Tutoring for ALL

A guest post by Chris Durr, Library Programs Consultant, California State Library

Tutors can be expensive, and families are often faced with the challenge of trying to secure the services of a tutor.

In his book, Dream Hoarders, Richard Reeves describes how scarce resources – such as the instructional time of qualified tutors – are often hoarded in America by the wealthy. This system, believed by many to be simply ‘good parenting,’ creates a glass floor for the wealthy and a glass ceiling for the other 99%. As Dr. Mark Bray has pointed out in his work, The Shadow education system: private tutoring and its implications for planners, traditional school education is supplemented, to great effect, by the efforts of private tutors. In some countries, this supplement can be an astronomical cost. In 1996, South Korean families spent the equivalent of $25 billion on private tutors, more than the total budget for the entire government.

Enter California State Library’s new online tutoring program, accessible to all California children in grades K-12. Through this resource, anyone with a computer and internet connection can access a live tutor, speaking in English or Spanish, for support with Language Arts or Mathematics, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additional topics and languages are available between 10 am and 10 pm. These tutors, 99% of whom have at least a bachelor’s degree, can help walk students through their classwork with a variety of tools and address a large array of needs. This statewide program is a step forward for all California families.

The online tutoring service is authenticated via “geolocation,” meaning that anyone with an IP address inside of California can access a tutor, with or without a library card. This also means that if a user has a library card and has forgotten it, lost the pin, or is not in good standing with the library, they can still use the tutoring service through the same geolocated link. The program is streamlined for learner access, offering as few barriers as possible for a tutor and a student to be able to connect.

In rolling out this exciting new service, the State Library and partners are providing trainings to educators, library workers, and others on “HelpNow,” the surrounding supports and other touchpoints for the service. The training calendar is below. We hope California library staff will join these training opportunities and learn how to help their communities.

Upcoming Trainings

HelpNow: Online Tutoring and K-12 educators (Audience: K-12 Educators)

Learn how the HelpNow tutoring service can be useful for your students and learners. From test prep, to homework help, to flashcard creation, this training offers expert guidance in how to use the HelpNow tools to increase student achievement, all with little to no prep from the educator.

HelpNow: Nuts, Bolts and Troubleshooting User Issues Part 1 (Audience: Library Workers)

You have HelpNow active on your library website, now what? This training will focus on the nuts and bolts of bringing this service to users and will familiarize frontline staff with how HelpNow can meet community needs. This training will also cover common ways to troubleshoot the service if an end user experiences a problem.

HelpNow: Marketing and Outreach Part 1 (Audience: Library Workers)

Brainfuse offers a variety of resources to help your library raise awareness of the HelpNow service. As your library prepares for students to take midterms, finish college applications, and tackle learning over the holiday breaks, this session will help you position your library as a ‘just in time’ service for patrons seeking help with tests, homework, and essays.

HelpNow: Nuts, Bolts and Troubleshooting User Issues Part 2 (Audience: Library Workers)

A refresher from the October 26th training, this training focuses on the nuts and bolts of bringing this service to users, familiarizing frontline staff with what community needs HelpNow can meet so that workers can point staff to ‘just in time’ resources and focus on troubleshooting issues more advanced users may encounter.

HelpNow: Marketing and Outreach Part 2 (Audience: Library Workers)

Essential to the success of this resource is how well your library can raise awareness of this service. Previous trainings will have touched on the promotion of HelpNow, but this training will be a more focused look at the resources and supports your library has for promoting this service to your community, especially relating to testing season for schools.

HelpNow: Test Prep Resources (Audience: K-12 Educators)

HelpNow offers a variety of tools to assist with test preparation. You know about HelpNow’s live tutoring services, but with finals, the California High School Exit Exam and college entrance exams looming, it’s time to learn more about how HelpNow can support test prep. Product experts will provide an overview of sample test preparation materials offered by HelpNow.

HelpNow: Summer Services Pitch (Audience: Library Workers)

As the school year comes to an end, learn how to turn this resource into a meaningful resource for your community during the summer months. From specific marketing materials for summer, to other forms of engagement like chess tutor, to setting and tracking summer learning goals, HelpNow has resources so your library can make this service useful even when children have no homework to complete.

This program is supported with funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Librarian.


