Making Adjustments to Keep Learning Going

Girls holding coding robots
Library users borrow the robots Dot and Dash to take home and learn to code with. Originally an in person program, the Porter Memorial Library in Blandford adjusted it in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MBLC’s Summer Learning grants began in 2019 as a way for public libraries to offer more out of school learning opportunities during one of their busiest times of year. The thirteen grant recipients for 2020 had some amazing plans for this summer that were derailed by the pandemic. After taking some time to figure out a plan B, these libraries used their grant to adapt to the new needs of their communities in a variety of thoughtful ways.

Libraries are a key provider for out of school learning. With so much of life is taking place virtually, there was a real desire for activities that were offline and hands-on. Randall Library in Stow reallocated grant funds to offer circulating educational backpacks. The backpack themes included music, math, reading readiness, and storytelling/sequencing. Caregivers mentioned how helpful the backpacks were in engaging young children in learning and the benefit of being able to provide something educational that does not require a lot of effort or creativity on their part. Supporting families’ efforts in providing educational experiences for early learners has become even more critical as the pandemic has continued.

With in-person gathering out of consideration, libraries had to rethink the hands-on programming they had originally intended to have. Porter Memorial Library in Blandford switched their planned robotics program into a circulating robotics collection. This allowed participants to have a week to learn coding with a robot. Feedback indicated the longer time frame with the robots results in a greater depth of understanding as well as strong intergenerational learning. It also provided the opportunity for participants who may not have been able to make a specific program time the ability to use the robots. This kind of flexible thinking allowed the community to continue to experience the benefits of the library from the comfort of their own home.

Many grant recipients moved their programming online. Library virtual programs provided important connections for members of their community. A library user at the Jones Library in Amherst shared “In the height of quarantine, your program gave my son something to look forward to. Time learning was something he has always been interested in and interacting with kids his age on the other end was a game changer for him. Your first meeting was the first time in weeks that I saw him smiling. This time is particularly hard on teens and tweens.” The value of social connections has become increasingly apparent during the pandemic. Libraries have continued to provide opportunities for connection, with particularly effort made to reach at-risk populations, such as teens.

With some creativity and a lot of commitment, this year’s grant recipients were able to provide a variety of learning opportunities that worked for their individual community. While summer looked a lot different this year, libraries helped provide a much-needed bright spot for those that needed it.

LSTA Grants: More Than Funding

By Rob Favini, Head of Library Advisory and Development at the MBLC

What do kids coding, a town’s 300th anniversary, a community garden, and engaging citizens in civic discussion have in common? They are all centerpieces of library programming in Massachusetts funded by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants administered by the MBLC. If you haven’t thought about applying for an LSTA grant, now may be the time!

The LSTA grant season has kicked off with the approval of the FY2021 grant round by the Board of Library Commissioners at their November meeting.  In addition to funding, LSTA grants have a positive impact on library staff, communities, and beyond. I’d like to point out just a few.

Prove a Concept: With limited resources it is difficult to engage in new programming. Having an outside funder takes a degree of risk away from a library when engaging in new programming, or services that serve new user populations. An LSTA grant is a great way to focus thinking around a programming idea, set schedules, and determine measures of success. The grant application process ensures that all aspects of the program are set before any spending happens. Successful grants are often used to demonstrate the need for continued support. It is not uncommon to see a popular LSTA grant become ongoing program funded by the municipality, friends group or other funding entity.

Staff Development:  Grants are a great source of outside funding, yet few libraries have the in house capability to identify and apply for them. An LSTA grant is an excellent way to build staff expertise in grant writing and execution. Applicants to the grant program will receive extensive training and consultation through the life of the grant. MBLC grant specialists work with grant recipients to ensure success.

Community Partnerships: Many LSTA grants serve as a catalyst for library engagement with community partners. LSTA grants have funded libraries to work with local historic commissions, social service providers, arts and cultural institutions, and schools. Programming with partners increases a library’s visibility and reach to their users. In many cases libraries build vital community relationships that last well beyond the life of a grant.

Tapping into the Latest Trends: Library programming is constantly changing. The MBLC staff is constantly introducing new grant programs designed to meet the ever evolving needs that libraries meet. Need some programming inspiration? Take a look at our grant offerings.

