Hello, my name is Ahniwa Ferrari.I work in the State Library, in Library Development, doing a number of things. As Rand mentioned, I coordinate our statewide virtual reference cooperative, Ask-WA, which keeps me busy most of the time.When I have free time I launch into other projects. One of those was the Hard Times Resource Guide, a portal that we put together to connect citizens in Washington State with resources to help them get through times in a tough economy.Today I’m going to talk a little bit about the guide, how we organized it and put it together, the kinds of resources we included, and how we hope it’s helping library users in Washington State.
We’ll come back to this as well in a little bit, but I wanted to give you a better idea of what we’re talking about before we move on. The Hard Times Resource Guide is a portal to useful, free websites on the web. As you can see here, it’s divided into a number of subjects, and I’ll talk in a minute about how we decided on those subject groups, and we’ll look at some resources in each one.
Another way to look at the guide …This is a tag cloud generated from all the titles and descriptions of sites listed on the guide.Obviously “Washington” is big – we focus heavily on resources developed and offered by the state.“Resources” and “Information” and “Help” are big and need no further explanation.National resources … health, housing, education, jobs, family, food … all words that show up often enough in the guide to warrant an appearance in this cloud.
A little bit of history …After over 6 months of development, we launched the Hard Times Resource Guide quietly on August 28, 2009, which was a Friday. We promoted it through various email lists and other mediums the next Monday, and on Tuesday the Guide accounted for more than half the total hits on the WSL website. Usage has slowed somewhat, but we average over 20 unique visitors per day and make up about 8% of the total traffic to the State Library site.Most users go to employment, but health, housing, and finance resources are also very popular.
Here’s the spike in WSL site traffic with the Hard Times launch …
And here we can see that employment tops out the list, followed by finances, then housing, then education, then health …
It’s worth mentioning that we tried to do some research in figuring out how to put this whole thing together. We ended up with our own schema, but it was adapted loosely off of a number of philosophies and motivational theories, including this one, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need.I won’t dwell on it too long, but Abraham Maslow developed this system in which needs create a pyramid; the most important needs, breathing, sleeping, eating, procreation, supply the base of the pyramid. These basic needs must be satisfied if a human is to move up the pyramid and have more evolved needs, such as the need to be creative, or the need to be respected by others.We figured that in tough times, more people default back to these more basic needs: a place to sleep, food and water, security, health, and employment.
The top bar really represents some of these more basic needs, as well as highlighting finance and money-management resources, which suddenly became more important.Family and education resources are also pretty high. Under those we included resources for leisure and volunteering, because some people want to give back during a crisis, and everyone still wants to let loose and have fun sometimes.The bottom-right section breaks from the subject-oriented resources and focuses more on the audience, including resources for seniors, veterans, the disabled, and Spanish-speakers.
Inside the guide we find annotated lists of resource, often divided into subsets.Finances and Money Management, for instance, includes sections on financial literacy, savings and investment information, and budget and dept management.The guide is very selective; it isn’t meant to be a wholesale warehouse of resources, but rather include just the best few resources on any given subject. We figured that people were already overloaded by losing their jobs or their homes, and didn’t need to suffer from additional information overload by having too many sites to choose from. We tried to select just those sites that met their need, and not give them too many options.
We focused strongly on Washington State resources, like this one from Washington’s Department of Financial Institutions.Since the purview of the State Library is really to serve EVERYONE in Washington State, we had to veer away from local resources, no matter how helpful they would be to those that lived in the correct areas.Many Washington Agencies already had a number of useful sites, so we did our best to track those down and include them in the resource guide.This site is awesome because it hits a lot of demographics; it has tips and tools for educators, stuff for parents, information for businesses to help their employees. There’s a lot here, and it’s all put together and targeting towards people in Washington State.
This section of the site was the first created, and actually WAS the guide for a time, while we were putting the rest of it together. It’s the most-used section on the site, which makes sense.We re-vamped the section recently, to improve navigation and, to an extent, to repurpose. Previously the site listed a large number of job-seeking sites, Indeed, Monster.com, etc … many of which were redundant. Now the section includes more sites focused towards different aspects of the job hunt … mastering a resume, exploring temp and freelance work, filing for unemployment, and running your own business. We were more selective, but there are still plenty sites there for finding jobs available in WA.
It was tempting for awhile just to link to this site in the employment section and call it done. There’s really a lot here, including links to state job banks, information about jobs related to the deepwater response, and help with resumes and interview preparation and wage negotiation and almost everything else you might need.In the end it’s a great tool on the Guide, but our focus on WA resources and assistance still brings us a step above.
