This blog post was written by Jeanette Coppinger, Digital Resource Specialist for Lovett Memorial Library. Jeanette was a member of Cohort 10 of the Skills for Community-Centered Libraries training program.
The timing of my cohort for the Skills for Community-Centered Libraries training could not have been more unusual. In March 2020, I was a Library Assistant 2 at Lawncrest Library, anticipating a promotion and transfer to Lovett Library as a Digital Resource Specialist. No sooner than I was promoted, the pandemic reached Philadelphia and everything became uncertain. The training workshops were on pause for ten months and I was allowed to work from the Frankford Library, as a pandemic accommodation, during this time. When training resumed it was virtual and I had still yet to set foot in my new branch.
With that in mind, I saw an opportunity in my final project. Asset mapping was going to be my way of getting to know Lovett’s community! Not only would this allow me to identify resources for community members but it would also acquaint me with the needs, interests, and offerings within the neighborhoods of East and West Mount Airy. This was already the most ideal use of my newly learned skills but the necessity of the project to be entirely virtual put it over the top. As a Digital Resource Specialist, this was perfect.
I dove into my exploration with enthusiasm and quickly familiarized myself with the geographical location. I published generalities about community members, which gave me the context I needed to identify useful resources. My journey was full of spreadsheets, virtual "walks", pinning maps, social media, and challenges. The challenges mostly surrounded collaboration with assets to offer virtual programming for Lovett’s library users, which was expected in the midst of the pandemic. Regardless of that minor setback, identifying 153+ assets was a major success! An asset map is an undeniably useful tool for community connection and engagement but the process of putting it together was invaluable for becoming more familiar with the area.
This project is far from over—I plan to continue surveying Mount Airy and adding assets indefinitely while looking forward to experiencing and serving the community in person!
As things begin opening back up to the public, if you are new to an area—personally or professionally—I strongly encourage you to take a virtual tour of your surroundings to see what your community has to offer. The discovery process makes for an enlightening exercise in future planning. The more you uncover, the more there is to check out later. You may even be surprised by what you find if you are not new!
Neighborhoods are always changing as organizations come and go. Your next go-to resource is just waiting to be revealed. Enjoy your own virtual adventures!
Feel free to reach out with questions and comments at coppingerj @ freelibrary.org.