Promoting your library: Showcasing LSTA Grants are a great way to shine a light on your library. Publicizing LSTA grant programming shows your library at its innovative and creative best. In addition, highlighting the use of outside federal funding demonstrates your commitment to fiscal responsibility.To learn more about this year’s LSTA Direct Grant round visit: https://mblc.state.ma.us/programs-and-support/lsta-grants/application-index.php  Here you will find grant project fact sheets, timelines, application requirements, and FAQ.

Growing in the City

By Lyndsay Forbes, Project Manager and Grant Specialist at the MBLC

There has always been a long-standing interest in gardening and urban agriculture in Somerville but as the densest city in New England, space is at a premium. The City has helped a number of residents develop gardens through their Urban Agriculture ordinance, but many residents live in housing without any green space. While there are several community gardens, the waitlist can take around two years. Some residents have taken matters into their own hands with ‘guerilla gardening’, planting on any unused portion of public space without permission.

Seeing a need in their community, Somerville Public Library realized they could help. Using an LSTA grant from the MBLC, the Library developed a community gardening initiative that would be accessible, affordable, and hands-on for Somerville residents.

In early April, raised beds were installed by Green City Growers on the Library’s lawn in order to provide residents with opportunities to learn and practice gardening. Following the installation, the first gardening workshop was held. This workshop was part of a larger Arbor Day and Urban Gardening Festival at the Library that included kid’s gardening and environmental activities as well as tree planting with the Somerville Urban Forestry Division. The timing of the event also lined up with SustainaVille Week, Somerville’s annual celebration of sustainability and climate action.

The Library had Green City Growers provide several more workshops throughout the season. Topics included when and what to plant as well as how to maintain, fertilize, and harvest successful crops. Working in an actual garden gave people valuable and practical experience with what was growing at that time of year as well as guidance about what to do as the season progressed.

Gardening wasn’t just limited to the Main Library. While the West Branch is currently closed for renovation, Somerville’s East Branch had two container gardening systems. Not only was the branch able to provide gardening opportunities at its own location, but this type of small space demonstrated what you can accomplish even if you didn’t have your own outdoor space. The Library also encouraged gardening at home with their circulating gardening tool kits for youth.

Another key part of the project was showing people what to do with all those vegetables they grew. Knowing how to prepare and cook fresh produce can be a bit overwhelming if it’s something you’re not familiar with. The The Library worked with local caterer JJ Gonson, owner of Cuisine en Locale, who provided a series of cooking workshops focusing on how to prepare and preserve fresh, seasonal produce.

The response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive, both from the public and staff. With their new garden, Somerville Public Library has found a unique way to reach out to their community and grow more than just readers.

Sturgis Library: Preserving and Sharing Barnstable’s Rich Histories

By Evan Knight, Preservation Specialist at the MBLC

1. Lucy Loomis, Director of Sturgis Library, in front of Lothrop Bible (1605).

For ALA’s Preservation Week 2019, we are rolling-out a series called “People of Preservation,” highlighting the people taking care of interesting library collections across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The biggest driver of successful preservation and curation is having dedicated and knowledgeable staffs. This series is going to show why, while celebrating their successes!

I’m going to start off by highlighting some recent work by Lucy Loomis, Director of the Sturgis Library in Barnstable.

  • Barnstable Patriot and Register newspaper digital archives updated for 2019: Read about some of the collaborative work necessary to pull off digitization of nearly 200 years of Cape Cod history. The two papers cover Cape Cod and the Islands, with 20th century emphasis on the towns of Barnstable, Dennis, and Yarmouth.  The Patriot archive covers the years 1830 to 2017, and the Register covers the years 1836 to 2017. See more at Sturgis Library’s Newspaper Indexes.
  • Understanding history is a process, not an equation. A key part, in my opinion, in the process of better understanding history is being able to interact with the physical objects of the past. On a recent visit with Lucy, I learned the Sturgis Library held a strong collection of historic whaling volumes. With grant support from MBLC through IMLS/LSTA funds, selections from these primary source materials are going to be reproduced and shared with high school students in support of history curricula at Sturgis Charter Public School. (The grant category is called “First Contact.”)
  • It’s obvious there’s a great commitment by Lucy, staff, and the community to collect, preserve, and of course better understand the history of Barnstable. It’s a pleasure to have visited and learned more about their work. Here’s just three more examples (among many others, too!) that I’d like to share and celebrate:

 

Thanks for all your excellent work, Lucy!

