NMRT December Online Discussion: Exploring Tech Tools and Productivity Apps

By Lauren Puzier

Lauren Puzier is the User Experience Librarian at the UAlbany Libraries. Her research interests include the incorporation of new and emerging technologies in higher education, user-centered and service design, and reference services. Previously, she was the Acting Head Librarian for the New York Library at Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

(5-minute read)

Tech tools is a topic we like to revisit again and again because technology is continuously changing and there are always new tools and apps to test out. There are tools for everything from productivity, audio, communication, content creation and design, coding, automation, VR, video, etc. The NMRT Online Discussion Committee asked members what tools they have found useful in their work, at their library, or at home over the past year. Members shared tools they were interested in trying and which apps helped their daily workflow.

Time by Aline Dassel from Pixabay

When it comes to productivity, PomoDone App helps get jobs done. “It is a little timer that uses the Pomodoro Time Management Method.” This is a method where you work for a set period, such as 20 minutes, and then take a 5-minute break. “You can customize it with sounds, and it can also be used to track tasks and time spent on specific projects/documents. It helps me stay on task.” (Puzier, 2021). Add it as a browser extension to quickly set the timer when you start working on a project.

Slack and Twist also made our list as beneficial for enhancing productivity. Twist is a collaboration tool for the workplace. It combines instant messaging, emails, and more into a clean workspace. It’s “great for organizing team communications and reducing the number of emails that I have to look at.” (Weingardt, 2021). Similarly, Slack is a collaboration tool that allows for easy messaging, the creation of channels (specific groups of people), and endless integrations. Slack features the ability to collaborate across institutions, allowing multiple synchronous conversations in one space. (Johnson, 2018, p. 148).

The rapid shift to working remotely over the past year may have increased emails resulting in unmanageable inboxes. McMurtry defined email overload as “the feeling of being overwhelmed by the constant flow of messages appearing in the inbox and the inability to manage the high volume of messages effectively” (2014, p. 31). If the volume of email in your inbox becomes overwhelming, our members found Unroll.me extremely useful. This app helps to streamline emails making it simple to flip through emails and organize them. “You can quickly unsubscribe from any subscription emails or choose to “rollup” emails that you’d like to read all together as a digest” (Birkenhauer, 2021). The popular service has just released an app making it even more convenient to declutter and manage emails.

A few members noted that a tool they plan to experiment with more: Google Jamboard. Google released Jamboard in 2017, and even if you do not have access to the official 55-inch screen, 4k, collaborative whiteboard, you can still create jamboards online with Google Suite (Sheppard, 2017, p. 80). Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard tool with several features allowing you to quickly pull images from the web, draw, add sticky notes, highlight, and more. It is ideal for brainstorming with others. This may be a good tool for those who are using G Suite already.

Puzier, L. (2021). Space Planning Jamboard [digital image]. UAlbany Libraries.

If you are using Google Slides, PowerPoint, teaching, or engaging with patrons, check out Pear Deck. “As an educator, I have been using Pear Deck to make my Google Slides presentations more interactive by adding questions. This has been particularly useful for remote teaching” (Weingardt, 2021). Pear Deck enhances Google Slides with formative assessments and interactive questions. Pear Deck can prompt your viewers to answer questions as you flip through a slide deck. It has been found to successfully create interactive asynchronous learning experiences for students working at their own pace and even for in-person sessions (Fulfer, 2020).

Tech tools are also helping catalogers. One member noted that Google Translate and Translate Box (iOS or Android) are fantastic tools when you need to do a quick translation. “I deal with a great deal of non-English materials, so I have to find ways to translate them, I can only read English. There are a few translator apps that I like to use. These have a camera function so you can take a picture of the book and it will translate the picture” (Dubose, 2021). Members agreed on the value of the Google Translate app, noting “Is this app perfect? No, but it often gives me just enough bibliographical information to do my job” (Cull, 2021).