All Aboard for Onboarding

Has your library been experiencing high employee turnover or are you experiencing an influx of new hires? Are you interested in learning about a way to increase employee retention? Then you may be interested in learning about how you can improve your employee onboarding process.

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding refers to the process in which new hires are integrated into the library. It includes the entire hiring process (applying and interviewing), orientation (which may include new-hire paperwork and reviewing of policies), and learning about the library, its structure, daily operations, culture, strategic goals, and more.

When we go through the process of hiring new people we hope to keep them as long as possible, but employee retention is complex. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has noted that “newly hired employees are 58 percent more likely to still be at the company three years later if they had completed a structured onboarding process.” This means that while there will always be situations where employees need to quit for reasons beyond the library’s control, many resignations can be prevented with effective onboarding that ensures employees have a clear understanding of their job responsibilities, are in possession of the right tools for the job, receive ongoing training, and feel connected to management and their coworkers.

But therein lies a problem common to many libraries. How do you provide great onboarding experiences when time and staffing are already tight? You may not have time to recreate the onboarding wheel or make sure the new employee gets enough training. That’s where CALL can help.

CALL has developed a new customizable Onboarding Template in CALL Academy, available to all California Libraries. The simple framework provides suggestions for topics to include in your onboarding such as your Ethics Statement, Mission, Strategic Goals, Policies, and Procedures. Within each topic you’ll find tips to help you fill in your own customized information and links to relevant CALL Academy tutorials in case you and your staff need to learn more about a topic.

How to Use This Template As:

Niche Academy Administrator
If you’re a library that currently uses Niche Academy for staff development you’ll have the option to copy CALL’s Onboarding Template into your own academy. From there your academy administrator can customize the template by following the suggestions provided within the framework.

Users Without Niche Academy in Their Library and/or Regular Users
What if you don’t have Niche Academy at your library, or you’re not an academy administrator? Is this template still useful to you? Absolutely. Many of the sections within the template provide links to “Relevant Tutorials in CALL Academy.” Think of these as curated lists of tutorials to provide you with training on specific topics such as ethics, conducting community assessments, incident reporting, and so much more. You may want to review them yourself, or share them with your colleagues who are responsible for onboarding new staff.

Don’t have a staff academy? Feel free to use CALL’s Onboarding Template as inspiration for your onboarding process. Recreate the suggested sections within your own Content Management System such as Microsoft Teams or Google Drive, and share relevant tutorial links with staff.

More Information and Live Q&A
Are you interested in learning more about CALL’s new Onboarding Template? Join us for a live informational webinar on Tuesday, October 18th at 1:00 pm PST. CALL’s Senior Project Coordinator of Technology, Gina Robinson, will give you a first-look at the template and provide suggestions for implementation. Niche Academy’s Customer Success team will also join the webinar to answer all of your more technical questions.

This session will be recorded and added to CALL Academy.


Free eResources for Your Library

Learn to do more with less [effort], really! State and federal funds support online tools for California public libraries, including K-12 tutoring, eBook collections, workforce upskilling, library staff learning opportunities, and so much more. Don’t let your library community miss out. Join the California State Library for a bi-weekly series of workshops to learn about the varied offerings available for your community at no cost.

These resources are supported in whole or in part by:

  • The U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act and the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian
  • Funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.
Free eResources for your Library: CAreer Pathways

September 13, 2022, 2:00-3:00 PM
In this workshop, California State Library staff will help you review CAreer Pathways digital resources for upskilling, job searches, test prep, and more. Join us for an overview on how your library can use these platforms to serve your community, as well as a sneak peek of what’s to come.

These resources are supported in whole or in part by:

  • The U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act and the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian
  • Funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.
Free eResources for your Library: Digital Navigators

September 27, 2022, 2:00-3:00 PM
In this workshop, California State Library staff will help you learn how the Digital Navigators pilot program is bridging the digital divide across California. Digital Navigators provide timely assistance to your users, free up staff time, and help provide an essential service to your patrons with English and Spanish contact options. Come to find out how and when to enroll your jurisdiction. For more information, see the California State Library’s webpage on Digital Navigators.

