The Library of the Month feature is a celebration of Wisconsin libraries.
Building Community is a philosophy that the Hedberg Public Library (HPL) in Janesville has fully embraced, interweaving that concept into everything the library does. It was at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Conference in Seattle a few years ago that the Library Director, Bryan McCormick, attended the ALA President’s Program and heard about the concept from Peter Block, an expert on Building Community and author of Community: The Structure of Belonging. At its simplest, Building Community is about bringing people together to share common thoughts and ideas; building relationships so that when different thoughts and ideas are presented, there has been a foundation built from which we can discuss our differences and work together to find common ground. As a result, HPL is often the first place people in Janesville think of when they talk about community.
One of the first initiatives presented by the library in order to Build Community was the Local Experts series of programs. The series featured local gardeners and horticulturalists, a toy-collector/hobbyist, extreme coupon clippers, local shop owners with unique items, and local history experts (cemetery ghost stories anyone?). These sessions were very popular with the community and helped to introduce people to neighbors they might never have met before.
What’s the Staff Reading?
Is there a better way for a library to be involved with its patrons than to show what they’re reading? At HPL there are several large monitors placed strategically around the library, and patrons are greeted by the smiling faces of library employees and the book they are currently reading. All library employees are encouraged to participate, from shelvers to supervisors. This brings about great diversity in what staff are reading, but also illustrates that each member of the team is part of this community, representing a vast difference in what interests are featured.
Memory Care Kits
Part of Building Community is reaching out to those unique audiences that may not have a connection to the library. In many areas, there is an increasing number of individuals suffering from dementia. In Janesville, the library works closely with the Rock County Council on Aging, a group that provided funds to purchase Memory Care Kits. These kits come with many comfort items to help those suffering from dementia. HPL has created 20 different kits, with the most popular items being the realistic cat and dog that someone can hold and pet.
HPL is also building relationships with several organizations to provide resources for caregivers of youth with special needs by hosting parenting workshops. Families of children with special needs are a part of the community, and the library wants to be a welcoming place for all, creating a place where these families can connect, share and learn from each other. The workshops will help foster this community and link families to the different organizations and services that can give them the information and support that they need. The first 3 workshops are Library Meet and Greet, Autism 101, and What’s After High School: Training on Transitions.
In celebration of National Library Week this April, HPL is hosting their first Human Library. Attendees are encouraged to “read” a human “book” in order to start a conversation with someone who is different than them in some way. Featured” books” include a young Muslim poet, an African American woman, a Latino father and a tattoo artist. The goal is to break down stereotypes and, essentially, build community.
Finally, what better way to Build Community than a bookmobile that travels into the neighborhoods of a city. And better yet, this bookmobile was a gift from the community to the library. A group of professionals taking part in Janesville’s Leadership Development Academy knew that the library had shown some interest in a bookmobile as a way to get more involved with neighborhoods and to promote library services. This group acquired an ambulance that was going to be auctioned off and helped convert it to a bookmobile. They raised funds and worked with a local marketing group to put a new wrap around the vehicle and Voila! The library now had a bookmobile, with the added benefit of lights and sirens (great for parades and bringing attention to yourself!). The bookmobile will be back again this spring and summer and will be seen all around the Janesville community.
Hedberg Public Library provides important programs, resources, and services for bringing the community to the library, and for bringing the library into the community.