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#OnTheRoadULC: Featuring Broward County Library // Two Librarians & A Microphone Podcast

Broward County Library launched BCLFit Wellness Center to nurture a healthy lifestyle for families living near library branches located in food deserts.

We sit down with the Director of Broward County Library, Kelvin Watson, to discuss their award-winning program, BCLFit Wellness Center. This pilot program launched to combat cultural, physical, and economic barriers that interfere with healthy choices and active lifestyles and has been recognized by the Urban Library Council (ULC) as a 2018 Top Innovator in the Health, Safety and Sustainability category.


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Jim Heuer [00:00:17] Hi, everybody, this is Jim Heuer, the host of the Ingram Library Services podcast, Two Librarians and A Microphone. I'm here with librarian two, Donna George. We're excited to come to you live from the Urban Library Council Annual Forum in Baltimore, Maryland. Ingram Library Services is a proud sponsor of the Innovation Awards that the ULC bestows upon their members. Today, we are joined by one of the top innovators from Broward County, the director, Kelvin Watson. Good morning, Kelvin.

Kelvin Watson [00:00:45] Good morning, Jim.

Jim Heuer [00:00:46] Thank you for joining us. Broward County was awarded at this year's Innovation Award a top innovator in the Health, Safety, and Sustainability category, for something called the BCL Fit Wellness Center. Kelvin, can you tell us a little bit about that, how it came to be, and what the Wellness Centers are?

Kelvin Watson [00:01:04] The BCL Wellness Centers was a pilot program. It was initially grant-funded and really designed to nurture a healthy lifestyle for about 200 families living near two of our library locations, located in food deserts. We have a library, that's the African American Research Library, that is in a primarily African American community where there's really no grocery stores nearby. Everybody kind of walks, and so the pilot program included nutrition centers. We hired fitness trainers, and it was, again, a way to break down the barriers for people to actually learn about nutrition and get fit.

Donna George [00:01:55] Kelvin, what was the community reaction? What kind of things did you hear from the community? What kind of results did you see?

Kelvin Watson [00:02:01] The community loved it because it was not just designed for adults. It was actually adults and children that could participate, and the reactions were great. We had 94 fitness instruction sessions and three youth-only educational programs, which reached about 89 adults and 108 children. We reached our goals. Several of the participants actually lost weight and learned, again, how to cook healthier. We had a 48-year-old woman who participated in five fitness classes. She lost 10 pounds, A 71-year-old woman, who had suffered from a number of health issues, was also able to lose weight. The neat thing about this whole program was that we made FitBits available and loaned them out as resources, along with the physical books and the e-books. It was a 360-degree program that included individual, as well as the library resources.

Jim Heuer [00:03:15] That teaching of the fitness seems like an aspect that, the nutrition is one area, but it's the teaching of the fitness that could kind of be a lifelong skill. I imagine some of the stuff could be, if the exercises could be done in maybe one of your libraries, that someone could do those same exercises in their home and that type of stuff.

Kelvin Watson [00:03:34] Jim, so we've started with this pilot, but we also, at one of our libraries, actually do the Insanity fitness workouts for people on Saturday mornings. This program actually allowed us to look at all of our health-related programming and put everything under one roof. Broward County Libraries, we're committed to health, mental, emotional, intellectual, and the physical wellbeing of our customers. This certainly is something that dovetails with lifelong learning.

Jim Heuer [00:04:18] Absolutely. You said this was grant-funded. Is there any thought of trying to make this a permanent part of the Broward County system?

Kelvin Watson [00:04:29] By looking at all of our health-related programming, that will continue making this a sustainable program. Even though this was grant-funded, we've continued the program and added additional programming on that. We got partnerships with more of our healthcare centers, hospitals, and different food banks as well. Again, this was a way to baseline and we're building on top of that.

Jim Heuer [00:05:06] You proved the concept, with using the grant funding, and now the other folks in the community see the value, want to get on board, and that serves so many different purposes. There are so many different things that you're trying to do in a library: build community, help your patrons, get other folks involved; sounds like really nailing it there.

Kelvin Watson [00:05:25] Being committed to the community and having these programs be available for all customers of all ages, classes, fitness, nutrition sessions. Again, healthy minds, healthy bodies. That's the all-around purpose of the library. All of those things fit into being more than what customers expect from a library, and that's why this program fit in so perfectly.

Jim Heuer [00:06:00] If this is something they might want to try, I'd imagine, unfortunately, the food deserts are probably not only unique to Broward County. What would you suggest to someone listening who might want to do something like this?

Kelvin Watson [00:06:14] Partnerships, that's the key. Getting the staff engaged and encouraged, and making your space available, which is the other key to this. We've got rooms, meeting rooms. Push the stuff up against the walls, and throw some mats down on the floor, and start doing some pushups.

Jim Heuer [00:06:39] Right. That's kind of being innovative with your innovations, right? Wow, that's some good stuff. We'll have to bring our workout clothes when we come with us down to South Florida, and when we come visit you, come early, get a workout in.

Kelvin Watson [00:06:50] Come on down.

Jim Heuer [00:06:52] Work on that beach bod. Kelvin, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on the award. Congratulations to you and the staff at Broward County.

Kelvin Watson [00:07:01] Thank you, Jim and Donna for the opportunity to share.

Jim Heuer [00:07:04] 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, Trisha Bengel and Donna George. I'm Jim Heuer, thanks most of all to you for listening. Please follow us on Instagram at @thelibrarylife, tag us in your #thelibrarylife moments, because we've got some cool stuff going on on that social media platform. We're going to be giving away some exclusive books, ARCs, perhaps a signed copy. In order to make sure 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, is we'd love some reviews on Apple iTunes. If you can go on there and leave us a positive review, that would really help. We'll see you in your libraries. Thanks everybody.