Inspiration at Provincetown Public Library

By Evan Knight, Preservation Specialist at the MBLC

Nan and Amy

I had an inspiring visit to the Provincetown Public Library with Amy Raff, Director, and Nan Cinnater, Lead Librarian. If you visit the Library’s website, you’ll see they consider themselves “a cultural storytelling center,” and I couldn’t agree more. Some of the unique collections that help tell Provincetown’s story include:

  • Beautiful art on the walls: the art is actually part of the town’s collection but the Library beautifully showcases the area’s rich artistic heritage.
  • Historic and beautiful building, right in the center of town.

    The Rose Dorothea replica
  • There’s a half-scale replica of a schooner upstairs! The Rose Dorothea replica, dedicated in 1988, was built by Francis A. “Flyer” Santos and a team of volunteers as a “grand tribute to the fishermen of Provincetown and to New England’s shipbuilding tradition.” (N.B. Did you know that the New Bedford Whaling Museum also has a half-size whaling boat, the Lagoda?)
  • The Josephine C. Del Deo Heritage Archives, containing the records and photographs of Provincetown’s Heritage Museum.
  • Digital collections of Provincetown Newspapers and the ambitious and successful Provincetown History Project.

While in their climate-controlled storage area, I leafed through historic manuscript volumes from the early 1700s that seemed to be good potential candidates for LSTA-supported conservation treatment due to their acute condition issues, research value, and high artefactual value. When the name Peregrine White caught my eye, I was happy to learn from Amy and Nan something new, and thrilling: Peregrine White was born on the Mayflower in Provincetown Harbor in the winter of 1620 – the first English child born in the New World. What a story; what a piece of history.

We talked about other potential next steps to enhance the preservation of their unique collections, particularly the Heritage Museum’s Archives, including the potential for taking a more thorough inventory, rehousing fragile objects, and reformatting A/V materials. LSTA grants can potentially help.

I’ll finish with an inspiring quote I found outside their archives storage room engraved on a bronze sculpture:

Bronze by Romolo Del Deo

“…the process of preservation is never finished; it continues for the patient and the brave to address and resolve in each succeeding generation.”

The Watch at Peaked Hill – Josephine C. Del Deo

Here here.

Visiting Eastham and Reading Public Libraries: Town-Wide Preservation Assessments

By Evan Knight, Preservation Specialist at the MBLC

Since joining MBLC as Preservation Specialist last month, I quickly realized how important it is to get know the libraries, people, and collections that make our Commonwealth so culturally rich.

Much of my work here at MBLC is either project consulting (for annual LSTA direct grants) or general advisory services for collection management and risk assessment (e.g., water, fire, theft, intellectual control, light, temperature, humidity, pests, etc.).

So a few weeks ago, I reached out to Debra DeJonker-Berry, Director of Eastham Public Library, to learn more about her experiences leading recent projects in Eastham that related to both of those aspects of my work: an LSTA-funded Town-Wide Preservation Assessment and Collection Identification, and MBLC’s environmental monitoring program.

What a visit! She arranged a number of meetings around town with a couple of the local institutions who were a part of the Town-Wide grant, first with the volunteer staff of the Eastham Historical Society.

Gloria, Eileen, Sylvia (l-r), Eastham Historical Society
Debra DeJonker-Berry, Eastham Public Library

We talked about their continuing work to process their collections, best practices in the preservation of scrapbooks, and their digitization projects with Digital Commonwealth (and the challenges of preparing metadata), as we toured their Archives and storage spaces. The next visit was with the Town Clerk’s Office, who maintain and preserve some of Eastham’s oldest legal and historical documents (among many other responsibilities!). The public library plays a role in sharing and interpreting some of these old documents, the “ancient records” as they’re called, by providing electronic copies on CD and online. This is just another example, in the same spirit as the Town-Wide Assessment grant, of the collaborative vision Debra has for the Eastham Public Library. One of the greatest values of the Town-Wide project, as she put it, was having everyone at the same table talking about big-picture issues regarding their collections, now and for the future, together.

The Eastham Library, by the way, occupies a beautiful building, opened in 2016, that is worthy of a visit in its own right. We discussed their environmental monitoring report for their archives storage room, and although we didn’t find major concerns, they’re continuing to check their data every month to make sure the humidification system is working correctly.

