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? 

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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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Social Justice Program Reflection: Katie Beth Ryan

Katie Beth Ryan

On June 13, 2017, the Massachusetts Library System hosted a Spring Program, Talking Social Justice in Massachusetts Libraries:  Diversity to Equity. The program provided an opportunity for members to learn about social justice and identify actions to promote social justice in Massachusetts library communities. Social justice is a key theme of our strategic plan.   In the spirit of embracing co-creator culture, we invited Katie Beth Ryan, the Information Literacy Librarian at the American International College, to share her thoughts and insights about the spring meeting.  Thank you, Katie Beth, for taking the time to share your reflections!


Tell us about your experience attending the MLS program, Talking Social Justice in Massachusetts Libraries:  From Diversity to Equity.

Katie Beth Ryan (KBR): I had been looking forward to the MLS meeting on diversity, equity and social justice since I first saw the announcement for the program earlier in the spring. I was especially excited to see April Hathcock, whose blog and Twitter feed I follow, was the keynote speaker. I found myself feverishly taking notes during her talk, and during the afternoon talk by Alli Gofman and Ann Marie Willer from the MIT Libraries.

What take-away stuck with you most since attending the program?

KBR: It’s hard to name just one nugget of wisdom I took away from this day since so many were shared. I appreciated hearing how the MIT Libraries have incorporated diversity and equity principles into each aspect of library work, including outreach activities and hiring. I work at an institution much smaller than MIT, but Gofman and Willer offered perspective on scalability. Regardless of your work environment, you need to carefully identify your climate, audience, and the needs of your institution. Continue reading

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