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#LibrariesRock // Serving the Needs of Your Local Community: Two Librarians & A Microphone Podcast

Gone are the days when libraries could take a "cookie-cutter" approach to their community programming and outreach. Tune-in as we discuss the hyper-local drive towards engagement being embraced by libraries all over the country. 

Libraries like Fresno County Public Library in California and Fort Vancouver Regional Library in Washington are "leading forward" with a fresh mindset towards programming. From making fleece blankets for the homeless to providing lunches in conjunction with summer reading, these libraries realize that they must observe and adapt to the unique needs of their communities. Today, these libraries are focused on their individual communities in efforts to truly help the collective of society.


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Jim Heuer [00:00:16] Hey everybody, it's Jim Heuer, Director of Sales for Ingram Library Services, also, the microphone in our podcast series Two Librarians and A Microphone. We are here for Episode Four in Season Five of our podcast series, and I am with my two librarian pals, as usual. Tricia, you want to say hi to everybody?

Tricia Bengel [00:00:37] Hey!

Jim Heuer [00:00:38] Donna George, how about you, want to say hey?

Donna George [00:00:40] Hello!

Jim Heuer [00:00:41] Alrighty. We've borrowed from the Urban Library Counsel, we are using their theme of Library's Leading Forward. The first three episodes of this season all dealt with those type of ideas. We talked about the article that suggested that Amazon should replace libraries. We talked about libraries leading in crisis, and our most recent episode was libraries and their role in a democratic society and helping in democracy. This final episode in this season, is talking about hyper-localism and what libraries are doing to help their unique communities. We found some really fascinating examples of libraries that our finding ways to help that I don't think most of us would have expected that would have been their mission. Tricia, why don't you talk to us a little bit about some of things that you have seen, some of the changes in the library world, and what some of the hyper-localism that's going on out there in the library space.

Tricia Bengel [00:01:44] Just to put this in perspective, just a little bit, I was talking to some colleagues and we were reminiscing about 20 years ago there was a book out there called Planning for Results, and it was the classic book that everyone across the country used to do their long-range plans. The writers of that book, incredibly smart women, were speaking at ALA, PLA, across the country on how you do planning for results. There were five areas, and you were suppose to pick two or three of those areas that you were going to concentrate on. But what's really interesting is it assumed that every library across the country had the same mission, and the same sets of missions, and they should be providing the same services. Juxtaposing that to now, no one would be doing that type of planning anymore because everybody wants to respond to their local community and what their local communities need, even turning things like summer reading on its head. I was reading about the Fresno County Public Library in California and they have a 25.2% poverty rate. 59% of third graders are not reading at grade level in Fresno. Rather just doing the traditional summer reading program again this year, where it's soccer mom's bringing their kids in for story times, which is wonderful and an important service, they decided that they really need to concentrate on those kids who are part of food deserts and book deserts in the county. They actually took Summer Reading Program on the road with food, and are out in the community doing story times, doing activities,

Tricia Bengel [00:03:42] and feeding kids who are not getting fed lunch because they're not in school over the summer. They're trying to prevent that summer slump. They're acting really hyper-locally to the needs of their exact community and serving the mission of the libraries. That gave me goosebumps all over the place. Another library that I have visited recently, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library just in the southern tip of Washington state, is an awesome community. What they are doing, they have a maker space, like so many libraries do these days, and they have an active maker community. They did this program called Make a Better World, and everything that the participants in the program were tasked with doing is to make something that will make their local community better. People who were participating ended up making things like fleece blankets for their homeless populations, 3D-printed prosthetic hands…that's pretty amazing…cakes for children, materials for their local homeless shelter. They weren't just focused on learning skills and building things for individuals, they were focused completely on making their community a better one. That is a great thing that we in libraries are doing now, is we're trying to not only help individuals, but we're trying to help the collective.

