Democracy Talks at the Watertown Free Public Library

While preparing for my fall workshop, Librarians Fostering Civic Engagement, I discovered this outstanding program series offered at the Watertown Free Public Library.  I’m very excited to bring you an interview with Brita Zitin, Digital Services Librarian, at the Watertown Free Public Library.  Congrats to Brita and the Watertown Free Public Library on offering such a timely and crucial series.

Brita Zitin

Brita Zitin

Please tell us about your Democracy Talks series.

Brita Zitin: We started the series in the wake of the 2016 election, sensing that people were eager for both basic information on and deep insight into the political process. The first event was scheduled for the night before the presidential inauguration in January 2017, and we’ve continued every two or three months since. Topics have included voting rights, immigration, climate change, and fair housing. (A full list is on the WFPL website.) We hope that attendees leave each talk empowered to engage with the topic more confidently, be it in discussion, action, or simply reflection.

How has your community responded to your Democracy Talks series?

While we haven’t been capturing any written feedback, attendees often stop to share comments as they leave. We’ve heard lots along the lines of “Thanks for the series, it’s great – and so very much needed” and “I hope the Democracy Talks panels will continue!”

How Immigration Law Affects Us AllWhich programs have been the most popular?

Our first program drew the largest audience, due to the strong opinions and emotions that the impending inauguration stirred up. The speaker, Erin O’Brien of UMass Boston, skillfully channeled all that energy into a focused examination of facts, precedents, and possibilities.

We have also had good attendance at our programs on immigration and citizenship. The latter drew an entire ESL class from the library’s Project Literacy program, and some of the students subsequently signed up for the Project Literacy citizenship class! Continue reading

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Climate Change Conversations:  Librarians Fostering Community Dialogue

Madeleine Charney

Madeleine Charney

This month’s MLS Community Engagement Blog interview features Madeleine Charney from the W.E.B. DuBois Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst sharing her experience presenting Climate Change Conversations workshops.

Tell us about your Climate Change Conversations workshops.

Madeleine Charney: This past spring, while on sabbatical from the UMass Amherst Libraries, I offered a five-hour training, “Facing the Future: Facilitating Climate Change Conversations in Your Library” in each New England state. There was a mix of public and academic librarians in attendance with a few trustees, Friends of the Library and non-profit staff members (from Cornerstones of Science) sprinkled in. In all, I engaged with 106 trainees.  My goal was to empower librarians (and their allies) to invite patrons to explore the “wicked problem” of climate change on a heart level and in a non-threatening environment. Modeling a World Café format, we gathered in small groups to answer questions such as “What gives you hope regarding climate change?”, “To whom would you turn in your local community in the event of a climate change crisis?” “What tools (inner and/or outer) would you activate in the event of a climate change crisis — to support yourself and others in your community?” and “What do you fear re: climate change?” Continue reading

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Bringing Mindfulness to the Academic Library

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.

Catherine Wong

Catherine Wong

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

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Peer Worker Receives Award from the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health for Connecting with the Massachusetts Library System

Jonathan Bowen Leopold receiving an award from the DMH Commissioner

Jonathan Bowen Leopold, Peer Worker, receiving an award from Joan Mikula, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health

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

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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

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