Further recommendations included the Roman Numeral Converter. “I often forget my Roman numerals, and older rare books tend to use Roman numerals for publishing dates. I started using the Roman Numeral Converter. It is so handy” (Cull, 2021). Cataloging Calculator was also recommended. This tool helps catalogers figure out author cutters when creating call numbers.

Roman Numeral Convertor. (n.d.). Google Play. From https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cmgapps.android.numeralsconverter&hl=en_US&gl=US. Screenshot by author.

Airtable is a tool that was praised for project management not only at work but also at home. It is a cloud service described as a spread-sheet database hybrid lending itself to all types of projects and tasks. Airtable has many project templates so that you don’t have to start from scratch. One member shared that “For work (special library), we have a paid account. We use it as a digital repository for images, to keep track of events, scheduling, and organizing conferences. For my personal life, I use a free account to keep track of the courses I’ve taken and those I still need to take. I have a base where I input all the movies, tv shows, and books I’ve watched and read. I’ve also used it for calculating hours spent doing freelance work” (Darling, 2020).

Other noteworthy tools included:

  • Loom: a browser-based screen capture program.
  • Asana: a project management tool
  • Padlet: a digital note-board
  • Flipgrid: an accessible video discussion tool
  • Canva: an image editing and design
  • TeamViewer: provides remote desktop access

Finally, a well-curated list of tech tools and apps called E-learning by Traci Parish was shared, “the author also accepts suggestions and comments for sites (including ones I have sent to her). I’ve tried (and continue to try) many of the things found here” (Rebar, 2020). The list is sorted by type making it easy to scan and discover new things. Categories include screen capture, authoring tools, image editors, and more. If you have any tech tools that have been helpful that were not mentioned here please leave a comment and let us know what has been working and what you would like to try.


Birkenhauer, L. (2021, January 6). Re: [NMRT-L] Still time to jump in- December Discussion Topic: Tech Tools and Apps [Electronic mailing list]. https://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/nmrt-l/2021-01/msg00004.html

Cull, K. (2021, January 6). Re: [NMRT-L] Still time to jump in- December Discussion Topic: Tech Tools and Apps [Electronic mailing list]. https://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/nmrt-l/2021-01/msg00006.html

Darling, V. (2020, December 6). Re: [NMRT-L] December Discussion Topic: Tech Tools and Apps [Electronic mailing list]. https://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/nmrt-l/2020-12/msg00007.html

Dubose, J. (2021, January 6). Re: [NMRT-L] Still time to jump in- December Discussion Topic: Tech Tools and Apps [Electronic mailing list]. https://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/nmrt-l/2021-01/msg00005.html

Fulfer, W. (2020). StayCentred: Maintaining Personal Education at Centre College During COVID-19. Journal of Chemical Education, 97(9), 2783–2787. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c00726

Johnson, H. (2018). Slack. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 106(1), 148–151. https://doi.org/10.5195/JMLA.2018.315

McMurtry, K. (2014). Managing Email Overload in the Workplace. Performance Improvement, 53(7), 31-37. https://doi.org/10.1002/pfi.21424

Puzier, L. (2021, January 6). Re: [NMRT-L] Still time to jump in- December Discussion Topic: Tech Tools and Apps [Electronic mailing list]. https://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/nmrt-l/2021-01/msg00003.htm

Rebar, L. C. (2020, December 4). Re: [NMRT-L] December Discussion Topic: Tech Tools and Apps [Electronic mailing list]. https://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/nmrt-l/2020-12/msg00005.html

Sheppard, A. (2017, March). Google Jamboard. Success, 80.

Weingardt, N. (2021, January 7). Re: [NMRT-L] Still time to jump in- December Discussion Topic: Tech Tools and Apps [Electronic mailing list]. https://lists.ala.org/sympa/arc/nmrt-l/2021-01/msg00009.html

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NMRT January Bulletin


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ALA President Candidates Information

Hello, NMRT members and librarian friends! The time is almost near for ALA elections and voting. NMRT will be updating you about upcoming events and engagement opportunities with this year’s slate of ALA President candidates. Stay tuned to NMRT’s social media accounts for more information as things come down the pipeline!

