National Voter Registration Day: Sign Up Now to Partner!

By Michelle Eberle, Consultant at the Massachusetts Library System

The Massachusetts Library System and Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners are excited to share that we are collaborating on National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) for a second year. We encourage your library to participate, too!  Read on for the official announcement and invitation from the Assistant Director for State Advocacy for the American Library Association (ALA). Libraries can partner by hosting a virtual or in-person event for National Voter Registration Day, or publicizing NVRD social media copy and graphics.  National Voter Registration Day provides an excellent toolkit for organizations to support your voter engagement efforts. Please use the link below to register to help ALA track how many libraries partner for NVRD.  We hope that your library will take part in this important collaboration.

Official Invitation from ALA

I’m pleased to announce that ALA is once again a premier partner of National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), to be celebrated this year on September 28.

In recent years, hundreds of libraries across the country have participated in NVRD and registered thousands of voters for local, state, and national elections. We invite you to join us again this year by registering here: https://bit.ly/ALANVRD.

By signing up, you’ll receive free resources and training opportunities to help you prepare. For academic libraries, NVRD offers the opportunity to connect with Campus Takeover, a student mobilizing effort that provides specialized resources and activities for college campuses.

Library workers are leaders in civic engagement. If you are registering voters or doing other types of voter engagement in the coming months, let ALA know! Please tag us on social media: @LibraryPolicy and #LibrariesEngageVoters.

Register for NVRD today: https://bit.ly/ALANVRD.

Thank you.

Megan Cusick

Megan Murray Cusick, MLIS
Assistant Director, State Advocacy
Public Policy & Advocacy | American Library Association

Nine Massachusetts Libraries Receive ALA Grant

The American Library Association (ALA) recently announced the recipients of the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Focus on Small and Rural Libraries grant. Nine Massachusetts libraries were included in the second round of grantees.

The libraries include:

Belding Memorial Library Ashfield
Field Memorial Library Conway
Millbury Public Library Millbury
Sargent Memorial Library Boxborough
Dighton Public Library Dighton
Town of Southborough Southborough
Scituate Town Library Scituate
Elizabeth Taber Library Marion
Whelden Memorial Library West Barnstable

Participating libraries receive training in how to lead conversations through an ALA e-course on basic facilitation skills; host at least one conversation (in-person or virtual) with community members on a chosen topic; and receive $3,000 to support community engagement efforts. Grant funds may cover a range of expenses, including staff time and collections and technology purchases.

You can read more about the project in this press release.

The JBPL Day After Christmas

By Patrick Marshall, Director of the Jonathan Bourne Public Library, Bourne, MA

The JBPL Day After Christmas (With apologies to Clement C. Moore)

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through Bourne

All the children were playing, while the parents were worn.

Paper wrappings and ribbons were scattered through the room;

While Mom sat there hoping someone would just grab a broom.

The teens were all playing X-Box on their beds;

Ignoring everyone for untold hours still ahead.

The little ones crying, not taking their naps;

How long were us parents to put up with this crap?

When at last we thought our sanity restored;

Here comes another child saying, “Mom! Dad! I’m bored”.

All of these toys, yet still nothing to do;

It just makes us want to cry, a hearty boo hoo.

I knew an idea was needed quite fast;

Something the family could do that’s a blast.

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

An item that gave me ideas perfectly clear.

My wonderful Bourne issued CLAMS Library Card;

With so many services, choices would be hard.

Whether home or away, so much from which to choose;

The library would have something to chase away the blues.

New music! New movies! New audios and eBooks!

Magazines, newspapers, one must not overlook.

Away to the website, bournelibrary.org

I hope there is a video of the Pianist Victor Borge.

As I call the family over, we’ll have so much to do;

When we do things together, we are quite a crew.

So into the living room, the children they flew;

With their library cards at the ready to try something new.

We started with Freegal to dance to the Eagles;

But then went to hOOPLA for Snoopy, the Beagle.

On the website we searched, and were surprised to have found;

Qello offered concerts like Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound.

