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Tech Upgrades Increase Access in Library Meeting Rooms

Tech Upgrades Increase Access in Library Meeting Rooms

A group of women sit around a conference table, while other women join the meeting virtually on a screen on one wall.
With video conferencing technology, groups like this one can hold in-person meetings while still including virtual participants.

This article is from the spring edition of OPEN+ magazine, available at the library and metro-area Hy-Vees or online at CRLibrary.org/open

Learn more about meeting and event space rental at the library at CRLibrary.org/rental or by calling 319.261.7323.

When Programming Librarian Jen Eilers wanted to hold a panel discussion on allyship in November, she had a challenge: making it an event welcoming to both those who wanted to attend in person and those who preferred to participate from home.

So she used the library’s new hybrid meeting technology, which allowed her to livestream and record the event, while also still hosting in-person attendees.

The library has always offered community meeting spaces. In response to the rise in virtual meetings and Zoom events during the COVID-19 pandemic, library staff outfitted Beems Auditorium and the Conference Room at the Downtown Library and the Community Room at Ladd Library with computers and mounted cameras to enable virtual and hybrid meetings.

The computers all have video conferencing software including Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom installed, so users just need to sign in with their own accounts. Any community group can reserve one of the rooms for their meeting or event to use the technology.

“In this climate, having these options available is one way the library can support people in being successful,” Community Engagement Librarian Sarah Voels said. “Our community has certainly changed in the last couple of years, and it’s important for the library to change along with it. These are tools and resources to help us help our community.”

Eilers said using the technology made it easier for both in-person participants and online participants to have a quality viewing experience.

“Most people are very busy, and the more accessible we can make experiences and information, the better our community can be,” she said. “By having this new technology, we can reach more people. We can reach people who don’t feel comfortable or can’t travel to the event on the day it’s happening. We are also able to repost the recording of the event for those who want to watch it later.”

Voels said that also serves the library’s goal of increased accessibility and access.

“It makes us, as a venue for events, more accessible for people who can’t come to the library for one reason or another,” she said.

Even for events that are not hybrid or virtual, the meeting room’s technology has proven helpful. Programming Librarian Linden Galloway uses the wearable and handheld microphones and built-in screens during in-person story times. With attending families spread out for social distancing, the technology helps make sure all the children can hear him from a safe distance.

“I use microphones whenever possible because it helps accessibility for any attendees who are hard of hearing, and just in general, since I’m wearing a mask, it makes it easier for all to hear me,” he said.

Library staff are available to demonstrate how the technology works to anyone who wants to use it.

“When groups reserve a space, we start a dialogue with them,” Voels said. “We’re always happy to do a technology walk- through ahead of an event.”

Anyone can reserve a Library meeting space. Meeting spaces are generally free, with fees applied in circumstances such as for after-hours events, fundraisers or events that charge for admission, or that require additional staff time to facilitate.

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