If you would like to know the candidates a little better until then. Here are the ALA President candidates social media accounts!

Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada’s information:
Website: www.lessaforlibraries.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lessa4Libraries
FB: https://www.facebook.com/lessaforlibraries
IG: @lessaforlibraries
Email: lessa@lessaforlibraries.com

Ed Garcia:
Website: edforala.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/edgarcia401
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EdForALA/

Stacy Aldrich:
Website/Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stacey_aldrich_for_ala_pres/

General election information: http://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/alaelection

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NMRT – December Bulletin


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ALA Midwinter Orientation

Greetings from the NMRT Orientation Committee! 

Is this your first virtual conference?  Are you looking to meet more librarians?  Do you have questions about ALA, your professional journey, or librarianship?  This is the place for you! 

Join us this year at ALA Midwinter Virtual Meeting & Exhibits on Saturday, Jan. 23 from 9 to 10 AM. Use this link to access the meeting. Note that ALA student members and employees with reduced hours can register for Midwinter for FREE.  We have put together a fun and interactive orientation session that will help you get your bearings: to the New Members Round Table (NMRT), to ALA, and to a virtual conference setting.

Our panel guests include Dani Cook, Vice-President of NMRT; Tina Coleman, ALA’s Membership Marketing Specialists and brings 20 years of experience with ALA membership and services; and Kim Redd, program manager at ALA who has all of the answers and is more than willing to share them!

The sooner you know what the NMRT has to offer, the sooner it can be a resource for navigating the first years of your career as an information professional. 

For more information about this session and other virtual events not listed in the Midwinter Scheduler, click here

We hope to see you at Midwinter!


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Homes for Historians in ALA

By Bernadette A. Lear

Ms. Lear, Behavioral Sciences and Education Librarian at Penn State Harrisburg, has more than two decades of experience working in libraries, including the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., and the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. She deeply enjoys helping people and cites library interactions with children, formerly incarcerated persons, international students, LGBT students, military veterans, students with disabilities, and other diverse clientele as enriching her understanding of what college librarianship can be (and should be). In 2009-2010 and 2013-2014, Mrs. Lear was Chair of LHRT, and she served a third term in 2020-2021. From 2008 to 2017, she served as Chair of the Archives and History Committee of the Pennsylvania Library Association. Other areas of interest are American Indian history and literature, which were the focus of her Master’s degree in American Studies at Penn State Harrisburg, and Children’s Literature, a new focus in her research.

“Be a history major, and then you can study the history of anything!”

It was my second year of college and Dr. Stott had just overheard me telling another classmate that I needed to declare a major and I couldn’t decide which one to choose. I had started in The George Washington University’s International Affairs program and although I was doing well, I didn’t feel like I fit in with the career I was training for or the fellow students that would become my colleagues. I loved to learn about the viewpoints and customs of other people. I was especially interested in Eastern Europe and Central and Eastern Asia, and I had taken courses in Russian and Chinese history. But at the time, GW’s focus was preparing new employees for the U.S. Department of State. Although the Soviet Union was being dismantled and perestroika/glasnost encouraged hopes for new approaches to global relationships, it seemed that a lot of my professors, guest lecturers, and classmates had retained adversarial Cold War attitudes. Within the Economics and Political Science courses that formed the backbone of the International Affairs program, too many of my comments were labeled as “naïve,” “unimportant,” or “leftist.” I’m ashamed to say it now, but the fact that I was the only female in most of my classes intimidated me too. 