Donna George [00:05:23] Tricia, I really agree with everything you just said and I've, in preparation for this episode, I've been thinking about my own career in public libraries and I started my career in a neighborhood branch. It was the neighborhood I lived in, and I can't really think of anything in particular we did that was specifically for our community. We had story times, just like all the libraries did, and people from the community came to those, but when it comes to these hard topics that we've been talking about in this season, such as poverty, and health, and immigration, and all of these things, perhaps it just wasn't present in the community I'm in, but it is present in a lot of communities, and the tool that we had at our disposal, back in the day, was the directory of community services. When I started thinking about: "What was my career like as it relates to serving the community?" This little spiral-bound book popped into my head, and so that's certainly one extreme, but I think as we move forward and we get more and more people in the United States, and we start to hear from these urban and large libraries specifically, we have to really think about the workforce changes that are happening in our libraries, as well. We all have some funny things to say about millennials, since we're not millennials, but when you think about the millennials, they're really making up a greater portion of the workforce, and a lot of what drives them is finding the greater good. They are not satisfied to come to work

Donna George [00:06:55] and hand somebody the directory of community services. They really want to understand their community, and they really want to proactively provide solutions, they want to turn story hour on its head, like you mentioned with Fresno, and I, for one, think it’s a fantastic change.

Jim Heuer [00:07:13] Ingram's a large company, we've got over 2,000 colleagues that work with us, some of them certainly fit into that demographic of millennial. We've had programs, seminars, symposiums: the challenges of working with folks who want something more out of their work-life experience, right? Hey, that sounds pretty good to me. There's probably a lot of librarians…

Tricia Bengel [00:07:34] Something we can all embrace.

Jim Heuer [00:07:35] That seems like it goes right along with the ethos and the philosophy of being a librarian, right?

Donna George [00:07:42] Yeah, and some libraries have even taken it to the next step, I think all of us read an article about several libraries who are starting to hire social workers to be on staff.

Tricia Bengel [00:07:51] That's quite a leap, and we worry a little bit about, "Is that the right thing to do?" But it all goes back to serving the needs of your local community.

Jim Heuer [00:08:03] Serving the needs of your local community can take shape in lots of different ways, right? We talked about things like the Internet. A place to use the restroom can be really an important thing for somebody who doesn't have a place to use the restroom, right?

Tricia Bengel [00:08:17] Right.

Jim Heuer [00:08:18] You don't think about those things too often until you venture out into the world of library, and then they're in your face. You have to think about them. We're all looking around. I guess that means that we think we've…

Donna George [00:08:31] We've said it all…

Jim Heuer [00:08:32] Tapped it out, right? Yeah. A few of us, Donna and I, are going to be in Baltimore for The Urban Library Council Innovation Awards. We've actually got some stuff lined up that we think will eventually make its way on air. We're going to talk to a lot of, if not all, of the award winners, so we want to bring to you some of their innovations. That if it is right for you or your library, you can incorporate that. Look for those episodes to come in sometime, a little bit later in the fall, but we're always looking for interesting things that you out in the library world and library space are doing, so keep doing it, because, you never know, we might be talking about you and your library here in an upcoming episode of Two Librarians and A Microphone. With that, I'll ask my two librarian friends to say goodbye until next time. Tricia?

Tricia Bengel [00:09:26] Bye everybody. Keep reading.

Donna George [00:09:29] Bye, it's been a pleasure.

Jim Heuer [00:09:30] Alrighty, thanks everybody. Two Librarians and A Microphone is brought to you by Ingram Library Services. It is a division of Ingram Content Group. Our producer/director is Rachel Cope. Sound engineering by Craig Simpson. Special assistance by Essence Brisco and Elizabeth Wilcox. The research done by our librarians Tricia Bengel and Donna George. I'm Jim Heuer, thanks most of all to you for listening. Please follow us on Instagram @thelibrarylife. Tag us in your #thelibrarylife moments, because we got some cool stuff going on, on that social media platform. We're going to be giving away some exclusive books, ARCs, and perhaps a signed copy. In order to make sure that you’re staying tuned to this podcast, we'd love for you to go to our landing page, but, most importantly, the best way you can show your support for us, we'd love some reviews on Apple iTunes. If you can go in there, leave us a positive review, that would really help. Tell us what you'd like to hear. That might help us as we’re thinking about some of the content we're trying to bring you, but it's the best way you can support what we're doing. We're trying to bring you interesting, fun, compelling, thought provoking content. We might see some of you at ULC in Baltimore, and, if so, we look forward to that, and, if not, we will see you in your libraries. Thanks everybody.