Wednesday, December 31, 2014

We set out to form a team - and along the way changed some attitudes

Any workshop or class that teaches the writing of goals and objectives should stress the difference between knowledge, skills and attitudinal objectives.  It was taught to me as K|S|A objectives.  To break it down using library speak, (i.e. Dewey Decimal), knowledge is teaching someone WHAT Dewey Decimal is.

 So, a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time lined - or however you define it) knowledge objective could be:
  • At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to define the Dewey Decimal System and three benefits achieved by using it.
That's pretty easy to accomplish.  You give a workshop, and spell out the benefits, and hope that everyone catches and retains at least three of them.

A "skills" objective can then be written about the same thing.
  • At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to successfully place ten items in their proper Dewey order on the shelves.
Skills objectives are the easiest to measure.  Either the people can achieve them, or they cannot.

Attitudinal objectives are a whole other matter.  You can teach all the knowledge and skills you want, but unless the participant WANTS to use that knowledge, and those skills there is not much you can do about it.
  • At the end of this workshop, participants will demonstrate and embrace the value of the Dewey Decimal system by consistently and accurately shelving all items on a daily basis
When people have sufficient knowledge and skills to perform a function, the hope is that a positive attitude will come along with it.  Attitude is also about motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic).

This was the place we found ourselves in a little over a year ago with the beginning of the Cluster model.  I had a number of carefully thought out objectives about working together, sharing skills and creative outreach.  Most important of all was the idea that we would become one team melded from six individual units.  But, unless there was "buy-in", or a change in attitude, we would go nowhere.

Having long ago learned about the pitfalls of "attitudinal" objectives, I did not include any in my initial plans.  Mostly I concentrated on team building, and hoped that everything else would grow from that.  And, it has!  Monthly, all-staff cluster meetings have gone from arms-crossed-suspicion-in-the-eyes quietness to raucous, out-spoken and ideas freely flowing.   Familiarity with other staff and the buildings they work in has created a  more cooperative atmosphere and a we-can attitude much more often than one of we-can't.  It's not 100%.  We are not perfect.  However, there is a noticeable difference.

For more information about K|S|A and Blooms Taxonomy:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One Year Anniversary and a Social Worker

On Thursday, October 2, 2014, The North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries had their one year anniversary as a cluster meeting.  There were significant differences between this meeting and the one we had one year ago.

Most significant, are the interactions between all of the staff.  It is friendly, loud and full of camaraderie.  A year ago, most of the staff were suspicious of the whole idea of being in a cluster.  Now that they know the reality of it, and have attended a year's worth of meetings, most are unafraid of offering opinions and more importantly, ideas.  We are operating in a try-hard-to-say-yes to every idea that come forward.

Another difference is that now the hosting library plans most of the agenda of each meeting.  I have become an agenda item, rather than the driver of the entire meeting.  At this particular meeting, I handed out a quiz similar to this:  First I had everyone work on it alone, then with their friends, then mixed the room so they were working with people they did not know as well.  We discussed how it is sometimes better to go outside of your comfort zone in order to get the answers you need.

The meeting was held at Ramonita deRodriguez Library, and at the librarian's request, Charles Pitts, the Social Worker now stationed at Central Library, came to the meeting.  Charles, and another social worker, Michael Raab, are on loan to the Free Library from Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health.  Charles relayed a little of what it is they are doing at the library, and their plans to propose suggestions for models of cooperation between the two departments in the future.

Charles was then met with a tsunami of worries and concerns about the types of social issues library staff are forced to confront every day.  He listened carefully and empathized.  Occasionally, when it was possible offered advice.  Mostly, people were able to vent some of the pent up frustrations they have been feeling about this aspect of the work day.

Our plan is to try to invite Charles or Michael to our Cluster Meetings every other month, or so, and to have one targeted topic to address at that time.

Social Work in the Libraries

The following was written by Ann Dougherty, Childrens' Librarian, at Kensington Neighborhood Library.

Lauren Carrasquillo, our work/study social work intern, has made a big impact on our library community in the few short weeks she has been working with us at Kensington. Lauren, who is currently studying Social Work at Temple University, has been able to help several of our patrons deal with problems in their lives that threaten to overwhelm them. Her skill sets from Temple University have allowed her to successfully serve those seeking better housing, those who are hunting for jobs, and veterans.   Lauren works at the Kensington branch every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:00 PM to 5:45 PM. She holds court in the computer lab, where she meets with patrons in half hour increments. Lauren has only been on the job for two weeks, and in that short time span she has helped a single mother search for housing for herself and her child, helped a grandmother who had custody of her grandson search for a better living arrangement, and helped a veteran with job-hunting strategies. Marcela, the branch manager, and I see Lauren’s role as a logical extension of our mandate to provide timely community information and referral services to our patrons.

Several librarians in our cluster feel it would be helpful to have a social worker or a social work intern rotate among the North Philadelphia cluster libraries to help patrons connect with services in the community, such as SNAP, housing, resume writing, obtaining warm clothing and services for veterans.