So when Dr. Stott suggested that I choose history as my major, I didn’t need much convincing. He was absolutely right about History enabling you to study anything. Over the years, I’ve worked as a subject specialist in Business, Science, Engineering, Education, Psychology, and Health, and I’ve drawn on my historical background in each of those roles. From helping public library customers figure out the value of old stock certificates; to assisting a college student in identifying children’s antiwar books like Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand; to helping a faculty member locate early news reports related to HIV/AIDS before it was known by that name—History is a body of knowledge and a method for making sense of the world that has helped me on the job and beyond it. A lot of people who believe they don’t like History associate it with the “whats”—dry facts like names, dates, and events. But the questions of “why” that History can answer are meaningful and rewarding. History can help us understand today’s people, events, and material culture, which have often been shaped by the past. History can inspire us with ideas for approaching our challenges—and help us recognize blind alleys that have already failed. History can anger us enough to take action, and it can help us make peace with things that we can’t change. Although it’s seen as an intellectual endeavor, it does important psychological and social work as well. 

If you majored in History or you value it as I do, you can keep that interest alive as a librarian. There are several potential homes for you within ALA: 

If you don’t work with historical materials or answer history-related reference questions, but you have an abiding interest in how our profession developed and where it’s headed, ALA’s Library History Round Table is a great place for you. Despite the winding path of my career, it’s been my consistent home for more than 20 years. By reading LHRT’s publications, attending its programs, and networking with its members, you can learn the history of services for diverse groups, as well as the history of collections, cataloging, and every other area of librarianship. While the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) is often described as ALA’s conscience, LHRT is ALA’s memory—and strives to keep that memory honest and inclusive. The round table’s blog and its scholarly journal, Libraries: Culture, History, and Society include not only the admirable strides libraries have made, but also the internal challenges that libraries have had with misogyny, racism, and other social issues. You can contribute to this important effort by reviewing books for LCHS and contributing to the blog, as a number of our student members and new writers do. And although professional librarians are an important part of these stories, LHRT embraces stories and volunteers coming from the retiree, trustee, and community arenas. Truly, anyone who wants to know more about libraries can (and should!) become a member of LHRT. 

If you work with archives/special collections—especially technical aspects like acquisitions, arrangement/description, cataloging, preservation, and security—the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is for you. Not an academic librarian?—don’t let the “C” in ACRL scare you away. A variety of public librarians, museum employees, and other types of professionals are members too. RBMS welcomes new volunteers to serve on committees. Its blogs, journal, and other publications are vital resources and means of communicating with others. 

For public services librarians, especially those who focus on genealogy and local history, the History Section of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) is where you’ll meet like-minded people. HS has subcommittees for instruction/information literacy, collection development, and other concerns that pertain to librarians who serve the history discipline. Members have compiled a fantastic site on finding, evaluating, and using primary sources on the web

Besides these 3 entities, other units with ALA engage in history-related initiatives. For example, within SRRT, the Feminist Task Force has a Women in Library History Project which raises awareness about females’ contributions to the profession. For those who are literary-minded, the Intellectual Freedom Round Table provides a Banned Author Birthday Calendar and other items that can help you delve more deeply into controversial books. The Library Research Round Table offers awards, a conference, and other opportunities that are open to library historians as well as other scholars. ALA also has an archives, located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is a treasure-trove of information and primary sources about ALA’s history. 

Feel free to contact me (bal19 @ psu.edu if you’d like to build connections between your love of history and your chosen profession. Although I know the most about LHRT, I’d be happy to help you navigate RBMS or HS and find friends there as well.  

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2021 NMRT Midwinter Social

Join us on Sunday, January 24 from 6-8 pm CST for the always exciting NMRT Midwinter Social as we move virtual!  What better way to meet and network with your peers than by defeating them in a friendly competition – or joining them in our discussion rooms?

All conference attendees – not just NMRT members – are welcome to join as we play fun games and network with peers. Space is limited, so register soon!

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Perspectives – Elizabeth Crowder Serota

Perspectives, an interview series that will highlight the work of librarians in different fields and professional specializations. Our series will focus on the experiences of our participants, what they do, what they have learned, and offer advice to those interested in librarianship and various fields. To our readers, our committee hopes this column will highlight the valuable labor these individuals perform on an everyday basis. Our interviews will provide perspective on what labor in these fields entails and current issues that affect librarianship, employment, etc. On behalf of the Communications Committee, we hope you find this new column illuminating, informative, and inspiring!