Health and sustenance are more of Maslow’s primary needs, and are represented here, along with information about the flu, which is a hot topic every winter, it seems, and some helpful resources to help Washingtonians deal with cold weather, brought on by last winter’s big cold snap.Health resources includes mental health, and we have some good resources to help with depression, which we figured people might be experiencing due to losing a job or dealing with financial troubles.The food resources are meant to help people find food programs, as well as think of ways to be more self-sustaining, such as gardening and composting.
H1N1 was a big deal for quite awhile, so we added a FLU section to the guide and made sure to include some resources on H1N1 in particular. Here is the WA site on H1N1, which includes useful information and resources, including news about school outbreaks and how to get vaccines.
We sort of joked about including gardening resources, but then we saw other state libraries put out similar resources with gardening sites, so we went ahead and included some as well. This site from the National Gardening Association has a lot of useful information about which plants grow best where, and pretty much anything else you might want to know about gardening.
So it seems like the housing market played a notable roll in this whole economic collapse thing, and of course, lots of people were realizing that their mortgages were unsustainable and were losing their homes and didn’t know what to do …So we tried to include resources to help with housing in general, but especially with avoiding foreclosure, and learning about mortgages, and taking advantage of federal funds when available, and finding different ways to put a roof over your head if you can’t own your own home.Someone recently pointed out that, even though the section is titled “Housing and Homelessness”, there weren’t actually any resources in the section devoted specifically to homelessness; I created a section the same day and found some great resources to help people find temporary housing in WA, and included a number of other useful tools to help those who’ve lost their homes or never had them to begin with.
Like this one. Not only does this site have a lot of great, in-general information about homelessness in WA, but it’s really easy to dig down to a certain location, say Thurston County, and find even more targeted resources.
This is kind of an odd, broad topic. We really wanted to focus on a couple things: resources to help parents make sure that their children were getting the things they needed, be that health care or adequate food or care providers or a good education; as well as resources to help families deal with internal strife, including marriage therapy and family counseling resources.
ParentHelp123 is an organization created to help Washington State families apply for health and food programs online and locate resources in their local communities. They have a number of hotlines for quick help, information about school meal assistance, immunizations for children, and a lot more, all focused towards Washington families in particular.You can see on the menu they have resources for pregnancy, for new babies, and for families; I particularly like this last tab, where they also list resources for professionals whose job it is to help WA families, including health care providers, educators, and even for library professionals.
Lots of people who lost jobs are seeking new skills and education to help them find new employment. Some of them, having been employed in the same job since before the tech boom, lack basic computer and internet skills that employers expect from their workers in the 21st century job market. Washington’s Community and Technical Colleges have been busy, lately, and they’re providing excellent re-education opportunities to WA residents. We included resources to help people find the community college near them and enroll in programs, as well as tools to find aid and determine what they wanted to study.We also included a number of online resources to help people learn technology, including typing, mousing, and other general technology skills that many of us take for granted.
This is one of the rare resources in the guide not provided by a state, the feds, or a U.S. organization. As you can see, it’s provided instead by our friends at the BBC. The tool, though, is excellent in terms of starting literally from scratch and helping people learn how to use a computer.I looked through a lot of similar resources, and this one really takes nothing for granted in terms of teaching people how to use and become comfortable with computers.
People still want to have fun, even if they don’t have as much money to do it. In this section we tried to focus on leisure activities that were low- or zero-cost, including lots of ways to take advantage of WA national resources, such as state parks, lakes, and cheaper city resources like museums and zoos.One of my favorite resources in this section is a list of “100 things to do during a money free weekend.”
Of course, I could be partial because “visit your community library” is right at the top of the list, where it should be.
Lots of people are struggling in the current economy, but there are also plenty of people who are doing okay and want to find a way to help out. Volunteerism is up, and we wanted to include some resources to help people find opportunities to give back to their local communities.
All for Good isn’t on the list directly, per se, but it’s the tool that serve.gov uses to help you find local opportunities to help out and volunteer.For instance, if any of you are free this weekend, here are some opportunities to give back to the community, and includes tasks such as helping people get to their medical appointments, performing some light carpentry work for Harlequin Productions, or answer the phone at the United Communities AIDS Network office.
As I mentioned previously, where we have 8 sections divided by subject, we have an additional 4 sections divided by target audience.We wanted to include resources in particular for seniors, who are seeing their retirement funds shrink and may be struggling to figure out federal health care systems and complex legal issues.
