STEAM + Library Hacks = Library Programs!

Book Hacks: recycled books with bookpage folding, treasure boxes, and ingenius journals

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.

Michelle Gario

Michelle Gario

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

Previously in the Community Engagement Blog

Medway Public Library’s Summer Lunch Program

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.

Margaret Perkins, Medway Public Library

Margaret Perkins, Medway Public Library

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.

If you have questions about the Summer Food Service Program and your community’s eligibility for federal funding please contact April Mazza or Christi Farrar, MLS Consultants. 

*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

Previously in the Community Engagement Blog

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…) Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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! Continue reading