This month’s MLS Community Engagement Blog interview features Catherine Wong from the Merrimack College McQuade Library sharing her experience coordinating a holistic mindfulness initiative at the library. This project is an outstanding example of a library creatively fostering community health. Parts of this innovative program could successfully be implemented at libraries of all types interested in mindfulness and wellness.
What inspired you to expand the mindfulness programs offered by the Merrimack College McQuade Library?
Catherine Wong (CW): Several staff members are interested in meditation, wellness, and a holistic approach to librarianship and we noticed the need for students to have a variety of methods to help them cope with the stresses and anxieties associated with college. The various parts of the initiative developed organically as we connected existing programs and partners to form new initiatives with the goal of providing students and staff with ways to expand their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Continue reading
On July 12, 2018, Joan Mikula, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) presented an award to Jonathan Bowen-Leopold for his outstanding service as a Peer Worker instrumental to connecting the Department of Mental Health with the Massachusetts Library System. Jonathan, a patron at the Thomas Crane Public Library and DMH Peer Worker, became acquainted with Clayton Cheever, Assistant Director at the library. Jonathan thought there could be some shared programs between the DMH and public libraries, and encouraged Joe Vallely, the Department of Mental Health’s Housing and Homelessness Specialist, to reach out to the library. Following meeting with Joe, Clayton recommended that Joe reach out to the Massachusetts Library System (MLS). Jonathan’s initial connection with Clayton Cheever at the Thomas Crane Public Library resulted in a successful linkage of the Department of Mental Health and the Massachusetts Library System. Continue reading
I attended two excellent workshops offered by MLS over the Fall, Get STEAMed: The How and Why of Adding STEAM to Your Library and Run with Scissors: Library Hacks and Creative Problem-Solving for You and Your Patrons. The presenters for these workshops, Christi and April, provided new inspiration for adult programs in my library. I created a three class series on Book Hacks in which we recycled books with bookpage folding, creating treasure boxes and ingenius journals. It was low cost, earth friendly, and most importantly creative which our patrons always enjoy. We talked about being hackers and hacks as we problem-solved our way through the projects. This spring we hosted a professional improv group, the Providence Improv Guild (PIG) at the library for one of the most original and enjoyable programs to my memory.
Thank you MLS staff for your spirit of fun and creativity and the the impact you’ve made on me and the patrons in my library.
Contributed by Michelle Gario, Senior Librarian, Adult Services at the Seekonk Public Library
Did you know that 1 in 10 Massachusetts households are food insecure? And, 1 in 7 Massachusetts children are food insecure. Families who rely on the reduced or free school breakfast/lunch program face hunger in the summer. With this concern in mind, Margaret Perkins, Director of the Medway Public Library, funded a summer lunch program with the help of her Friends, because her library was ineligible for USDA funding. Get tips from Margaret about how your library can fund and offer a successful summer lunch program.
Tell us about your summer lunch program and how you generated funding independent of Project Bread.
Margaret Perkins: Last spring, I read an article on WebJunction’s newsletter about free summer lunch programs offered by libraries in several states. Most of these programs were USDA-funded. Most libraries in Massachusetts that offer a summer lunch program receive USDA funding, and partner with Project Bread. This funding requires that a minimum of 50% of the children in the community or program be eligible to receive reduced price or free lunch at school. I found that 12% of students in Medway are eligible for free or reduced price lunches, and although that percentage is too low to qualify for USDA funding, it is considerably higher than it was a few years ago. I decided to look into alternative funding.
I contacted Medway’s Wellness Director, Ryan Sherman, as well as librarians from MLS and from other libraries that offer a free summer lunch program, all of whom provided a wealth of helpful suggestions. We began fundraising in April. The Friends of the Medway Library visited a number of businesses and restaurants to ask for donations to cover one of the eight meals provided during the summer. We received generous donations from the Lions Club, a church, supermarket, restaurant, businesses and individuals. Those organizations that had facilities to do so prepared delicious lunches. We also used donated funds to purchase prepared sandwiches and other lunch items such as applesauce and fruit cups from local stores. Garelick Farms donated milk each week. Parents/caregivers and children were all invited to eat lunch, a difference from the USDA funded programs which cannot provide food to adults. Extra sandwiches, milk and other perishables were offered to the attendees or donated to a family shelter.
In addition to providing much needed nourishment and nutrition for kids and families, what other benefits did your patrons experience from your summer lunch program?
We offered the summer lunch program once a week for 8 weeks, beginning the week after the 4th of July. Story hour for children up to about 8 years of age preceded each lunch. After lunch we offered STEM and craft activities for older children. We discovered that our giant tub of Duplo was hugely popular among the preschoolers and toddlers. Parents often participated in the craft and STEM activities, and gathered in the DUPLO area to share parenting stories and advice. These activities promoted family and community cohesiveness, and offered a welcoming atmosphere to patrons of all ages. Families new to the library were introduced to the wide varieties of programs offered, and children from several families became regular attendees at library programs throughout the following school year.
How will you sustain funding for your summer lunch program?
Thanks to generous donations by the Medway Pride Day Committee, Whole Foods Market, and the Lions Club, we are able to offer the summer lunch program three times a week in 2018. We could not have offered the program without our dedicated Friends of the Library, who not only sought out donations, but picked up many of the meals and worked tirelessly, along with a number of other volunteers, to serve the food. We are optimistic that funding has been found to cover several upcoming years as well.
What tips would you offer to other public libraries who do not qualify for Project Bread funding and would still like to offer a summer lunch program?
- We were amazed at how many businesses and organizations were happy to donate. Don’t hesitate to ask, even if the business is unrelated to food.
- Start out small – one meal a week worked well for us.
- We found that it was not necessary to ask people to sign up – when we offered lunch one day during February and April vacation without a sign-up, we still had a good turnout.
- We planned for 20-30 people each week. Had a larger number showed up, we planned to make a quick run to a local pizza shop or to a deli for more sandwiches.
- Make sure you have enough volunteers with driver’s licenses to pick up the food. We had no problem finding wonderful volunteers of all ages to serve the lunches.
Any other thoughts you would you like to share?
We were amazed at the huge response we received from the community. We are very grateful to the generous residents, organizations, and businesses of Medway and surrounding towns.
*Want to learn more about the Medway Public Library’s summer lunch program? Then, attend the “Books and Bites: Summer Meals at Your Library” presentation on Monday, May 21st at 10:30 AM at the Massachusetts Library Association Conference in Framingham.
Interview with Margaret Perkins, Director at the Medway Public Library
Interviewed by Michelle Eberle, MLS Consultant
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.
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?
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…) Continue reading