Posts in topic: community engagement

How “Shark Tank for kids” survived the pandemic

Back in 2017, my colleagues and I at the Orange County Library System were brainstorming new community engagement ideas to support our children’s programming. That summer, the TV show Shark Tank was massively popular in our area—and not just with adults. We already had our “BizKids Camps” programming over the summer, and a staff member suggested we go an extra step and add a real, live business fair.

So, that’s exactly what we did. Our Orlando Children’s Business Fair offers students a platform to launch their businesses, promote their services or products, and build marketing strategies. The fair was very successful for three years running, until COVID-19 hit. While we could not produce a live fair in 2020, that didn’t stop us from continuing to build momentum by creating a new virtual experience to encourage youth entrepreneurship.

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Racial and social justice: A blueprint for constructive conversations

Issues of racial and social justice impact all facets of our communities, and therefore, all our libraries. As we continue to look for ways to increase racial and cultural equity, we are buoyed by our activist efforts to support privacy, equitable access, and intellectual freedom, and sobered by the realization that our histories and the ground upon which they have been built have not always demonstrated support of equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is critical that global libraries engage in ongoing discussions to surface concerns, share insights, and help lead our community efforts.

During a recent OCLC Global Council roundtable, we used a structured discussion format to share perspectives and gather insights around current environments, library reactions, and what our responsibilities as libraries should be going forward. We didn’t come up with all the answers, but the discussion was rich and informative.

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We may be apart, but we’re in this together

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I’m pretty sure that we can all agree that life and work don’t feel “normal” right now. Even as we unite as communities to “flatten the curve” and adopt social distancing routines, it’s hard for us to be apart from colleagues, friends, and our community. But there’s solace in knowing that our communities are protected by our combined effort and that we’re all in this together. I hope everyone reading this is healthy and safe.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had so many conversations with library colleagues that have amazed me. Even though the way that we’re supporting our communities may have radically changed, our conversations have felt remarkably “normal” in that they all have the same balance of professional responsibility and personal good humor that I’ve come to rely on, time and again, during my career.

You are all amazing. And your libraries do amazing things, which is why we put the OCLC Community Engagement Award out there—to hear more about them and spread the word. And it’s why we’re extending the nominating deadline from April 30 to May 31.

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Community engagement: Redefining the library as town square

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Libraries are evolving, leaning outside of our walls, connecting with our communities in new and powerful ways. Defining our “why” requires understanding how to shift our focus from books to people. Our purpose is to support people and their quality of life. While there may be many definitions, community engagement isn’t just about awareness, marketing, and sending staff out into the community. Community is at the center of everything. At Anythink, the public library system for Adams County, Colorado, it is at the heart of everything we do.

Like many libraries, our recent strategic planning research included a purposeful listening tour. We found that our community sees the library as its center, its connector. They asked for the library to become even more focused on creating community. As a result, we have adopted the concept of library as town square.

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