Throughout the Skills for Community-Centered Libraries initiative, we have shared experiences from our seven pilot sites as they tested the training series in their own libraries. We were thrilled that our partners in San Francisco and Halifax, Nova Scotia were able to deliver the workshops in their entirety before COVID-19 forced them to shut down last spring.
San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) held workshops in January and February of 2020 and a cohort of 24 staff participated. While SFPL’s library staff is doing critically important work as Disaster Service Workers, they are also thinking about how to stay connected to their library community without the chance to connect in person. Michelle Jeffers, Chief of Community Programs and Partnerships, shared these reflections about how the trainings supported the system’s pivots in the face of the pandemic.
"Thinking back to the framework provided by the training, I started to (re)consider what are our community assets, and where do we encounter opportunities in this very changed landscape? One of our tasks during the training was to map our neighborhood's assets–where do our neighbors convene, what are the forums or platforms that neighbors use to communicate? For now, where are the new places that people are—virtually—convening?"
- Ocean View Branch Manager Lynne Maes, who participated in the training.
Added Joanna Arteaga La Spina, one of SFPL’s translators who participated in the Skills for Community-Centered Librarianship training:
"It is crucial is to provide opportunities to foster community around common interests. We were working so diligently to provide equity in access to physical library spaces for the community to meet, and now we need to do that work in the virtual world."
Meanwhile, Manager of Learning and Development Pam Tracz piloted the curriculum in Halifax Public Libraries (HPL) last winter as part of the system’s broader community engagement efforts in the region. 12 Community Engagement Team members received the training, and Pam notes that they felt the program helped in a variety of ways.
"While they had attended training before, it was the first time our team had come together for a specific Community Engagement Training. HPL were also piloting the program to determine how we could use it with all our library staff. We already do Customer Service Training for all our staff. We wanted to learn how this could help the staff further. We loved it!
Our group of 12 came in knowing each other superficially. Over time, through the exercises, and sharing, staff formed a team, communication improved and they were able to identify tasks for improving service. It also allowed us to re-examine our Community Engagement Practices to determine what we do well, where we can improve and what to keep doing. It helped us identify strengths and areas for growth."
We thank our partners in San Francisco and Halifax, as well as those in Cleveland, OH; Columbus, WI; Hartford, CT; Multnomah County, OR; and Shippensburg, PA for their insights and perspective over the past four years. While the grant that funded this initiative is coming to an end in September 2021, we will continue to be encouraged by their support and camaraderie as we seek to build more community-centered libraries.