probably” lose a House seat, but if there is a significant undercount this will happen for sure.
  • ·         State Senate and House districts are also drawn on the basis of the census.
  • ·         15 billion dollars of Federal money comes to Minnesota based on our census numbers.  If there is an undercount, that money will be less.
  • ·         $2.7 million dollars comes to the state for public libraries, so we have a stake in making sure everyone is counted.
  • ·         Minnesota state government also uses census numbers to allocate moneys.  If your area is undercounted, the money your area should have gotten will go to another area that was better counted.
  • ·         Businesses and other organizations also use census data to make decisions, such as where to put stores and provide services.
  • Only one person per address should answer the census.  It would probably be a good idea, before beginning the process, to ask the person if they have all the needed information.  That is, at a minimum, the ages, birthdates, and race of everyone living at the address.

The actual census day is April 1st.  This means the questions should be answered based on where people are living on that day.  There are, of course, exceptions.  The census answers should be based on where the person will be living most of the year.  For example, if a person is on vacation on April 1st, the answers should be based on where they live most of the time.  For children that live in two different places in a year, the answers should be based on where they live most of the time during the year.  If it is 50/50, then the answers should be based on where they will be living on April 1st.

The online census must be answered in one sitting.  If the form is not submitted, and the person signs off of the computer, all the entered information will be lost.  If there is no movement of the mouse for 13 minutes, the program will time out and they will need to begin anew.

Once the census response has been submitted, it cannot be edited.  If something changes (for example, a baby that was supposed to arrive after April 1st comes early, you may be able to call the census number and have them update the information.  (The presenters thought this will be the case, but weren’t positive.)

While the form has a number of questions, the only ones that are mandatory and must be answered are age, date of birth, and race for each person in the household.  All other questions are answered at the discretion of the person answering the census.  There will be a “soft” warning that some items on a page have been left blank for these questions, but the respondent will be able to click through it without answering the question.

Note that it is suggested, but not required, to enter names.  You will need a unique answer for each person in the household, but you can enter nicknames, or any other term that will allow the person answering the census to remember who is who.  For example: “Individual 1, Individual 2, and so on” are valid answers.

Sex is another question that is not required to answer, if the person chooses not to.

While you can assist the person in answering the questions, you cannot provide the answers for them.  The census is “self-determining.”  This means that the person answering the census provides the answers as they see fit.  While you can explain what the information being requested is, do not, in any case, tell the person what they “should” answer.

You can, if need be, type or write in the answers for the person, but again, the answers are to be provided by the respondent themselves.

People can use our Wi-Fi to answer the census if they wish.

Questionnaire Assistance Center training video:

--Ron P. @GLCL with links from Erin Z.R.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Notes on De-Escalation

Don't be reactive, instead respond.

De-escalation is not problem solving. In a situation that may escalate, you want to de-escalate (decrease the intensity and magnitude of the situation) now and problem solve (think of solutions) at a later date. Your primary concern is safety.

Keeping safety in mind, do not allow yourself to be the barrier between de-escalating a situation. This happens when your train of thought goes to these areas:
  • I am the authority
  • I need to be in control
  • Rules are rules
  • They need to...
  • I must defend myself (verbally)
Things that will escalate a situation:
  • saying "calm down"
  • saying "you shouldn't/you need to/if you don't, then..."
  • getting in another person's space
  • refusing to listen
  • invalidating feelings
  • blaming, shaming, criticizing
  • being sarcastic

We may judge things as socially inappropriate, but that is also assuming people can self-regulate (telling someone to "calm down"). Keep in mind those with mental health challenges are doing what they can. 

You may not get the last word, but if you get the last action (they stop doing x), you have successfully navigated an encounter.