“When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you.”—Keith Richards

Monday, August 18, 2014

Planning for the next year

For a variety of reasons, those of us involved in the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Cluster have been continuing on in our work without too much thought to re-examining what it is we are doing.  It feels right to me to do that work now.  We are finishing our first full year of operating in this new way at the end of September.  Should we continue on doing the same?  Should some things be tweaked, changed, added, or thrown out completely?

Two very specific, but unrelated, events happened in the last week that were the catalyst to this.  One, I was given the metric by which the success of the cluster would be measured.  Two, I attended a very helpful Project Planning seminar that provided an excellent tool for future planning.

With this in mind, I created a SurveyMonkey and sent it to all of the cluster staff, with the promise of a drawing for a prize for thoughtful answers.  (I'm a firm believer in incentives.)  I will use the responses from the staff to work with the library managers, and others in the cluster to create a plan of work for the next year.

I then thought it would be interesting to get input from those people who are outside of the cluster, but, apparently, have been following this blog.  The link below will take you to a copy of the same survey the cluster staff are being encouraged to complete.  Some of it may not be relevant to an "outsider." But, I am still interested to see what you have to say.

Thank you for your interest, and your input.  (Please do not respond to this link if you are a NPNL cluster staff member.  Staff members should use the link in the email I sent.)

Marion and the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Cluster

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sharing Programs

One of our early goals in the cluster branches was to do skill sharing, and have librarians, and other staff take their talents on the road.  The following was written by Marcela Franco, from Kensington Library about her experience of doing program at another library and the unexpected added benefits.

"After Marion asked us to take one of our successful programs to other branches, I volunteered to do a series of three classes in beginner Spanish at another branch. Christina from Widener invited me to do the series at Widener, and offered to do a Career Services Workshops at Kensington in August 2014.

My friend Hilda Bravo and I taught the classes on three Tuesday mornings in July. We had just a few students, but they were motivated and bright! Topics included greetings, numbers, colors and the verbs ser and estar.

The classes were fun, as I expected. We also got the opportunity to use a smart board for the first time, which really enhanced the experience for the teachers as well as the students. Another benefit was that I became more familiar with the Widener Branch and the staff.  In fact, it started to feel like my home away from home. When Prather, the branch manager, asked for staffing help at a branch head meeting, I gladly offered to go. On the day I filled in, I had another good day at Widener. The staff was friendly, the patrons were exceptionally polite, and I got to know Prather much better.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience and got a lot out of it. I look forward to Christina's program at Kensington Library later this month."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Cluster in the community

This post is written and submitted by Judi Moore, Manager at McPherson Square Library. 

At one of the first cluster library managers meetings we set about to determine what our goals should be for this grand cluster experiment.  We quickly determined that one of the most important things to all of us was community involvement.  With that in mind, we decided to reach out to other community groups by hosting a series of meetings.  They were invited to have lunch with us.  At the first lunch/meeting we filled the meeting room at Cecil B. Moore library.  Our goal had been to learn what the community wanted from us and how the community could support us.  However, it turned out that the impact of the gathering was broader than we’d expected.  Not only did the participants focus on their relationship with the cluster libraries, but they also began brainstorming on what they could do with one another.  After the meeting I saw people talking excitedly.  I overheard, “I didn’t know you did that!” and “I could help you with that.”  There was a real buzz in the room.
 Our second community meeting was at the Rodriguez library.  For this meeting we broke into small groups to brainstorm.  In my group a SEPTA transit police officer was interested in what he could do to help the Kensington and McPherson libraries, since we are along the El corridor.  He has since been in contact with me, and has sent some of his officers in to sign our log book.  I had no idea the transit police would be interested in problems we have here in McPherson Square Park.  Another man in our small group was a community artist.  He was interested in more art programs in libraries.  He was amazed and delighted to learn about the Maker programs going on at McPherson and Kensington libraries.  Marcela told him about the 3D printer project at Kensington, and I talked about the etextiles and our trashbag fashion show.  At the beginning of our meeting he was clearly disgruntled and on a mission to demand more arts programming.  By the end  of our breakout session his negative attitude had thoroughly turned around to great enthusiasm. 

We’re planning another cluster community meeting soon, and I’m looking forward to meeting more people and learning about what they are doing in the community, and how we can work together.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Book It! Fun Run - the First North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Fund Raiser

A few months ago, the idea was presented to me to  have a 5k run to raise grassroots money for the branches of the cluster.  It sounded like a good idea, so I gave the go ahead to start planning.  Permits were obtained, and the way was cleared with all of the appropriate Free Library departments.  The event occurred on June 7, 2014.  It was actually 6k.  We started behind Widener Library at 28th and Lehigh, ran/walked on the sidewalks to 6th and Lehigh.  Then, we crossed over and ran the steps of Lillian Marrero Library Rocky Style and then back up Lehigh Avenue to Widener branch again, where the after-party was taking place.