This resource is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act and the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

Free eResources for your Library: Youth Resources

October 11, 2022, 2:00-3:00 PM
In this workshop, California State Library staff will share a wide variety of free online resources for your K-12 students. Discover how to provide online tutoring to your community, at no cost, through new statewide funding. Learn more about our K-12 collection, including Britannica, Gale Interactive: Science, National Geographic Kids, Teaching Books, and a variety of ProQuest offerings. We will also briefly discuss strategies for using the literacy tool Beanstack for summer reading and beyond. For more information on these youth resources, visit California State Library website.

These resources are supported by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.

Free eResources for your Library: eBooks-for-All California

October 25, 2022, 2:00-3:00 PM
In this workshop we will explore the new initiative eBooks-for-All California. Come see how your participation in this eBook platform will lift up communities across our state while increasing offerings for your own patrons. This session will connect library decision-makers interested in benefiting from this shared collection. For more information, visit the eBooks for All California webpage.

This resource is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act and the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

Free eResources for your Library: CALL

November 8, 2022, 2:00-3:00 PM
This workshop will highlight how California Libraries Learn (CALL) can help you cultivate a skilled workforce at your library. Learn how CALL will improve your staff’s skills in areas like customer service, conflict management, library worker wellness, and community engagement. CALL provides no-cost workshops, webinars, courses, and cohort-based trainings, as well as access to CALL Academy, an online platform that provides over 700 training opportunities. Visit the CALL website and calendar and sign up for an account with CALL Academy.

This resource is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.


Developing Leaders in California Libraries 2022-2023

Applications are now open for the California Library Association 2022-2023 Developing Leaders in California Libraries initiative. In 2022-2023 the program consists of two cohorts which will work together during the program cycle.

The Leadership Development Learning Cohort is designed to help all levels of library staff build equity- and community-based leadership skills. Approximately 20 library staff will be selected for the cohort. Those selected will engage in synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities that will include bi-weekly Zoom sessions, activities such as reading and posting on discussion forums, and three in person sessions: November 30 – December 1, 2022, February 22 – 23, 2023, and June 1, 2023. The locations for the December and February face-to-face events are to be determined. The June 1st event will take place during the California Library Association Conference in Sacramento. (All travel costs for the in-person events will be covered by the project.) Office hours for those interested in applying for the Learning Cohort will take place on August 30th at 2PM. Registration for the office hours is available. A Leadership Learning cohort FAQ and a complete schedule of activities is available. Applications are due by 5PM Pacific September 15, 2022.

The Leadership Challenge Cohort is designed to give those with leadership skills and those new to leadership the chance to work in teams on learning about and designing solutions for challenges faced by California libraries and communities. Approximately 20 library leaders will be selected for the Learning Challenge cohort. These cohort members will join with Leadership Learning cohort members to determine an area of focus and integrate leadership skills into the process of developing solutions in the chosen challenge area. Leadership Challenge cohort members will be required to attend the February 22-23, 2023 event and the June 1, 2023 event. (All travel costs for the in-person events will be covered by the project. Attendance at other virtual and face-to-face learning opportunities is optional for Leadership Challenge cohort members) A FAQ for those interested in the Leadership Challenge is available and applications for the Leadership Challenge are due on September 15, 2022 by 5PM Pacific.

If you have questions about the 2022-2023 Developing Leaders in California Libraries opportunities get in touch with Linda W, Braun, project lead,


Serving Decarcerated Populations

A guest post by Beverly Schwartzberg, Library Programs Consultant, California State Library

One of our most popular continuing education offerings in the past year was the webinar on Services to Decarcerated Populations, now available on CALL Academy. This training presents a great toolkit that can help libraries discover best practices for serving those transitioning from incarceration.

Two related items also deserve your attention.

Many decarcerated individuals face roadblocks due to their previous criminal history, but don’t know about the possibility of expungement–the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record. Training partner WebJunction recently featured a brief instructional clip and resources from a public library in Maryland. There, staff responded to challenges faced by patrons using workforce development services and set up an expungement clinic, pairing patrons with a pro bono attorney who could assist with the process.

Decarcerated individuals may not know about their voting rights, either. Our friends at California Humanities invite you to Voting Rights for Incarcerated Californians, a free online program on Wed. 7/20 at 11 a.m., exploring the past, present and future of elections and civic life within California’s prison system. In November 2020, California voted to refranchise 50,000 parolees under Prop 17. This panel will discuss: What electoral powers are available within prisons today? How has this question been discussed throughout state history? What is the experience of inmates, and what’s ahead for California?