Nonverbal Approaches:
  • give the person space
  • adopt an assertive (not aggressive) posture (open palms, mid-height)
  • make eye contact (or mimic level of contact)
  • adopt a safe angle (from the side, not directly, allowing both parties to exit freely)
Verbal Approaches:
  • Paraphrase (patron's feelings, wants, thoughts) [ex. "You feel frustrated with xyz"]
  • Support Statement [ex. "I agree, it can be frustrating…"]
  • Validation Statement (Agree the situation is dumb, annoying, stupid...) [ex. "You’re right to feel that way. It must be frustrating to always xyz"]
  • Apologize [ex. "I'm really sorry, but...] (the rule is stupid, not the patron)
  • Offer to help
  • Ask them to do something

You can still set limits while de-escalating.

X if you don't calm down, I'll call the police
O I don't want to have to call the police here, help me work out a better solution.

"Please step back." (when/if they do, thank them)
"I hate to do this but..."
"I have to ask you..."

When someone is reacting with emotions and instincts, they are not being rational. Beyond enforcing a rule or getting someone to understand your policies, safety is most important. Genuinely connecting with empathy will help in most situations. With a strong enough connection, you can turn a negative situation into a positive one.

Example 1:
You approach a patron (from the side) about their use of loud profanity.

You: I’m sorry, but I have to ask you to lower your voice and watch your language.


You: I’m sorry if it feels that way. It must be very frustrating always being told what to do, but it’s our policy if you want to continue to use the library.

Patron: *grumbles under breath angrily*

You: Thank you. Please let us know if we can be of any help.

--> although the patron wasn’t happy to do so, you still got the desired result (they stopped using loud profanity)

Example 2:
A patron comes up to you angry and upset.

Patron: These kids are swearing and being loud. I told them to please be respectful of the space and they called me names. They have no respect. You people don’t do anything.

You: I’m so sorry. You should never feel like you have to respond directly. Please know it’s never your responsibility to talk to them. Let staff know if there’s a problem and we will step in. It’s absolutely not acceptable for you to feel unsafe in this space.

Patron: I mean, I see these kids every day and they seem so out of control.

You: I know. And we appreciate you coming to use the library. We do try to talk to the kids and give them warnings, but we try not to make banning our first course of action. For some of our patrons, they have nowhere else to go and we want to give them a chance to correct their behavior.

Patron: I get that. I’m not heartless. I’m just frustrated.

You: I understand. Thank you for letting us know. It’s important that you feel welcome to come here as well. We’ll try to be more firm with the kids.

Patron: I’m sorry. I know if they had better role models, it’d be different. Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest.

You: Thank you. I’ll go talk to the kids now.

Patron: Thank you.

--> This is a real life example of a patron starting out angry and upset and switching over to calm and understanding based on the connection made (including an apology and thanks). The kids also heard the exchange and straightened up immediately, but were also warned that they would be done for the day if they acted up again.

Example 3:
A patron stands very close to you in a threatening manner.

You: Sir/Ma’am, I’m going to ask you to take a step back.

Patron: (steps back) Are you listening to me??

You: Thank you. I hear what you’re saying. I know it’s frustrating. If you’d like, we can sit down and talk about this.

Patron: (steps forward) No, we can talk about this right now!

You: Please take a step back if you’d like to talk.

Patron: (steps back) This is BS.

You: Thank you. Please tell me about the issue you’re having.

--> thank people for the desired actions they take. A reminder that it may not always end happily, but if no one was hurt, the interaction was a success.

Also a reminder, you are not responsible for putting yourself bodily in harm’s way. You know what is right for you. If you are in danger, do what you can to get yourself out of danger. De-escalating is just one tool you can use, not the only tool.

--Cindy K.@GLCL

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Race – Power of an Illusion

I attended the training Race – Power of an Illusion offered by the City of Saint Paul Human Resources department.  This training consists of a three- part video and discussion about each section.  The first is titled “The Differences Between Us,” and it shatters the idea of race having a biological or scientific basis.  In this part of the video, a group of students sequence and compare their DNA.  They find their closest genetic match is as likely to be someone from another race as their own.  We learned there is no genetic basis that divides us into racial groups.  Any two individuals within a racial group can be as different biologically as anyone. 

