Community Engagement Blog

Librarians make our communities better places to live, work, study, and play.  This blog highlights outstanding library community partnerships and shares best practices.

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A Season of Hygge at the Groton Public Library

This winter, I discovered a booklet at my neighboring library, the Groton Public Library, announcing a Season of Hygge.  I enjoyed reading the Little Book of Hygge and loved the helpful tips to bring more coziness and happiness into our lives with simple things like spending more time with friends and family, expressing gratitude, lighting candles, playing board games, wearing comfortable clothes, and drinking lots of hot cocoa and tea.  We can learn a lot from the Danish about how to create a warm and comfortable atmosphere for our libraries and homes. In this interview, Lisa Baylis and Deb Dowson tell us about the Groton Public Library’s experience with a Season of Hygge.

Groton Public Library

Groton Public Library

What inspired your selection of The Little Book of Hygge for your community read and the theme for your winter and spring programs?

Groton Public Library:  The positive joyful message, focus on natural products and experiences, encouraging small scale interpersonal connections, home grown events, and warm and cozy ideas for a winter month.

Which of your hygge themed programs were most popular?

Alpaca at Warm and Cozy Event

GPL:  Warm and Fuzzy Kickoff Event: This was a huge success! We had two visiting alpacas to meet from a local farm and crock pots full of hot cocoa. People from the Luina Grenine Farm were here to answer questions and display products that the incredibly soft alpaca fur gets transformed into. (socks, hats, stuffed animals, etc.) It was a hit with every age, and we had a lot of families attending with multiple generations! (same with the board games…)

Some of our other popular programs include:
Board Game Day Poster
Family Board Game Day:

  • 36 people of all ages and abilities
  • Large cart in center of room with huge assortment of games
  • Staff available to assist if people choose a new game
  • 3 generations at a few tables
  • Low key help yourself event with soups and make your own brownie sundaes…casual and fun!!
  • Patrons loved that it was scheduled on first day of school vacation week.

Friday Cozy Hygge Cafés:

  • Held from 10 AM-1 PM for 6 weeks (approx. 180 people)
  • Small casual groupings scattered around the area
  • Flickering logs in a fireplace made of encyclopedias
  • Lots of plants
  • Groton Reads supplies scattered around the tables (Little Book of Hygge copies, Hygge Bingo, gratitude bookmarks to fill in, Hygge discussion starter Card Game, Danish cook books, Groton Reads Program newsletter, etc.)
  • Buffet of home-baked goodies (library staff), catered gourmet hot cocoa and coffee (and real china mugs and dishes made the experience that much more special)
  • Serendipitous small group connections
  • Many smiles and looks of surprise from patrons!
Surprise visit from the former US Ambassador to Denmark

Surprise visit from the former US Ambassador to Denmark

Last week’s book discussion included sharing of why this book spoke to each of us, great Hygge ideas to try and home grown recipes. A little bit of magic happened half way through our discussion when the former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark joined us!! (He is actually mentioned on page 2 of the book.) He shared his experiences with Danish culture, answered all our questions and signed copies of the book for us. The book discussion participants got to keep their autographed library copy of Little Book of Hygge. What a wonderful day!

For teens, it was making Danish Treats (no bake oat cookies and Danish Crepes) and Making Mug Cozies. We also do a program every winter that is very “hyggely”. We set up a Hot Chocolate Bar on Tuesday afternoons after school and the teens can help themselves to hot chocolate and all the fixings, and then stay to read for an hour. This was so successful the first time we tried it for winter reading, that we extended it for the entire winter, and have done it for 2 winters now.

Cosy Fireplace Reading Nook

When I visited your library, I noticed a cozy fireplace reading nook that you created with orange string lights.  What a neat idea!  Did you make other changes to your space or library experience to generate hygge?

We purchased soft throw blankets for over the upholstered chairs and added battery operated votive candles in different areas/events.  For locally televised book discussion, we used cushy chairs around a coffee table instead of chairs around a table. A Hygge Café was held in a space that usually does not allow food or conversation…we successfully broke the mold!!

Since the book is authored by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and explores how hygge is connected to why Danish people are the happiest according to the World Happiness Report, have you noticed an improvement in your patrons’ and staff’s contentment?

Definitely! We noticed new relationships forming and older ones reconnecting, more positive conversations and genuinely warm and relaxed communications.