Washington LawHelp, for instance, has an excellent section to help people over 60 understand legal issues that may pertain to them such as power of attorney, medical and mental health issues, social security, wills, and other topics.With resources available in a number of languages, this site helps seniors learn about legal issues that may affect them, and also helps those caring for seniors learn their rights and find programs that might help them.
With an ongoing war, veterans continue to be an important population needing help finding resources in WA State. This section could use a more thorough treatment, but it does have a decent collection of resources to help veterans find health care and employment, two of the most important issues affecting our returning soldiers.
There are quite a few resources out there aimed at veterans. VetJobs has been around since 1999 and is owned and operated by veterans and sponsored by the VFW. Their goal is to assist employers in identifying transitioning military and veteran candidates.
Another section that could use more fleshing out, the disabled / special needs section only includes a handful of resources at the moment, but they are they good ones.
Disability.gov, for instance, is THE resource for the disabled in the U.S., and they have a fine section of WA specific resources further divided by subjects such as civil rights, education, and transportation.I could include more resources on the Hard Times Guide, but I don’t want to re-invent the wheel; if the sources are all here, I’m happy to link to this site and leave it at that.
Just after the Guide was launched, we got some flack for not including more additional languages, but realistically we can’t tackle them all, and in general more resources exist to assist Spanish-speakers than any other language besides English. For the most part, it also uses the same alphabet as English, which keeps things much easier from a technology perspective.
One of the resources for Spanish-speakers we liked in particular was created by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, and is basically a list of federal websites that exist in Spanish. This covers a lot of different subjects, from aging and social security to the Environmental Protection Agency, but it’s a great list for those who want to learn about federal programs in their native language.
The site was really made to be browsable. The visual layout and use of images makes it easy for people to find what they’re looking for, and the selective nature of the list helps them avoid being overwhelmed. Lists that are larger have sub-categories and their own internal organization schema to help users navigate.That said, the Guide IS searchable – in fact, the search bar is on every page (except the front page, oddly enough), and using it searches the contents of every site LISTED on the guide, rather than searching the contents of the Guide itself. We figured that this would be more useful and provide better results than if we just created an internal search function.Here we can see a search for “medicare” revealing, as might be expected, a number of resources within the medicare.gov website, but also a link from savvysenior.org as well as some others.
We’re constantly revising, updating, and promoting the site. Of those three things, promotion is the most difficult.We’re developing some web badges that could be placed on community and library web sites, and may explore ways to put the guide out in social media. I’ve been at a number of local job and resource fairs, talking to local organizations that are providing tools and resources, and trying to get the word out that way. But there’s still a long way to go.If I had time, I would explore more seriously the idea of taking this Guide and expanding it to create a really universal information guide for the residents of Washington State … I think that such a guide could really be useful, but we’re not really pursuing any serious expansion right at the moment.
So that’s a brief overview of the Washington State Library’s Hard Times Resource Guide. Hopefully by now you’ll agree that it’s a worthy collection of resources to help the residents of Washington State find assistance in these tough times. Thanks for listening, and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.
AGO Diversity Event - Hard Times Resource Guide
Ahniwa Ferrari<br />Online Resources Consultant<br />Washington State Library<br />Chief Architect and Curator: <br />Hard Times Resource Guide<br />A Hierarchy of Need:<br />Hard Times Resources for Washington’s Citizens<br />Hard Times Resource Guide @<br />www.sos.wa.gov/library/hardtimes<br />
History<br />Launched on August 28, 2009<br />In just under 1 year:<br />10,583 unique visitors<br />24,365 page views<br />Nearly 25% of users go to “employment”<br />Continues to be updated, revised, and promoted<br />Just after launch (9/2/09), the Hard Times guide accounted for more than half of the total visits to the WSL web site<br />
Onward and Upward<br />Continue to revise, update, and promote the site<br />Promotion via:<br />Web badges and social media tools<br />Community web sites<br />Organizational web sites<br />Library web sites<br />Expand to create a true all-purpose WA resource portal?<br />The sky is the limit.<br />
Ahniwa Ferrari<br />Online Resources Consultant<br />Washington State Library<br />Chief Architect and Curator: <br />Hard Times Resource Guide<br />QUESTIONS?<br />A Hierarchy of Need:<br />Hard Times Resources for Washington’s Citizens<br />Hard Times Resource Guide @<br />www.sos.wa.gov/library/hardtimes<br />