Tumblebooks offered us so many kids’ games,

I knew that our family time would never be the same.

We then went to Mango to learn a new language,

A mouthful of cookies gave us a disadvantage.

We then took a look at the database Great Courses;

Our daughter was hoping to learn about horses.

And though there was nothing much along those lines,

I did find one called “Great Meals in Less Time”.

We then took a look at the database Kanopy;

For we heard it contained some great documentaries.

And then it was back to the Overdrive app,

To find a good book while the dog sat in my lap.

We managed to find the book “Elf on the Shelf”;

And I laughed when I saw it, in spite of myself.

All of these resources, it just blew my mind;

I couldn’t believe the library was such a great find.

To get a library card, it’s not that much work;

Why, there are even sources for the kid’s homework.

As I looked at all the options, my face all aglow;

I wished to tell everyone what I now know.

The library offers so much service from home;

No matter if you use Mac, Firefox or Google Chrome.

I’ll end it with this, for I know it’s airtight;

The JBPL resources are just plain out of sight.

The Community’s Security Blanket

By Deb O’Brien, Director of the New Marlborough Town Library

What started as a conversation regarding connectivity (or the lack thereof) in rural communities quickly morphed into a chat about the connection of small towns and their libraries serving as safe havens during trying times.

A little background: most of the sparsely inhabited but area-wise vast town of New Marlborough has quite poor or simply no internet access.  With the COVID-19 crisis forcing the closing of schools and children being schooled remotely, this situation poses huge problems for families especially if they have more than one child needing to connect to the internet.  Our Board of Selectmen very recently acquired three new hot-spots, one being the town library.  Paul Kissman from MBLC approached me to find out how things were going with our town’s reaction to our suddenly increased connectivity.  From there a conference call was set up between Paul and Celeste Bruno from the MBLC and me.

We discussed how the library parking lot is filled with cars lately, pretty much all of the time, with residents and others using our WiFi.  People are running extension cords from their vehicles to our electric outlets, some are setting up lawn chairs in the bed of their pickup trucks; even children are sitting in backseats of cars ostensibly trying to do their school work (and how many are playing games?).  The conversation came around to the importance, especially for children, to be able to sit at tables to do their work — how hard it is for our library staff (currently of one!) to sit back and not be able to help.  Here’s where the conversation took a turn.

Internet connectivity is one topic, but what matters more is the connectivity of my library to the people of my town, the role it serves as its center and the glue that binds so many of us in this far-flung community.  Our library (and I think libraries in general) are thought of as safe havens no matter what world or local events swirl around us.  We are the community’s security blanket.  Small rural libraries foster intimate relationships with their patrons, and it is mutual.  We share in their life celebrations,  we grieve their losses, and so many of us are bound together with them during emotional times.  During the unprecedented course of this pandemic it has been extremely difficult to sit back and watch patrons struggle, be it with children trying to do school work in the backseat of cars, folks wanting print materials or DVDs (no high speed Internet means no Netflix, no Amazon,  no streaming – period!), or just missing the comfort of coming in for a cup of tea or coffee and chatting.

I want to help my community!  Can we set up tables in the backyard (appropriately distanced and supervised) so the children could have a solid surface to write on?  Can we designate separate space in the library so families by appointment can use our rooms for work without coming in contact with each other?  The answers to all of these are no!

We have folks who walk by the library and knock on the window to wave to me and tell me how much they miss us; when I’m out walking for exercise, children and adults are shouting Hello and We miss you!  It is so frustrating to feel like we are failing our community when folks need us the most.

Just as I hung up from the conference call, the phone rang again.  It was a senior citizen who had just driven back from wintering in Florida.  The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hello, New Marlborough Library.”
Patron: “Oh Debbie, good, you’re there!”
Me: “Sorry, but we are closed to the public. “
Patron: “That’s okay, I just needed to know you were still there and now everything is right with my world.”

Connectivity is so much more than computers, our phones and all the other devices whose screens consume us.  When the world is out of sync, libraries are and will remain the one constant that people can always rely upon for comfort and security.