WPL Responds to Patron-Driven Needs

In the fall, MLS held a series of Social Services Forums to bring members together to talk about issues facing our communities and to explore potential partnerships.  At our first forum, Christina Connolly from the Worcester Public Library (WPL) shared the WPL’s experience with responding to the social services needs of their patrons.  Thank you to Christina for her interview, the first in a series featuring library/social service partnerships.

Christina Connolly

Christina Connolly

What moved you to connect your patrons with community services?

Christina Connolly: As in all public libraries across the country, there is a population of “regulars” that visit the Main Library in downtown Worcester; people who come in nearly every day to spend time in a spacious, peaceful, and safe environment staffed with friendly faces. Sometimes these patrons read, sometimes they watch movies on the computer, sometimes they quietly socialize with their peers, and sometimes they do nothing but pass through and the librarian who greets them with a smile is the one person to acknowledge them that day.

Many of our regulars do not have permanent homes and have been couch surfing or shelter hopping for years, but somehow, they survive.  As a certified resume writer, I’ve enjoyed the unique opportunity to regularly sit down with many of these patrons in a one-on-one capacity and discuss their pasts, presents and futures while strategizing job searches and building resumes.  Listening to their histories and plans against the context of their day-to-day living is what inspired me to learn more about available community resources and services to aid them in gaining basic things like sustainable housing and job stability. After all, there’s nothing sweeter than a success story! Continue reading

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Public Library/Social Services Forums Update

In October and November, the Massachusetts Library System hosted four Public Library/Social Service Forums.  The idea for the forums was initially generated by my interest to explore whether our members might be interested in hosting social work field placements at public libraries.  To explore this idea, in August of 2017, we conducted a survey of public library directors and discovered that our membership is very interested to partner with social workers.

Social Service Forum

Public library directors were primarily interested to have a social worker onsite to:

  • Provide social services referrals
  • Lead staff development on topics like poverty, diversity, and social justice
  • Coordinate community awareness events on topics such as homelessness, diversity, and suicide prevention
  • Offer support for immigrants and citizenship.

The results of the survey revealed that this project should take a much broader scope and explore ways to foster not just social work partnerships, but social services partnerships. Continue reading

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The Springfield City Library Turning Outward

Have you thought about using the Turning Outward to Your Community step-by-step guide to better understand and connect with your library’s community?  In this month’s MLS Community Engagement Blog interview, Jean Canosa Albano, Assistant Director for Public Services at the Springfield City Library, shares her experience and insights from participating in the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative.

How did your library “turn outward to your community” using the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation’s process?

Jean Canosa Albano

Jean Canosa Albano

Jean Canosa Albano:  We are part of the Libraries Transforming Communities cohort, having received a grant from the American Library Association to learn about the Harwood Institute’s philosophy and methods of community engagement. My team of five staff members traveled to Denver, Chicago, and San Francisco for intensive training, and we learned about reframing the community narrative away from the negative (“we’ve tried that before,” “in the old days it worked better like this,” and “nothing ever works”) to a more positive, aspirational narrative (“we should have more opportunities to be outside in the community,” “a better mentorship network will help our community,” and “more discussion and conversation will lead to better coordination between neighbors and community agencies”). We learned how to turn outward, and base our policy and programmatic decisions on what we know about the community, rather than sitting around a board room, drawing on statistics, census data, and what other libraries are doing. Continue reading

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Library/Social Services Partnership Forums

Would building relationships with social services agencies help your library’s community?  Are you interested to provide more support for immigrants?  Are you curious to explore the viability of partnerships with social workers to offer social service referrals and create staff trainings on topics like diversity, poverty, and social justice? 

Continue reading

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Graphic Medicine Book Discussion Kits

Do you love to lead book discussions?  Are you interested to support the health literacy of your community?  Then, this interview is for you!  Read on to learn more about graphic medicine book discussion kits freely available to your library from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, New England Region in this interview with Matthew Noe.

Matthew Noe

Matthew Noe, Graphic Medicine Specialist

What is graphic medicine?

Matthew Noe: Graphic medicine refers to the intersection of comics and healthcare, or more bluntly, comic books about health topics. The field has emerged over the past decade-or-so as comics have grown in popularity and acclaim and as the importance of the humanities in medicine has been more widely recognized. These comics range from short, informational books like Pain is Really Strange to critically acclaimed graphic novels like Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? to children’s comics like Ghosts and Iggy and the Inhalers. Some help us build empathy, while others are meant to teach us something in a fun, accessible way, and the field grows by the day!

 Tell us about the NNLM NER’s Graphic Medicine Book Club Kits. 

The kits are an idea I had while visiting the Ypsilanti District Library, where they built a large graphic medicine collection, including loanable book club kits, via an ALA Will Eisner Grant. The idea is that many of the people who might have an interest in graphic medicine aren’t in a position to purchase the books and/or aren’t familiar with running a book club. Our kits address both of these issues by lending graphic novels and sharing a discussion guide and supplementary consumer health materials from the National Library of Medicine. Right now, we have 11 of these kits, on 10 different health topics – the addiction kit proved so immediately popular that we made a second kit. Each kit is typically lent out for a six-week period and I am available for help in planning and running club discussions. Continue reading

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