Scot Osterweil:

Getting today's plenary started - Staying Connected, Fueling Innovation, Affirming Core Values: Three Learning Organizations Carrying Lessons Forward from the Twin Pandemics

Jal Mehta:

is moderator, beginning the panel. Talking about carrying forward lessons from pandemic crisis into "neverending pandemic."

invites attendees to share something good that came out of the pandemic for them. There are too many to share all here! But big themes are family time, taking breaks, conversations about accessibility.

Jessica, let's start with you. We think of a library as a physical space where people go. What happened with your library during the pandemic? What can other people, in a library or otherwise, learn from your experiences?

Jessica R. Chaney:

works with Cloud901, a teen learning lab in Memphis Public Libraries, work with STEM/STEAM, project-based learning, and connected learning.

Closed for about a month, partnered with other city divisions & community organizations. Metropolitan Interfaith Association - library staff boxed food, were drivers, were able to get into community with access to library materials, worked with p

Worked with Parks & Rec and other divisions to disseminate information about social services. A great opportunity to get out and reach out to communities who were underserved or couldn't readily come to the library.

Previously divisions were siloed but now they can connect to serve the community.

Shifted to online programming. With that program, they touched people in communities across the country, not just Memphis.

Able to work with people who wouldn't normally come to the library for a myriad of reasons - anxiety in social settings, other reasons - able to access library programming at a comfort level that worked best for them.

A lot more families at online programming. A lot of parents working alongside kids during camps. Opportunity for family to get together & bond and parents became library advocates.

Understanding & seeing that library staff need to recognize in every aspect where barriers are, even when we don't readily see them.

Online programming was wonderful, but what about people without home internet? What about requiring supplies for a program?

What barriers are out there? How can we break those down? Wifi hot spots, takeaway supplies. Producing programs that only use things readily available at home or brick & mortar store.

With population 30-40% below the poverty line, people have to choose - do they send their kids to an enrichment opportunity, or do they feed them?

Jal Mehta:

Really promising: holistic vision of youth & families & what they need. Intersection of innovation and equity. "We can't do this for everybody, so we're not going to do it at all." So iterate to make it accessible for more people.


runs a clubhouse that had to move online. It was a challenge. Hearing some commonalities between ListoAmerica, an afterschool program that serves primarily Mexican community, and library already.

ListoAmerica is part of The Computer Clubhouse, a network. Had to shut down physical space, but within about 2 - 3 weeks, UCI PhDs were able to support creating the clubhouse online for the same hours online.

Tried to replicate as much as possible the pre-pandemic experience but had to be innovative. Started member-to-member meetups because new members would be isolated.

Members are youth. Usually middle school & high school. Connected new members with mentors.

Created hybrid programs. Created pick-up point for materials to pick up at one time and conduct sessions later on.

People would make themselves available in online community at specific time so other people could come discuss with them.

Temptation is to just learn the technology and gain skills, but goal of ListoAmerica is to support creation, not just skill building. Connect people with interests - for example music-interested youth and video-interested youth collaborate on music video.

Mexican culture is important. Mentors were almost all Mexican. Mexican American members often had parents who were undocumented and thus didn't want to come in. Mentor created entire Discord channel in Spanish and invite family members in.

Adam Kulaas:

works in Tacoma school district in Washington State. Fortunate to have a school board and superintendent who embraced pandemic as a community with grace and empathy.

In March 2020 decided to be as pro-active as possible. Set up design around an online school that they expected to have about 400 kids, ended up with about 5000 out of 30000 who wanted an online experience.

over 250 staff members, community eager to keep students safe in the online world. Quickly shifted gears into evolving into high quality. It was difficult because staff hadn't been trained in online teaching.

Grace for staff and students formed a community. While other districts are sprinting back to "normal," Tacoma has moved toward redefining and reimagining new normal.

Online school is now a fully-functional school with about 2000 students. Tacoma is also introducing a flex program to allow students to experience both face-to-face and online learning, which allows flexibility in their schedules.


Hearing vision and leadership from Tacoma superintendent and board.

Adam Kulaas:

Tacoma's been working on a whole student initiative and this moved them toward a whole community perspective.

Jal Mehta:

When is an online environment better than an in-person environment? When is it a weak facsimile of a personal environment?


Didn't think online clubhouse would work, for example "creative collision" in small space where people would bump into each other and notice each others' work and ask about it.

Somehow, with the hybrid model, it worked. Occasionally, we would get together in very careful (socially distanced, masked) groups, and were able to go global. Connected with clubhouse in Mexico City. Never were able to do that before.

That enhanced the cultural background, that it's okay to be Mexican in the United States, it's something to be proud of. Opened Mexican American citizens' eyes to what it's like to be in Mexico and what technology is like there.

Jessica R. Chaney:

Able to connect online with people from all over. Were able to ask colleges to send virtual tours for them to share with people who couldn't travel to visit.

This summer, they started back in person with summer camp. Every camp this year people have come back with people they met in camp and they've continued to work together. This didn't happen before.

Adam Kulaas:

It's a "Yes, and." Redefined understanding of connected. Multitiered opportunities to connect with adult learners, assessing online experiences combined with occasional face-to-face meetings led to some simple tech innovation.

Kindergarteners took a field trip to the zoo, some in person, but many remotely who were working in teams and engaging during chat because the schools had taught that school. Recorded the session and now it can be reused with different groups.

Online learning is not the best path for every kid, but it very well could be for some.

Teachers were not only livecasting, but were interacting with students online. Students could see their own teacher.

Jal Mehta:

Was the number of participants the same, larger, smaller, different people in online programs versus face to face?


Old members already had established connections. New members would introduce themselves and old members would connect with them.

Scale expanded going remotely. The question now is should we go back to some form of physical?

Jessica R. Chaney:

It depended on the program. Camps were larger than we anticipated. Some other programs like college virtual tours were huge numbers. Some programs just had 2 to 3 people in them. We counted it as a win whatever it was.

Adam Kulaas:

Club and extended learning opportunities tended to grow online.

Jessica R. Chaney:

Transitioning to online was already a struggle, so any number of kids we counted as a win.

We've gone back to in-person but there will always be some kind of hybrid component to a good bit of our programs.

We didn't have multiple-hour programs. They were very short, intensive. We would talk, but the staff made a lot of video work that youth could not only watch, but reference.

Having videos to reference helped kids who fell behind or missed sessions. We shared it with other library systems in Tennessee.

Jal Mehta:

Have there been opportunities to connect and collaborate with parents and other community organizations?

Adam Kulaas:

We had existing partnerships and it was exciting to see those partners pivot with us.


One thing that's worked for us is other non-profit engagement. We got a call from an organization in another county that wants to open up a clubhouse and a remote clubhouse working with us.

Jal Mehta:

Final thoughts?

Jessica R. Chaney:

What we have found is that for us, there's no "getting back to normal." There's working to address the shift in our youth. We've seen a number of youth ask for programming and services around mental health, being engaged with social & economic issues.

We're shifting and rebuilding in some areas with how we continue to service our youth. What we did before for branding & strategic planning can stay in place but we recognize that the way we were doing it needs to shift.


A young lady who started with us in middle school and is now at Cal State University Fullerton, whose world was a 2-mile radius when she started with us, now has a global perspective and spent a semester in South Korea.

Adam Kulaas:

It's a vulnerable celebration of acknowledging that we don't know what we don't know. Adam Grant: "We live in a rapidly changing world where we need to spend as much time rethinking as we do thinking."