Community Engagement Blog

Teamwork and collaboration concept

Welcome to the Library Community Engagement Blog! This blog features creative ways librarians are connecting with their communities. We’ll hear from public, school, academic, and special librarians. Get ready for some outstanding stories of how librarians are making their communities better places to live, work, study, and play.

Wilmington Public Library Young Child Art Show

According to the Harvard Family Research Project’s report, Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement, “Libraries are poised and ready to be the heart of family engagement in a community.” The Wilmington Public Library’s Week of the Young Child Art Show is a superb example of a public library increasing family engagement. Thank you to Tina Stewart, Library Director, of the Wilmington Public Library, for sharing her experience with this successful family engagement project!

Wilmington Public Library Week of the Young Child Art Show

Wilmington Public Library Week of the Young Child Art Show

Tell us about your community partnership.

For the last four years, the Wilmington Memorial Library has partnered with preschools and daycares to host an art show to celebrate the Week of the Young Child in April. Youth Services Librarian Barbara Raab coordinates this collaborative event. The children create the artwork that is mounted on black construction paper provided by the library. The library staff collects the artwork for exhibit at the library. The staff at the preschool and daycare centers distribute invitations to an opening reception that the library hosts for the young artists and their families. The reception is the kickoff event prior to the Week of the Young Child when the art work is on display in the library.

Week of the Young Child Art Show

Week of the Young Child Art Show

How did you connect with your community partners?

A list of preschools and family daycares and contact information was obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care’s online geographically-searchable directory of licensed child care programs. All preschools and family daycares in Wilmington were contacted, either by letter or email, inviting them to participate in the art show. The invitation also included information about services that we provide to preschools and day cares, including on-site storytime visits and the opportunity the check out Early Literacy Fun Packs (kits in a backpack that contain books on a theme, a music CD, toys and games and an activity guide on how to use the materials in the backpack that promote the five early literacy practices of singing, talking, reading, playing and writing).

How did the collaboration benefit your library and your community partners?

The library benefits by having the opportunity to introduce the library and its services to parents of young children. Each year the event draws parents who are not regular library users. The early childhood programs benefit from exposure to the community. It calls attention to the Week of the Young Child, a national recognition of the importance of early learning and early literacy. It also celebrates the teachers and educators who bring early childhood education to young children. In addition, this event promotes “family engagement,” a goal of early childhood education programs.

What impact did the partnership make in your community?

Over 400 children had pieces of art on display in the library. It is a source of pride for the children and their parents to be a part of a community event. In addition, other library patrons enjoy seeing the art exhibit and understand that the library is a community partner.

What advice would you give to a librarian interested to cultivate a similar partnership?

Go for it! It is a relatively easy program to put together. You need to have a space to display lots of children’s artwork, and enough staff and volunteers to hang up the artwork. Make sure to use enough tape or there will be paintings and pictures on the floor when you come to work the next morning!

Interview with Tina Stewart, Library Director, Wilmington Public Library

TEDxYouth@GDRHS

In this interview, Kelly McManus, the Library Media Specialist at the Groton Dunstable Regional High School, shares her experience with coordinating an evening of TED talks at her high school. The tagline for TedTalks is “ideas worth spreading.” This collaboration is an idea worth spreading!  Maybe you would like to replicate this partnership with your library community?

TedxYouth@GDRHS

TedxYouth@GDRHS

Tell us about your community partnership. 

As you may know, TED is an annual conference that brings together the world’s leading thinkers and doers to share ideas.  These short, thought provoking talks are engaging, inspiring and powerful. In that same spirit, TEDx is a local, self-organized event that brings together people to share a TED like experience.  Groton Dunstable Regional High School students just recently ran their second TEDxYouth@GDRHS: an evening event open to the public that includes short talks, art, live music, thoughtful discussion and light refreshments.  

How did you connect with your community partner(s)?

Each year, we select a theme and the students apply for a license from TEDx, interview and select speakers, curate a program and plan every last detail.  We connect with our community (in and outside of the high school) in many ways: from soliciting speakers, collaborators and volunteers to engaging with our attendees the night of the event.

How did the collaboration benefit your library and your community partner?

I’m drawn to the role libraries play in inspiring people, providing the resources and helping them make connections to pursue their passions. I’m also drawn to the idea of cultivating community through the creation and sharing of ideas. TEDx does all of this. My role, is to mentor, support and champion our students to plan and implement a complicated large event that if pulled off successfully will feel like an intimate dinner party where the guests interact  and leave feeling inspired. Our students’ confidence grows through consistent positive interactions and it’s really rewarding to be part of that.  I’m consistently amazed at their professionalism, care, talent and dedication. 

What impact did the partnership make in your community?   

I especially love the collegiality between the adults and students to create something bigger than any one person, and in many cases, where the traditional roles of authority between students and adults are reversed.  There are a lot of pieces in motion that need to come together and our small committee of students manages all of it. Dozens of teachers, staff and students volunteer their time and expertise to help with coaching speakers, lighting, video recording and editing, tech support, creating and displaying art, playing music, etc.  There is an opportunity for so many to be involved.

What advice would you give to a librarian interested to cultivate a similar partnership?

