Submitted by: Stephanie D. Williams,
District Consultant, Lebanon County
On August 28, District Consultants within the Capital Region, led by the Capital Area District Consultant, Brianna Crum, hosted the Multi-District Staff Workshop at the PA News Media Association facility in Harrisburg. Five sessions throughout the day addressed the following topics: sustaining community partnerships, celebrating diversity, and supporting staff wellness.
Anne Gingerich, Executive Director of PANO (Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations), opened the workshop with, “We Together: What Does It Take- Really?” Libraries are uniquely qualified to build community partnerships. We provide welcoming, nonpartisan atmospheres for community gatherings. One of our strengths is networking. Libraries can connect with community organizations who have a shared vision, in order to achieve a greater impact. Libraries are a natural fit for community collaborations.
There are many little things that lead to successful collaborations: urgency; a common, clearly articulated vision; ongoing interactions that build momentum; adequate funding. Community collaborations take work. Ms. Gingerich provided these tips to keep in mind:
-complete and sign a MOU (memo of understanding) so that each partner understands their expected role in the collaboration
-difficult conversations may need to happen when expectations are not met
-use your compassion to break through fear, mismatched visions, and egos
-consider, what does 100% success look like for your organization?
-be accountable and follow through!
How can you build trust in order to have a successful collaboration? Brené Brown in her YouTube video, The Anatomy of Trust, recommends this model:
Our second session of the day featured a panel discussion about sustaining partnerships. Mina Edmondson spoke about the recently opened Salem Square Library, the first neighborhood library branch of Martin Library in York County. It provides career development, a bi-lingual early childhood development program, an after-school program, and digital access for adults. Mina highlighted the importance of building trust within the community. It is an ongoing process in which the library continues to reinforce its role as a safe, learning environment that is open for everyone.
Nathaniel Rasmussen and Maria Burchill shared their experiences coordinating a community-wide STEM celebration at Schlow Library. They worked with a variety of partners, who had a variety of communication styles. Nathaniel and Maria stressed the importance of clearly articulating expectations at the onset of the planning process. Partners in different industry settings may have varying levels of time to dedicate to the collaboration. Identify who the lead organization is and have some flexibility if plans need to change due to a shift in the level of a partner’s commitment to the project.
Melanie Wells, Community Health & Wellness Coordinator for Wellspan Good Samaritan Hospital, discussed her partnership with Lebanon County Libraries for the GO (Get Outdoors) Lebanon program. This program is held annually as a supplement to the Libraries’ Summer Reading Program. She reinforced the need for strong communication before, during, and after the program is over. Give time to review what worked in the partnership in order to plan for the coming year. Being open to new ideas is also vital during the planning stage.
During lunch, participants enjoyed a visit from MARCO, the new outreach van of the Dauphin County Library System, and the Book Buggy, from Franklin County Library System. Our afternoon panel discussion highlighted ways in which libraries are serving diverse communities. Rob Lesher, Executive Director of the Dauphin County Library System, spoke about serving our communities during times of natural disaster. Libraries can be the “oasis of calm” or simply a means of communication for patrons to connect with loved ones in other areas. He encouraged us to not only plan for building preservation, but focus on how libraries are meeting the basic needs of its community in a disaster. Who participates in your local government’s emergency management team? The library should be represented!
Ann Bruner spoke more about MARCO’s use in the Dauphin County Library System. MARCO enables them to visit communities such as Rush Township, which had only 3% of its residents using the physical library’s services. Now, MARCO can visit the community and provide STEM programs, connect patrons with digital content such as Overdrive, and so much more. Jessica Nupponen, Community Events Coordinator at Cleve J. Fredricksen Library, shared her story of advocating for diversity in the programs offered at her library. She has hosted several programs including foreign film screenings, “fake news” discussions, and intergenerational events.
Maria Accardi, Indiana University Southeast, presented, “Embracing the Impeded Stream: How Burnout Can Transform Librarians’ Lives & Work” via Skype. Maria also wrote, Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction. Maria used this gardening analogy to set the tone for the discussion, “We are the gardeners who get to decide what plants grow in our garden and what are weeds.” Burnout is common in our profession, as we are “people workers.” We all identify as human first; worker is second. Managers should provide some level of emotional support for library staff; regularly scheduled staff meetings may assist managers in achieving this. All library staff should bear in mind the power of “no”; we don’t need to say “yes” to everything.
The staff workshop culminated with a session presented by Wynne Kinder and Kim Stoltzfus of Kinder Associates LLC: Wellness Works for Well-Being. Wynne and Kim guided participants through a series of relaxation and mindfulness techniques to use in both the home and workplace. Mindful mobile apps may assist individuals in achieving their goals. Insight Timer is a free app with virtual “bells” to time and support one’s mindfulness activities. Calm.com is a free website with a mobile app featuring relaxation exercises.