Posts in topic: community engagement

Three lessons for launching successful multilingual programs at your library

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that 67.3 million Americans speak a language other than English at home, a number that has more than doubled since 1990. That’s a huge number with powerful implications for social institutions, including libraries. For many of us, getting started serving those communities feels like an overwhelming task. I’m here to tell you—you can do it. And you can start today to make a significant difference for your community with multilingual programming.

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Purposeful change management

Any kind of change can be challenging. Humans are naturally hesitant to change for very good reason. Unexpected change? Well, that can be traumatic. And if the crisis management we’ve all experienced over the past two years has taught us anything, it’s that change management can no longer be an afterthought. And yes, change and crisis management are different. Too often our approach is to wait for the effort to be in crisis before taking action.

As we shake off the stress of constant reactions during the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s take control with purposeful change. There’s no better time to reflect and learn from experiences, good and bad, and help your organization not only move out of crisis mode, but also be better for it.

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New Model Library: Plan for positive change in the midst of challenges

Co-authors:  Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D. | Brittany BrannonBrooke Doyle | Brian Lavoie, Ph.D. 

When we did the research for the New Model Library: Pandemic Effects and Library Directions briefing, a term that came up often was “normal” (Is this change part of a new normal? When will this activity get back to normal?). While interesting, these questions don’t acknowledge that libraries are incredibly diverse in terms of culture, size, type, goals, and locations. And the term “normal” isn’t really helpful without additional context. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic is a singular, global upheaval that affects everyone who works at and uses libraries.

So how do we discuss the impact this global upheaval is having on a set of very different institutions and individuals and their plans for the future?

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Drive social media success that connects on a personal level

How can you engage purposefully on social media with the different communities your library serves while also addressing larger, system-wide goals and policies? The concept of “social care” offers a clue. Social care differs from traditional customer care in that the purpose isn’t to address one issue, answer one question, or solve one problem. It’s also different than public relations in that it’s not about “one size fits all” for every audience. For social care, the goal is to nurture a more inclusive, longer-term dialogue.

At the Pikes Peak Library District, we’re using these principles to create local and program-specific social media personalities. All of our distinct voices closely align with the unique groups we serve and fall thoughtfully under a system-wide set of values.

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Build on strengths when responding to a crisis

REALM banner

As the REALM project (REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums) continues to gather and adapt science-based information to inform local decision making by libraries, archives, and museums, it’s been essential to listen to the real-world experiences at these institutions. These perspectives ensure that the information is relevant to the operations and services of the field. In a collection of nine interviews, leaders of libraries, museums, and member associations describe how they leveraged their institutions’ core strengths and drew upon trusted partners to navigate the crisis, helping to protect the health and well-being of staff and community members. These interviews help identify common ground among institutions in their response to a global crisis and spotlight opportunities for local partnerships between different types of cultural heritage institutions that can strengthen resources and local impact.

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Lessons learned from the OCLC Community Center during the pandemic

When I wrote about the OCLC Community Center’s fifth anniversary last year, I thought we were all getting a handle on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We knew things weren’t over yet, but we also weren’t expecting to spend the next 12 months working from home, socially distancing, wearing masks in public, missing lunches and meetings and conferences, and so much more. While nothing replaces those in-person interactions, I’ve been amazed at how virtual engagement and connections have grown and deepened. As a result, we’ve all learned many valuable lessons about creating online community that will have lasting impact.

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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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