Elizabeth Crowder, a Black woman wearing glasses and a red dress, smiles at the camera.
Elizabeth Crowder is a writer, a law librarian, and co-founder of The Sartorial Geek magazine. She is also Acquisitions Editor for X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. Her work has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and midnight & indigo.

Tell us about your current job and what about your job you enjoy the most.

I’m a law librarian for a federal courthouse. I really enjoy the legal research aspect of my job best. The research questions I receive are all so different and often complex. Whether it’s taking field trips to the National Archives and Records Administration to comb through old court records that were never digitized or using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to unearth a PDF of a court handbook from the ‘90s, my job is never boring (at least not to me). 

What drew you to the field of librarianship?

A natural and unbridled sense of curiosity, a love for the pursuit of knowledge, an unquenchable thirst for learning new things, and the desire to use all of those traits to help others.

In addition to your job in librarianship, what else occupies your time?

I am a writer and an editor. I am about 75,000 words into the fantasy novel I’ve dreamed of writing since I was a Tolkien-loving little girl, and have stories published or forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and midnight & indigo. Additionally, I’m co-founder of a quarterly magazine, website, and podcast called The Sartorial Geek.

Can you describe a memorable moment in your career?

When I was first hired I felt out of my element as there were so many aspects of the world of legal librarianship that were completely foreign to me. Pretty early on in my tenure, I received a research question that involved creating a replicable search in Westlaw that could find the exact number of Court of Appeals opinions a specific judge authored. The searches I was given as examples were well-crafted and complex but I came up with a simple proximity search that yielded surprisingly accurate results. The idea for the proximity search only came to me because I was new to the field and thought, “There has to be an easier way.” Turns out, there was! That was the first time I felt like not only did I have what it took to thrive at my job, but I was also bringing a new and valuable perspective to the table. 

What are some things you know now about your job/librarianship, that you wish you had known before entering the field?

I’m an introvert who can morph into an extrovert in a professional setting. As a librarian, I’m asked to be extroverted a lot more than I originally anticipated. In my job, I am tasked with copious amounts of training and public speaking responsibilities. I also chair various committees, teach webinars, and interact with myriad people throughout the day. Since I am currently a branch librarian for one of our circuit’s satellite branches, I also manage an employee, and have to deal with a lot more building maintenance issues than I assumed I would. 

What kinds of professional development do you do?

Anything and everything! I love expanding my knowledge/skillset. Currently, I am taking coding and database management classes. AALL has a wealth of professional development resources for law librarians. Pre-pandemic I’d attend monthly lunch and learns with local law librarians (from law firms, academic libraries, etc.). I even co-chair a federal law librarian Professional Development committee.

What are some current professional obstacles in this field that upcoming professionals should know about?

You can have the best programming, the greatest resources, and the most dedicated staff in the world and it won’t mean a thing if no one knows about it. Be prepared to aggressively market your resources, prove your relevance, and demonstrate your value to stakeholders on a regular basis.

What do you think some misconceptions about librarians/libraries/librarianship are?

That our profession is obsolete or that we only deal with books. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Is there one piece of advice you have received in your career thus far that stands out the most (that you carry with you in your work)?

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself or do things that scare you.

What professional advice would you give to graduate students who are about to enter the field?

Apply for any job that looks interesting to you and that plays to your strengths. Even (especially) if you do not think you are qualified. I had an interest in law librarianship with experience in only academic libraries and I didn’t let that stop me from putting my best foot forward and applying anyway. And here I am, almost five years later, thriving in a job I absolutely love. I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living.

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NMRT November Online Discussion: Adapting to a Changing Work Environment

By Kim Cull

The November discussion focused on a topic that we all face regardless of our profession – changing work environments. Our work environments are often changing and in some type of fluctuation. Generally, we face change because of a change in leadership, a new coworker coming onboard, a change in our own employment status, a change in job responsibilities, or in the case of 2020, a pandemic changing how we offer services and where we do our work. This month, our discussion was focused on ways our jobs may have changed and advice that we would give others on how to adapt and cope with changes at work.