The second part of the training is “The Story We Tell.”  In this part the concept of race as a modern idea is introduced.  It’s only a few hundred years old and can be linked to America’s need for labor, land and development.  After finding an unending supply of labor, in the form of African slaves, America defended slavery despite the strong belief in freedom for all.  The forced removal of Native Americans from their own land was defended by President Jackson as what happened to inferior people when faced with a superior race.  There were scientists at the time who believed Black people were created to be slaves, and were incapable of living on an socially equitable level with white people.

The third part, “The House We Live In,” looks at how institutions in the United States benefit white people by offering opportunities to them that aren’t available to all.  At the beginning of the twentieth century many immigrants started arriving from eastern and southern Europe.  They had to prove they were white to take advantage of government programs and policies  available only to whites.  The ability to buy a home in an area where property values increased wasn’t available to some ethnic Europeans and Blacks.  The equity and wealth based on increasing home values was limited to those whom the courts deemed white.

If you have the opportunity to attend this training I would definitely recommend it.  In addition to the informative, eye-opening DVD, the discussion among city employees was also very good and made me aware of the different life experiences we bring to our work every day.  We own several copies of the DVD, and it can also be viewed at https://stpaulmn.sharepoint.com/racialequity/Pages/Race-Power-of-an-Illusion-Video-Series.aspx

--Betty Pearson, GLCL

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Minnesota Library Financial Education Workshop – April 24, 2019

On April 24, I attended the Minnesota Library Financial Education Workshop, an all-day training offered through the Minnesota Department of Education-State Library Services and facilitated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The presenters and panel participants shared expert information, though I would say it was difficult to see how to directly apply this information to libraries, and no discussion was offered regarding the information vs advice conundrum we have as librarians. It was also clear from the presenters and fellow library attendees that the workshop was geared towards the needs of suburban communities—only one panel addressed the needs of the underserved. 

I tried below to share only what I thought might be useful to librarians and/or in a library setting. I did come away with a bag with a State Fair’s-worth handouts from each organization, so please let me know if there’s interest in reviewing them. Sadly, the only true swag was a pen from the Better Business Bureau with a stylus on one end, but you’re welcome to it.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Community Partnerships program

    Built by libraries for libraries:

  • Community partnerships
  • Outreach
  • Programming
  • Clear information and resources
  • Libraries can sign up for a monthly newsletter

Free publications
Consumer tools

Retirement – Social Security Administration

  • Build your Future: Social Security, Pension, Investments, Other Income
  • Born after 1960: 100% benefit at age 67
  • Free publications
  • Sign up for a “my Social Security” online account to view benefits, statements, etc.
  • Benefits calculators

Resources for Young Adults panel - Best Prep, Jump $tart Coalition, Family Means, MN Department of Education

Barriers for youth:

  • No guidance; fear of money
  • Different home experiences
  • Classes are electives, not required
  • Parents are reluctant to talk about it
  • Cultural or status stigma around talking about it
  • Inability to “practice in a safe space”

 Youth should start right now:

  • Understanding luxury vs necessity (wants vs needs)
  • Tracking expenses
  • Limits and goals on saving and spending
  • Know your weaknesses (ie., Starbucks) and what you value (ie., family time)
  • Gain spreadsheet skills (both for budgeting and future employment)
  • Parents should resist being guilted 

    Student Loans and Financial Aid:

  • Career and College Readiness Research Guide – MN Department of Education
  • Develop unique skills and talents – invest in YOU
  • Don’t borrow more in total than you think you’ll earn your first year out of college
  • Sit down and really look at your financial aid award letters – do the math!
  • Look at what are the growing fields for employment
  • Don’t visit schools you can’t afford – no point in falling in love if it’s too expensive
  • Use each school’s Net Price Calculator to get an idea of the costs 