What feedback have you received from patrons and staff in response to your season of hygge?

We kept hearing “This is great!  Can we do this again?  This was really fun.”

Any other thoughts you would you like to share?

Our only disappointment was the cancellation of our Full Moon Family Night due to a blizzard. We had so much fun planned and 40 people signed up.  The Full Moon Family Night would have included a fire pit in our garden in the center or our stone labyrinth, an astronomer with telescopes to try, an Owl Moon story time with Children’s Librarian, and a sing-a-long of “moon” songs. Afterwards, families would follow a votive candlelit pathway around the garden to look for owls (laminated photos placed in trees and bushes).  We would have provided gourmet cocoa, cider, and mini moonpies for a treat.

Illuminated houses with natural materials

Many Hygge events had a playful characteristic. It felt like relaxed moments to get back to basic joys.  Such events included:

  • Warm and Fuzzy event with hot cocoa and visiting Alpacas
  • Melted Cheese for Comfort in the Cold
  • Family Board Game Days
  • Creating Illuminated Houses with natural materials
  • Forest Bathing Walk with a closing tea ceremony
  • Science of Chocolate event (with samples!)
  • Hygge Bingo with cozy gift basket raffle

Interview with Lisa Baylis, Head of Circulation, and Deb Dowson, Young Adult Librarian, Groton Public Library

Interviewed by Michelle Eberle, MLS Consultant

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Strategic Planning: Is Your Library Future-Ready?

Michelle Eberle

Technology disruption has made it critical for libraries to develop strategies to be future-ready.  We’ve seen a rapid adoption of smart voice assistant devices such as Alexa this past year.  I’m sure you continue to hear from family and friends that they can find any information they need on Google. And the Pew Research Center recently reported that a quarter of American adults said they haven’t read a book in whole or part in the last year.  On top of that, our country is in-crisis faced with an increase in racism, income inequality, stress, gun violence, and political division.  What do these issues mean for the future of our libraries and our communities?  How can libraries respond to not just remain relevant and essential, but to become positive change agents for social justice? What do we need to do to prepare our libraries for a successful future?

Strategic planning!  Strategic planning is a key process to prepare for a successful future.  It’s common knowledge that the MBLC requires a strategic plan in order for a library to qualify for LSTA funding or construction grants.  Maybe your library is not interested in these two opportunities?  Then, why should you still use strategic planning? For three important reasons:

  • Planning empowers your library to make the greatest impact possible by developing a mission, vision, goals, and objectives to guide your activities.
  • Planning helps you tailor services to meet the specific needs of you community.
  • Planning cultivates devoted and enthusiastic champions for your library.

Strategic planning will guide your library’s future through creation of a livable, breathable document created in collaboration with your community.  A strategic plan serves as a map for your journey, not a rigid policy.  When you create or update your library’s mission and vision, it helps you identify where to invest your resources for new initiatives, services, and programs to make the maximum impact and community benefit. By specifying goals, measurable objectives, and activities, you chart a course to guide your decisions, identify the most critical services and programs to support and implement, and improve staff performance.  Strategic planning is essential for change management.

By getting to know the specific needs of your community during the strategic planning process, your library will be able to create tailored services and programs that best serve your local needs.  You can assess your community’s needs in a variety of ways including research, surveys, forums, and conversations.  Strategic planning will help you identify your library’s strengths and untapped opportunities, and create a community-centered plan of action.

Strategic planning develops champions, allies, and friends!  People love to share their opinions and be a part of the process. The process helps you further connect with devoted patrons, identify opportunities to build your patron-base, and cultivate new library users.  Developing a strategic planning task force with diverse representation from your community and/or hosting forums will help you create the most effective and beneficial plan, while generating good will and enthusiastic champions.

Are you ready to get started with a plan or is it time for you to update your plan?  Did you know that Massachusetts Library System provides consultation for strategic planning for all types of libraries?  You can reach out to Kristi Chadwick, April Mazza, and me.  To get started, take a look at the MBLC’s Planning site and especially the parts of a strategic plan.  Also, check out the MLS Strategic Planning for Libraries resource guide with tips, tools, and even sample plans.