Sue, Cindy, Linda (l-r), Eastham Town Clerk
Interior views, Eastham Public Library

Reading Public Library is another institution pursuing an LSTA-funded Town-Wide Preservation Assessment and Collection Identification, and wouldn’t you know it, they have a beautiful building too, recently renovated! Amy Lannon, Director, hosted me for a recent visit to get to know their collections and better familiarize myself with their goals in this project.

South façade panorama, Reading Public Library

The Reading Antiquarian Society, the Reading Historical Commission, and the Reading Town Clerk will all participate with the Public Library to analyze their collections and determine their preservation needs.

Amy, Eileen (l-r), Reading Public Library

On my visit, I also spent a lot of time looking at the collection and the storage area with Eileen, Local History Librarian, to talk about collection development policies, security, oversize maps, environmental monitoring, and what to expect in the Assessment process.

It was a great pleasure to visit all of these institutions, and I was happy to see the work that MBLC is helping to support. But what I like most is meeting the folks who manage the collections and do the day-to-day work to preserve the cultural heritage of the Commonwealth. Thank you!

Visiting Historic Collections in Worcester

By Evan Knight, MBLC Preservation Specialist

On December 10, 2018, MBLC Library Advisory Specialist Maura Deedy and I visited the Worcester Public Library to discuss their current LSTA preservation grant. While there, we met with Genealogy and Local History Librarian Joy Hennig, Public Services Coordinator Pingshen Chen, and Public Services Supervisor of e-Resources and Periodicals Priya Subramanian.

They pursued the LSTA grant as an opportunity to rehouse a significant portion of books from one of their oldest and most unique collections, the books of WPL founder Dr. John Green. The approximately 8,000 books were given to the library in 1859 and quite literally were the first collections WPL ever had. It was a great visit where we talked about how the project was going, how they are working to make the collection more accessible, and some of the continuing challenges and opportunities involved in longer-term issues like preservation, conservation, and digitization. They are looking forward to opportunities for engaging their community with these collections, online and in person, while also incrementally enhancing their level of preservation. It was a pleasure to get to know them and work together with them on this great project!

Joy and Pingshen Caption: WPL staff members Joy and Pingshen.
WPL staff members Joy and Pingshen

After working with WPL, we drove up the road to visit with Babette Gehnrich of the American Antiquarian Society, who graciously toured us around their building for the better part of the afternoon. For those who might not know, AAS was founded in 1812 and is a preeminent collection of early Americana (before 1876). Babette has been a leader in conservation and preservation for thirty years, so it was a treat to see some of her practices for housings and collections storage.

Babette in front of storage.
On our tour of AAS in one of their storage rooms

 

 

Boxes with photos on spine.
Among the many tips we learned for enclosures: take a photo of the object inside and adhere it on the box instead of a label, which you can see here

 

 

 

 

 

 

WPL and AAS are fantastic neighbors (they are less than 2 miles from each other!) and their collections are truly important components in the cultural heritage of Worcester.  Thanks to them and their great staff for offering MBLC an opportunity to learn more and help support some of their good works.

Reimagined Wellesley Branch Library Welcomes Librarians

By Shelley Quezada, Consultant to the Underserved at the MBLC

On October 29, 2018 staff from seven libraries that received  FY19 LSTA grants for Mind in the Making: Supporting Play Spaces in Libraries  convened for training in the beautiful repurposed Fells Branch of the Wellesley Public Library.  In addition to Wellesley, the communities of Bedford, Bourne,  Rutland, Shirley, Waltham and Shrewsbury  will spend this year expanding opportunities for young children to participate in creative play activities in the library as well as to build, problem solve, think critically and even embrace failure as they become more confident and engaged learners.  Under leadership of library director Jamie Jurgensen who applied for a LSTA grant, the library interior features  wood replicas of Wellesley’s  famous buildings as well as frescos of local flora and fauna that are both a delight to see and touch.

The Fells Branch, first opened in 1858 as a one-room schoolhouse, became a branch library in 1923 but recently has been used as a nursery school.  Now, thanks to the generosity of the Wellesley Free Library Foundation and the Wellesley Foundation, the newly painted and refurbished branch  opened  to the public on November 17. 

The LSTA training featured Alli Leake, Director of Education from the Discovery Museum in Acton who maintains a “Play Matters Blog” on the museum  website.  She invited librarians to engage in a play activity by cooperatively building structures with “found materials” which in this case were paper cups.    

Additional support was provided by Jessie Kravette of the Boston Children’s Museum who shared some of the many  BCM  resources  that support the importance of play.  

