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.

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

Forbes Library Declaration of Inclusion

Thank you to Lisa Downing, Director of the Forbes Library, for sharing her library’s experience with creating a declaration of inclusion.

Forbes Public Library Declaration of Inclusion

Forbes Public Library Declaration of Inclusion

What generated your declaration of inclusion?

We were inspired by the Jones Library in Amherst who shared a picture of a declaration they posted in connection with their ESL & Citizenship Center. It felt important for us to do and in keeping with a campaign slogan the library had developed a couple of years ago called “Forbes For All”. It was used for a fundraising campaign for a handicap accessible elevator project and summarized our intention that the library is for everyone. We kept the slogan after the campaign ended because it speaks to who we are as an institution and the vision we have to be a safe, welcoming and enriching place for everyone in the community.

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

We used an oversized piece of foam core and hand wrote a statement along the top declaring our inclusion. We invited staff, trustees and friends to sign it. Shortly after it was published we had a visiting class from the nearby International Language Institute who noticed the sign. Their teacher mentioned that they were happy to see it because many of them were fearful about their reception in the US after hearing the news of the President’s stance and coverage of gun violence. We invited the students to write the word “welcome” in their native language along with their name and this completed the sign. We have the sign posted in the front lobby where hundreds of people walk by every day. Continue reading

Peabody Institute Library Declaration of Inclusion

Thank you to Jennifer McGeorge, Assistant Director of the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers, for sharing her library’s experience with creating a declaration of inclusion.

Peabody Institute Declaration of Inclusion

Peabody Institute Declaration of Inclusion

What generated your declaration of inclusion?

Patron request. This person demanded we post a politically sponsored sign protesting the building of a border wall and its impact on different ethnic groups. Despite the fact that we cannot post any opinion on the matter, they felt that our refusal post their sign indicated our support of the border wall project.

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

After posting a request to all regions, several libraries shared their ideas for promoting inclusion. We adapted their ideas/language (mostly from Stevens Memorial Library in Ashburnham) and posted the following at both the main and Children’s Room entrances: Continue reading

Librarians’ Critical Role Serving Immigrant Communities

MLS reached out to William (Ted) Albers, USCIS Northeast Regional Community Relations Officer, to connect our membership with the latest information from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services about how your library can support immigrants and refugees. Ted will present a webinar for MLS members on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 10:30 AM. We hope you can attend to learn more. Register now! Here’s an interview with Ted to give you a preview of what he will share in more detail on July 25th

Naturalization Ceremony

Tell us about the USCIS.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. We are a branch of the Department of Homeland Security.

  • We process naturalization, which is how a person not born in the U.S. voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen;
  • We grant permanent residence (‘green card’) status;
  • We process refugee applications around the world and grant asylum to people already in the U.S.;
  • We process petitions filed by employers to bring workers to the U.S.;
  • We verify the employment eligibility of new hires in the U.S. (Form I-9);
  • We help American parents adopt foreign-born orphans

What kind of support does the USCIS provide for libraries?

Libraries play a critical role in serving immigrant communities. Through our coordination with libraries we help to educate librarians, and in turn their immigrant patrons, primarily about the citizenship process but also topics such as finding reliable immigration services, and avoiding scams. Whenever possible, we also visit libraries who want to host us for citizenship and immigration-benefits information sessions.

USCIS Toolkit

What is a Citizenship Corner?

This is a dedicated space in you’re a where immigrants can find information about becoming a U.S. citizen. USCIS has developed educational materials to help prepare individuals for naturalization. These materials are ideal for setting up a Citizenship Corner. A typical Corner includes citizenship test preparation materials along with information about the naturalization process. Libraries can also add information about community resources, English teaching materials, and other relevant books and videos from their collections. While there are a number of immigration related topics that may be of interest to libraries and their customers, USCIS recommends displaying only citizenship and naturalization-related resources in the Citizenship Corner. Explore the USCIS/IMLS Library Partnership and learn what you library can do.

Please tell us about a couple libraries with outstanding Citizenship Corners.

The American Place (TAP) is a free program of Hartford Public Library designed to welcome immigrants and ease their transition into their new home city. TAP promotes Hartford’s shared civic values. Continue reading