Panta Rhei

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus often argued that life can be summed up as panta rhei, or life is flux. Change is essential to life because nothing is permanent. With that understanding, we need to be prepared for change in all aspects of our lives. Yes, change is difficult and often unexpected, but instead of fighting change, we should embrace it. We cannot stop change from happening, but we can decide how we accept and adapt to that change.

Coping with Change

How can we cope with change and the stress that comes from change? First, it is necessary to identify how we each deal with change on an individual basis. Do you practice avoidance coping which “is a maladaptive form of coping in which a person changes their behavior to avoid thinking about, feeling, or doing difficult things,” or active coping where you address the problem head on? Avoidance coping can be a natural response to any situation, but avoiding the change or problem can just lead to even more stress. So, if you naturally lean towards avoidance coping, try to change your thinking, and come up with ways to address the changes head on.

Good news is there are many ways to deal with change and stress. Are you now working remotely because of the pandemic and feeling unsupported and alone? Maintaining relationships with coworkers and friends is so important during stressful changes. Find new ways to communicate with others outside of traditional in-person meetings. If you are feeling negative in any way, your colleagues may also be feeling the exact same way you are. You can help and support each other. Do not be silent about your needs; ask for help, and then listen to others as they communicate their needs to you.

One of the most important things you can do during any stressful change is to continue or start taking time for yourself. Remember that it is important do something that makes you happy; plus, whatever you are doing has the added benefit of distracting you from whatever is stressing you. Take mental health days if you are feeling mentally or physically unwell. Go for a walk outside and give yourself a needed break from technology. Sometimes, taking five minutes to take in the beauty of nature can really uplift your mood. Speaking of nature, buy yourself another house plant. Who says 10 house plants is too many house plants? Call your local shelter and adopt a furry familiar (best decision I ever made). Bake three dozen cookies or a new pie each week; people love sweets and will gladly eat them with you. Continue with your exercise routine. Take up a new hobby. Just DO something that brings you joy and happiness. You cannot be a productive, happy, and healthy worker if you do not take care of yourself.

Finally, do not forget the reason why you became a librarian or decided to work in your specific field to begin with. Remembering your ‘why’ can help you navigate so many changes because you are reminded of your goals and what is ultimately important to you at the end of the day. Did you become a librarian to help people? Find a new way to hold reference meetings or get materials to patrons. Did you become a librarian because you love working and teaching with primary source materials? Think about how you can teach classes online and bring the materials to people in new ways. The ‘how’ you accomplish your goals may change, but your goals do not have to.

Change is a constant in all our lives, but it does not have to be stressful.


Joshua J. Mark, “Heraclitus of Ephesus,” Ancient History Encyclopedia (Ancient History Encyclopedia, December 1, 2020), https://www.ancient.eu/Heraclitus_of_Ephesos/.

MS Elizabeth Scott, “Why Avoidance Coping Creates Additional Stress,” Verywell Mind, September 17, 2020, https://www.verywellmind.com/avoidance-coping-and-stress-4137836.

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Update on Student Loan Payments

Payments on Federal Student Loans, which have been suspended from March 13, 2020, will resume after January 31st, 2021.  The CARES Act originally provided for payments to be suspended through September 30th, 2020.  All provisions of the act were later extended through December 31st, 2020 by Executive Action, and were extended through January 31st, 2021 by the Secretary of Education. 

If you are in Income Driven Repayment and your family has grown, or your income has gone down since you last made a payment, you can recertify your new income at studentaid.gov and lower your payment before it is due in February.  If your family has not grown and your income has not changed significantly, you need not recertify your income until your IDR plan anniversary in 2021.

If you are not in an IDR plan yet, you may find that applying for one lowers your monthly payment, and can make you eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness on eligible loans for eligible employees of eligible employers.

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