Participating librarians were excited to share some of the many  ideas they will be implementing over the course of the coming year as they create interactive play and flexible learning spaces in their own libraries.   

Chicopee Library is “Combining Good Ingredients”

The MBLC offers an innovative category among our LSTA grant options for libraries that have come up with a unique solution to address a community need. One of this year’s innovative grants is Chicopee Public Library’s “Combining Good Ingredients”.

Many Chicopee residents live with food insecurity, in poverty, and/or in poor health. The library was approached by several local organizations looking to partner with it to help solve these pressing issues. The library’s central location and frequent hours combined with mobile outreach via the Bookmobile make it a natural hub for the collaborative efforts of the various community groups that serve Chicopee in terms of food needs. Recognizing the need in the city and the impact they could have, the library applied for and received an innovative grant.

With their grant, Chicopee Public Library has offered numerous programs that educate and entertain in order to encourage healthy eating, gardening, and cooking. Programs offered included Mediterranean Cooking, Pollinators in your Garden, and Soup’s Up, an intergenerational story time. Focusing on programming is giving patrons the opportunity for hands-on learning and the ability to ask questions in the moment. It has opened the door of the library to residents who might not be readers or who do not want to take home books and videos.

The cooking and gardening programs have been the most popular, though attendees have been very enthusiastic about all that has been offered. Nearly all the participants said they learned something new and that they would make changes from what they learned. Plus, they plan on coming back for more programs!

The library has also found some unique ways to carry out the grant beyond programming. A very popular collection of food toys has been added to the children’s room. Parents mention that having story times with food have given them ideas about how to use food toys at home with their children. The traveling art exhibit “Food for Thought: The Origins of Massachusetts Foods and Why It Matters” from the Commonwealth Museum was on display in January. If anyone looking to donate some seeds, the Chicopee Public Library will be happy to add them to its new seed library. And coming later this summer will be a portable pizza garden!

Through the Bookmobile, the Library is reaching members of its community who could greatly benefit from this project and might not use the traditional brick and mortar building. In the coming months, Bookmobile stops will include a pop-up food pantry with Lorraine’s Food Pantry. Additionally, ChicopeeFRESH (a grant funded farm to school program) will distribute fresh vegetables at Bookmobile stops during the summer months.

With this project, the library is trying to be part of the solution by offering opportunities and resources that allow Chicopee residents to make better and smarter choices. Through strong partnerships, hands-on learning, and targeted outreach, Chicopee Public Library shows what an innovative force in the community looks like.

The Age of Enlightenment in Bellingham

By Shelley Quezada, Consultant to the Underserved

For a number of months last year, residents of Bellingham were invited to participate in an array of programs for all ages that focused on environmental literacy including alternative energy  recycling and water resources. From March through September 2017 the Bellingham library carried out a series called Enlighten Bellingham” to engage community members in meaningful science and technology experiences. The Bellingham Public Library was one of three Massachusetts libraries chosen as a pilot library for a project funded with federal funds coordinated by the Maine State Library, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and Cornerstones of Science, a Maine nonprofit. The goal was to create a field-tested, replicable science literacy method that would enable designated public libraries to become skilled STEM facilitators.

Programs included information on upcyclying, using plastic bags to crochet, and the why and how of solar panels.  One of the most  exciting events was an Electric Car Show conducted with support from the New England Electric Auto Association.  Members of the audience engaged  presenters by asking relevant  questions and showing a real interest in how new technology  might be of benefit in the future.  Later this year the library will host a second electric car show and invite partners who presented in last year’s series on solar, water, and recycling as part of a final day long open house.

As part of this initiative the library  held a Build a Better World Science Fair to conclude the popular summer reading program.  They also subscribed to a program called Tinker Crates and Kiwi Crates.  Each month the library receives  two  STEM kits  and uses them as the basis for programming that kids can  share with another person  and work through the challenge of creative problem solving.   The Kiwi Crate programs teach kids to “think big” and act like creators and producers instead of just consumers.  Thus kids gain confidence and don’t assume there is only one “right way” to build with blocks, paint a picture or solve a problem.  Bellingham  kids have made robots, kaleidoscopes, waterwheels, and a variety of other very cool STEM projects.  Parents are thrilled that the library offers these kits and the goal of engaging the whole community in an enlightening experience with science continues to be supported. For more information about these programs please contact library director, Bernadette Rivard. brivard@bellinghamma.org