Trust your teens to rise up to the challenge. Look ahead and keep an eye on the big picture so that you can provide guidance and redirection if necessary, but avoid the temptation to step in and take over.  Instead, be a good listener; provide lots of support, reassurance and have an unwavering confidence in their abilities.

Interview with Kelly McManus, Library Media Specialist at the Groton Dunstable Regional High School
Twitter: @mcmanuskelly

Play the WGBH FIX IT Game!

Do you love history, news, and games? If yes, you will definitely want to play this game and spread word about it. We are pleased to bring you an interview with Sadie Roosa, WGBH Archivist and AAPB Metadata Specialist, about how librarians can get involved with the WGBH FIX IT game.

FIX IT

Tell us about the AAPB FIX IT game.

WGBH, on behalf of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) and with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services recently launched FIX IT. This online game allows members of the public to help AAPB professional archivists improve the searchability and accessibility of more than 40,000 hours of digitized, historic public media content. FIX IT unveils the depth of historic events recorded by public media stations across the country and allows anyone and everyone to join together to preserve public media for the future. FIX IT players can rack up points on the game leaderboard by identifying and correcting errors in machine-generated transcriptions that correspond to AAPB audio. They can listen to clips and follow along with the corresponding transcripts, which sometimes misidentify words or generate faulty grammar or spelling. Each error fixed is points closer to victory. Players’ corrections will be made available in public media’s largest digital archive.

How can librarians get involved with the AAPB FIX IT game collaboration?

There are several ways librarians can get involved. The first and easiest way is just by spreading the word. If you think your patrons would enjoy playing FIX IT, post about it on your website and social media accounts. We even have graphics and sample posts that we can send to you to make sharing as easy as possible. The AAPB team is also hoping to plan events around the game. If your library would be interested in hosting an event, like perhaps a “transcript-a-thon” in a computer lab at your location, please let us know. We’d be happy to collaborate with you on planning the event and demonstrating FIX IT.

Who would you like to play the FIX IT game?

Ideally we’d like everyone to play it! Currently we’re specifically focusing on two types of players. First, we really want to reach players who want to volunteer their time and contribute their skills to helping make this amazing collection accessible. This group includes history/public media enthusiasts, senior citizens, and fellow librarians and archivists.

We’re also reaching out to players who can gain skills from playing the game. This group includes high school students, prison reentry programs, adult basic education and bridge to college programs, and lifelong learners. By playing the game, you are learning and demonstrating editing and digital skills. To recognize these skills, the AAPB is developing a system where we can award certificates for players that have successfully worked on a certain number of transcripts. Continue reading

Somerville Public Library Declaration of Inclusion

This week, the MLS Community Engagement Blog features four stories of public libraries in Massachusetts demonstrating their commitment to social justice by creating declarations of inclusion. Our first story features an interview with Cathy Piantigini, Deputy Director of Libraries, at the Somerville Public Library. Make sure to also read the experiences of the Cambridge Public Library, Forbes Library, and Peabody Institute Library. Thank you to Cathy Piantigini, Maura McCauley, Lisa Downing, and Jennifer McGeorge for sharing their experiences!

Welcome to Somerville Sign

What generated your declaration of inclusion?

As a resident librarian of Somerville, I was acutely aware of the importance of highlighting the role our public libraries play in the daily lives of all of our patrons post-election 2016, when there were so many reports of people feeling unsafe and insecure going about their day-to-day. Somerville is very proud of its Sanctuary City status, and our Mayor is leading that pride, creating a municipal infrastructure to promote inclusion and tolerance, including organizing a rally in early February that highlighted the diversity of the city through guest speakers including ESL students from Somerville High, immigrant parents and business leaders; and community groups and agencies throughout Somerville that work with immigrant populations. He has also been featured in various media coverage about sanctuary cities. It was, and is, an important time for the library to be a part of the conversation.   Continue reading

Cambridge Public Library Declaration of Inclusion

Thank you to Maria McCauley, Director of Libraries of the Cambridge Public Library, for sharing her library’s experience with creating a declaration of inclusion.

Cambridge Public Library: Our Path Forward

What generated your declaration of inclusion?

Cambridge residents, library patrons and library staff were all talking about the Presidential election process and results and what this might mean for the country. We got the sense that people wanted and needed a place to explore, discuss and learn more about current issues, especially as they related to CPL’s core mission of serving everyone and promoting an inclusive environment and upholding the values of Cambridge as a Sanctuary City.

What process did you use to create, publish, and publicize your declaration?

The idea was discussed at a Library Trustees board meeting and the Library Director, Maria McCauley and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Janet Axelrod decided to co-author our statement. We also got input from several staff and stakeholders.

How did your community respond to your declaration of inclusion?

We continue to hear positive feedback from the public about our letter to the community. It was shared on social media and our related programs have been full houses. The recording of our kick off panel, “We the People: Local Voices Ask What Next?” has been viewed over 1300 times.” Additionally, it is a point of pride for staff.

What advice would you give to a library considering making a declaration of inclusion?

Don’t hesitate, rally, and be inclusive.

Anything else you would like to share?

We have been able to curate a popular and meaningful “Our Path Forward Series” based on the original declaration. It has brought community members together to learn, share, and reflect.

Interview with Maria McCauley, Director of Libraries, Cambridge Public Library

Learn more about upcoming Cambridge Public Library Our Path Forward Events