Financial Planning Basics – Association of Financial Educators


  • Cashflow – income and expenses
  • Risk Management – ie., insurance
  • Accumulation/Investment
  • Income Taxes
  • Retirement – aka financial independence
  • Estate – passing it on

    Financial Emergencies:

  • A plan for the unplanned
  • A Rainy Day Fund – 3-6 months of fixed expenses

    Financial Planning Day (pro bono CFPs) – annually in October at Wilder Center

Credit and Debt Management – University of Minnesota Extension Service

  • Credit score ≠ Credit Report
  • Consumers get 3 free credit reports (1 each from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) per year through annualcreditreport.com
  • 25% of credit reports have errors
  • Consumers may check their own report as many times per year as they want –  doesn’t affect anything
  • Best referral: Lutheran Social Services Financial Counseling  

Resources for Financially Vulnerable, Immigrants, & Underserved Communities panel

    Prepare and Prosper

  • Defines ‘underserved’ as: cash only, payday loans, no mainstream accounts, low  income, unbanked, New Americans, LEP (Limited English Proficiency)
  • Provides credit and financial coaching, tax preparation, ITIN applications, referrals
  • Summer and fall tax clinics (income limits)
  • EIC-Earned Income Credit – largest poverty tool from the US government. Very effective, can refund 30-35% of income. In MN, 1 in 5 who qualify do not claim it.
  • Exodus Lending – will buy payday loans, client only has to pay principal (no interest). Located near Raymond/University.

    United Way 211

  • 211unitedway.org
  • Social services referrals
  • Spanish and Hmong speakers on staff

    Minnesota Attorney General’s Office

  • Avoid payday loans
  • Look up lenders on MN Dept of Commerce License Lookup

     Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Fraud Prevention panel:

    Commodity Futures Trading Commission

    Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota

    Federal Trade Commission

        Financial Industry Regulatory Advisory Corporation (FINRA)


            --Laura, George Latimer Central Library



    Heading Home Ramsey

    I recently had the opportunity to learn about Heading Home Ramsey (HHR) at a City Council Organizational Committee meeting.  HHR is a collaborative of organizations that serve people who are experiencing homelessness or formerly homeless people.  The coalition forms the federally mandated governing board for the Continuum of Care for Ramsey County.  The Continuum of Care is all resources and services for homeless response that includes prevention (financial assistance, family assistance grants, dispute resolution with landlords), outreach (resources and case management), drop-in centers, emergency shelters, Coordinated Entry, and supportive housing (transitional housing, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing).  The members of HHR consist of formerly homeless people, service providers, housing providers, local government, advocacy organizations, schools, health providers, and law enforcement.  Some of the members are funded by HHR and are required to be members.

    Heading Home Ramsey works to prevent and end homelessness through the Continuum of Care.  HHR is responsible for setting funding priorities and administering federal, state, city, and philanthropic funds; implementing and monitoring Coordinated Entry; and evaluating outcomes of funding projects.  HHR administers approx. $8.5 million each year and organizations that receive grant dollars also match funds.

    In a survey from Oct. 2018, Wilder research found 1,927 people experiencing homelessness in Ramsey County, though there may be many more who are uncounted. A lack of shelter beds forces many to double-up with friends/family/neighbors/strangers or sleep in places not meant for human habitation.  Not only is this unsafe and unhealthy, but it  leads people being hidden from data and fewer resources follow.  Many experience common barriers to housing such at poor credit, disability, eviction record, criminal record, and mental health issues.  The lack of affordable housing and Section 8 housing also adds to the issue. 

    HHR has asked the City to make affordable housing a priority, provide incentives for landlords to rent to people with barriers, support tenant training, reform regulations to support tenants, expand shelter resources, and work with service providers to improve homeless response.

    Handouts are available here and here.

    --Katrina H-T,  George Latimer Central Library