Posts in topic: community engagement

Let’s talk race: The power of conversations

For many people, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has had great personal importance since its origins in 2013—especially in the past year. But in South Carolina, where I work as Manager of the Richland Library Edgewood, this important issue took on even greater local consequence with the murder of Walter Scott in North Charleston and the Charleston church shooting in 2015.

Many people were angry, confused, and frightened. There was a need for reliable news and information and for constructive local discussions. As a community-driven organization, we saw this as a humanitarian crisis, and so we asked, “How can the library help our community heal?”

Our answer was, “Let’s talk race”—a simple but powerful set of programs open to anyone in the community. We’ve now facilitated more than 90 conversations with 4,000+ community members from all backgrounds on a variety of topics explicitly convened to discuss race, social justice, and inequality.

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Look both inside and outside your library for post-pandemic community engagement surprises

When our in-person services were put on hold during the start of the pandemic, some people—both library users and even some staff—thought our role in the community might diminish for a time. I didn’t. I knew that our community needed us now more than ever and we couldn’t fail or disappoint them. We, the library, had to get busy, because during challenging times, libraries step up.

Our staff at Greensboro Public Library definitely did. And I am sure that you did, too. The trick, right now, is to make sure that as we transition out of a pandemic mindset, we carefully consider what parts of our expanded role we choose to retain.

My suggestion? Keep seeking out surprises.

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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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How teamwork busts the three biggest myths about library advocacy

Many people associate advocacy with lobbying—a full-time job in which one cultivates personal relationships with lawmakers and officials to make or defend key lines in laws, regulations, budgets, and other decisions.

To many who work in libraries, this can seem daunting. However, as is usually the case with stereotypes, this one is far from accurate. I’d like to make the case that there are three “big myths” about library advocacy that you need to jettison right now.

This matters, because in reality, budget increases and policy changes are usually the end product of a long process of changing minds and attitudes that starts well away from national legislatures, county councils, or town halls. These earlier steps require teamwork, and can rely on efforts made by all types of library workers with a variety of skills and interests to contribute. By understanding how you can contribute, you can start advocating for your library—and all libraries—today and every day.

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Three ways mobile app technology increases community engagement

As I’ve pulled together notes for this post, 15 alerts have flashed across my smartphone screen. That’s to be expected since we log 5.4 hours a day on our phones. And most of that time—90 percent to be exact—is spent using apps. That begs an important question: How can we use this app time to promote library goals and engage our communities in ways that put the library in the life of the user?

One important step? Simply get more library apps into the hands of users, a goal that we are pursuing quickly—and globally—now that Capira Technologies has joined the OCLC family.

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The New Model Library. Welcome home.

Imagine heading out for a well-earned, two-week vacation. To a place you love to visit and know well. When you get there? It’s all as you remembered. And you packed perfectly. As a frequent tourist, you know what you can buy if you need and what the hotel shop has and where you can go for a good …

Then, abruptly, you’re told—you can’t go home. You’re no longer a visitor. You are now a resident. This place where you were so comfortable and relaxed as a tourist? You have to live and work here now.

For many students, professors, teachers, and researchers forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to work at home full-time, all the time, that’s what has happened.

They went from being skilled digital visitors to unwilling digital residents.

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The OCLC Community Center at five years: Your “extra colleague”

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Five years ago, when we started the OCLC Community Center, if you’d told me that working online with my colleagues would become the most welcome, interpersonal, almost extroverted respite from my daily routine, I would have thought that was a very … odd statement. All of us have, I assume, wonderful colleagues in our libraries and offices. We have lunches and meetings and seminars and stand-up sessions and coffee breaks, and we have… .

Or, should I say we had.

For the last few months, since many of us have been working from home because of COVID-19, the chance to work together online virtually using tools like the OCLC Community Center has cemented a belief that I held before—that the relationships and connections we make online are just as strong and important as those we make “in real life.”

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Always together, even when we’re apart

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Do you remember—so, so long ago, back in January—when the idea of working from home for a couple of days seemed like a nice option? An opportunity to catch up on the buried emails, check off a few paperwork “to dos” from your list, or spend some focused time on a pet project.

Now? Even though I’m starting to get used to this “new normal,” I tell you this: once it’s safe to return to work, I may live in my library for a week.

Because while we’ve been doing an amazing job of staying in touch through our web meetings, email, chat, and texts, it’s just not the same. I miss real interactions with people. I miss the social interactions that make our libraries real communities.

It’s the same people I miss so much who are making isolation not just bearable, but truly remarkable. Library colleagues are approaching this crisis with the same mix of pragmatism and optimism that I’ve encountered throughout my years as a librarian. Nowhere was this more evident than in our virtual OCLC Global Council meeting last month.

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