The Massachusetts Library System is offering two workshops this spring to help you prepare to start your strategic planning process or brush up on your skills. Interested?  Register now to attend the Eating the Elephant:  Strategic Planning for Your Library and the Facilitation Techniques for the Strategic Planning Process workshops offered at various locations throughout the Commonwealth. Hope you can attend!

Strategic planning guides your library on a clear path to a successful future!

By Michelle Eberle, MSLIS, AHIP

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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!

Please tell us about the WPL’s Social Services Workgroup.

The Public Services reference team at WPL consistently works to provide for the needs of the people in our community, reaching beyond traditional library services to support a diverse patron base. Therefore, it only made sense to create a team of librarians whose goal was to become familiar with social service resources in the area, and in turn, educate the rest of the staff. We began as a group of four and visited over a dozen local agencies, including but not limited to, Workforce Central, City of Worcester’s Department of Health and Human Services, Salvation Army, Genesis Club, and Community HealthLink’s Homeless Advocacy Outreach Program.

We have participated in several local events, such as Worcester Cares About Recovery Day and Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance’s annual meeting. We are currently participating in an National Library of Medicine grant with AIDS Project Worcester and the UMass Medical Library to augment area print and e-resources for those affected by HIV/AIDS. Through efforts like these, we have created working partnerships with outside agencies that have allowed us to make smarter referrals and also to promote our own services–a win-win.

Worcester Public Library

What resources, services, or programs does the WPL offer to help patrons in need?

Adding services and connecting patrons to external community resources has been a major focus in recent years. First and foremost, as a free and open public space, the library has become an information hub for the homeless and other underserved groups, connecting them to food pantries, shelter, medical care, and other support services. We offer take-away brochures listing resources, as well as an online guide that directs users to resources in the following topics: Addiction and Recovery, Clothing, Domestic/Sexual Violence Support, Emergency Shelters, Employment and Career Development, Food Pantries, Housing Resources, Legal Services, Medical and Mental Health Services, Reintegration Programs, and Veterans’ Assistance.

On a monthly basis, EPOCA (Ex-Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement) holds CORI sealing classes, and an attorney from Community Legal Aid’s CORI and Re-Entry Project holds a monthly drop-in session.  Approximately half of WPL’s workforce is trained in administering the opioid-reversal drug Narcan, as was highlighted just last week  At WPL, it is the combination of a supportive administration and a concerned frontline that has resulted in a very engaged staff, always willing to learn more about pertinent resources and share that knowledge with patrons in need.

What other reflections would you like to share?

Our primary goal as librarians has always been to provide relevant information to improve people’s lives; as a profession, we pride ourselves on being responsive to patron-driven needs. Although many people outside the library field may be shocked that librarians are dealing so closely with issues such as homelessness and drug addiction, becoming more educated and offering social services resources is really no different from what we have always done. We are simply striving to fill an information need as perceived from behind the service desk and, of course, among the patrons.

Interview with Christina Connolly, Public Services Supervisor Programming, Worcester Public Library

Interviewed by Michelle Eberle, MLS Consultant


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Building Public Library/Social Work Partnerships: Three Success Stories

Date:  Thursday, January 18, 2018
Time:  2 – 3 PM
Webinar – Register now to attend    

Join us for this unique opportunity to learn about three public library/social work partnerships. Anna Fahey-Flynn will discuss the Boston Public Library’s experience with hiring a social worker from the Pine Street Inn.  Glenn Ferdman and Cathy Piantigini will share how the Somerville Public Library connected with the Cambridge Health Alliance to hire a Health Services Coordinator.   Lisa Downing from the Forbes Library in Northampton will fill you in on her library’s successful partnership with a homeless outreach social worker.  If your library is exploring partnering with a social worker or if you just want to learn more about this trend, this webinar is for you!

After this webinar, you will be able to:

  • Describe community benefits of public library/social work partnerships
  • Share three library/social work success stories with your colleagues
  • Use the stories to advocate for hiring a social worker for your library or partnering with a social worker from a local organization


  • Anna Fahey-Flynn, Central Library Manager, Boston Public Library
  • Glenn Ferdman, Director, Somerville Public Library
  • Cathy Piantigini, Deputy Director of Libraries, Somerville Public Library
  • Afsaneh Moradi, MD, Health Services Coordinator, Somerville Public Library
  • Lisa Downing, Director, Forbes Library

We hope you can attend!

Hosted by Michelle Eberle, MLS Consultant


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