Sustainable California Libraries

A guest post by Julianna Robbins, Library Programs Consultant, California State Library

According to a June 2022 poll from NextGen California, climate / environment was ranked as the top issue for likely California voters — above inflation, homelessness, and crime and public safety. California libraries and communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change. What are California libraries doing to actively address the need for information and community connections on climate, wildfires, drought, pollution, habitat protection, biodiversity and more?

Do you wish you could do more, but struggle with staffing and lack of funding? Do you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the issues? At this “everyone in” moment in time, we all can play an important role in shifting to more sustainable programs, services, and buildings. Below are a few ways you might get involved today, at whatever level of involvement feels right and at the capacity you have.

Building Momentum: Steps You Can Take Now – from (almost) any level in the library
  • Join the Sustainable Thinking for the Future of Libraries 1-hour free webinar on Wednesday, July 20 at 11:00 AM. In this webinar, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich will explore the importance of infusing the new core value of sustainability into everything we do and demonstrate how libraries can lead into the future using ‘sustainable thinking’ to fulfill our mission.
  • Apply for the NEW LSTA-funded Sustainable California Libraries themed grant which provides libraries the opportunity to design programming and educational opportunities focused on sustainability and climate resilience, by collaborating with project partners, community connections, and community members. Libraries may apply for awards of between $10,000 – $30,000 per project. Review program and partnership ideas and share your suggestions or questions at an upcoming information session, July 20 or August 17. Applications are due August 31, 2022.
  • Learn more about the California Strategic Growth Council Community Resilience Center Program which “will prioritize community-serving locations across the state, such as schools, libraries, community centers, health clinics, and places of worship.”
  • Bay Area Libraries – learn more about the Bay Area Resilient Libraries Network Initiative
  • Explore Project Drawdown’s Climate Solutions at Work
  • Get involved in the ALA Sustainability Roundtable
  • Form a green team at your library or join a city or county-wide group, reach out to your local California Green Business network, connect with community members, frontline organizations, and library staff across the state

Greg Lucas, California State Librarian, reminds us that neighborhood libraries serve an important role in community resilience. “Libraries and museums are unique in that people want to go visit them. So, whatever libraries are championing, or showcasing is going to be that much more accessible to visitors. If libraries walk the walk as well as talk the sustainability talk, the changes in behavior our communities need to make will come that much sooner.”

California libraries need more seats as the sustainability table. Are we ready to lead, listen, and engage with the urgent and essential mind shift to sustainability? Let’s continue the conversation and grow together. Please reach out to with ideas or questions.


Let’s Go Outside

CALL is happy to share professional development and programming opportunities related to the new Parks Pass program through the California State Library and California State Parks, as well as a special webinar on local science programming.

This year, all public libraries in California are receiving California State Library Parks Passes to circulate to their library card holders. Good for one car to access over 200+ California State Parks for free, this program will help remove barriers to park access and encourage health outcomes, natural resource stewardship, and cultural and historical connections across the state. Libraries are encouraged to host programs and conduct outreach to encourage these goals and complement their passes.

CALL and the California State Library will present a webinar about creative ways to support the goals of the Parks Pass program on Wednesday, April 6, from 1-2:30 p.m. This webinar will showcase California public library programs that celebrate outdoor access equity and community partnerships. The webinar also will introduce a new grant opportunity for library programs and initiatives that complement the passes.

Eager to start thinking about potential programming for outdoor learning? You’ll also love this week’s webinar on Using Neighborhood Science to Engage Your Community, on Tuesday, March 8, at 12 noon, with presenters from Los Angeles Public Library.

LAPL’s Neighborhood Science programming suggests that the first step to a sustainable environment is recognizing that environmental issues are not an abstract concept; they are all around us, endangering our health and wellbeing. Neighborhood Science projects and programs have enabled patrons of all ages to do real science in their own backyards on topics ranging from biodiversity loss to air and water quality to mosquitoes to night sky light pollution. Learn how you and your patrons can become bold Neighborhood Scientists, gathering and sharing scientific data that can raise awareness and change the world. What a great idea to connect to the Parks Pass opportunity!