The weather was perfect for a June day in Philadelphia.  The planners hoped for 50 runners (yes that is small).  Approximately 85 people actually showed up to run.  Preliminary accounting says about $2,000 was raised in registration fees and donations.  The funds will be used for some of the extra supplies that are not covered by city and state funds.  That is a huge benefit for all six of the branches.

Below are some photos from the day.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A description of the neighborhood

It seems to me I have been negligent in my duties as a blogger to have not given a good description of the neighborhood where all of this good work is taking place.

The North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Cluster consists of the six public libraries that are located within the boundaries of the Schuylkill River on the west, Allegheny Avenue to Glenwood Avenue to the north, Frankford Avenue on the east and just south of Girard Avenue to the south.   The zip codes served by these libraries are:  19132, 19133, 19121, 19122, 19134.  In these zip codes, according to Pew's State of the City Report for 2013, 47.96% of the residents live below the federal poverty line.

Unemployment in the zip codes averages 11.49% which is significantly higher than the January 2014 national level of 6.7%.  Home values have depreciated.  Fewer than 70% of the students who enter Kindergarten obtain a high school diploma. Literacy at all ages is low.  The digital divide is wide and deep.

Most of this information used here came from Pew Charitable Trusts: State of the City - Philadelphia 2013.

There are also lots of good works going on in these neighborhoods.  The Honickman Center (Project Home), Congreso, Impact Services, and Philly Rising are just a few of the groups working alongside the libraries to improve the literacy and the lives of the residents of those living there.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What do you do, and how can we help?

I am still being asked how the work we are doing is different from what library service areas have always done in the past.  Recently, I came across a couple of quotations in my notes from the Harwood Institute training, and realized they describe the situation perfectly.

If you take the first quote, "Here is what we have, and how would you like to use it?" and put it at one end of a continuum, you have, in varying degrees, a fairly typical  description of what libraries have been saying to schools, day care centers, senior centers, and other organizations for a long time.  We do outreach, and do book talks and speak about databases and ebooks and all of the other wonderful resources they could have access to either in the buildings, or electronically.  There is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! It's our message.

On the other end of the continuum, is the second quote.  "What do you do, and how can we help?"  It's a much different message.  It sums up what embedded librarianship is.  Embedded librarianship, according to many is the way of the future.

In the work of the cluster, we have been moving, albeit slowly, from the first quote towards the second.  It is less about "come see us" and more about let us come to you (either literally or figuratively).

We are actively involved with the North Philadelphia Community Science Network with the Franklin Institute and other local organization. And, we are in the process of building a collaborative working relationship with Temple University Libraries.  Relationships with a number of other community organizations are being strengthened or formed.  All of this in addition with our traditional relationships with schools, etc.

It is subtle, but it is a change.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Computer access in the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries.

This is another post written by Rebekah Ray from Lillian Marrero Library.  Rebekah worked with a group of LA's and Librarians from the cluster libraries to come up with these guidelines.  The goal is to have consistent standards across all six libraries.  The staff at LMB and KEN labs will set their own less restrictive guidelines for use. Please remember that these guidelines are what we have determined are best for our communities. Your community may have different needs.

The computers at our libraries are heavily used, and recognized as a valuable community asset.  Our staff is sometimes stressed by the need to provide maximum fair access to the computers.  In the interest of offering the best possible customer service to the people who use all of our libraries, the staff of the Free Library/ North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries have come up with the following plan:

“Computer access plan”:
All people desiring use of the Public Access Computers will have either a Free Library Card OR Out of state picture ID.
Clear instructions for using the PC RES station will be posted, and individual instruction also offered by any staff so that customers can access PC RES independently.  It would be useful to have standard instructions for PC RES signup and also for printing.
All Philadelphia/Pennsylvania residents are entitled to a FLP library card.  If a previous lost card has outstanding bills on it, the customer will apply for a new card with ID, and that card will be blocked, so it is for computer use only.  If the customer has ID that is inadequate per AG, including children, a blocked card will be created.   A note indicating the customer has a replacement card, or card created with limited id will be placed in the record.  After one replacement card, a standard replacement fee of $1. will be charged and indicated in the notes.   Children, teens, and some adults will be offered the option of keeping their cards on file at the circulation desk.  We want to encourage all customers to use and value their library cards: “Don’t leave home without it”.

Out of state visitors will present their photo id to any staff with access to PCRES.  The staff member will enter the last name and as much of first name as possible.  

The "Welcome Kit" committee

This blog post was written by Rebekah Ray, Library Manager at Lillian Marrero Library regarding our attempts to make it easier to move between the cluster libraries when necessary.

In early discussions about how the cluster model might enhance our work in North Philadelphia, we talked about the goal of moving between our libraries more effectively, and with more enjoyment.   We already shared staff to keep our libraries open, and we wanted to make this experience less stressful, and even fun.  We also wanted to encourage sharing the talent of our library workers among the neighborhood libraries.  We formed a committee to explore how to better define this goal, and then how to make it happen.
The committee is called “The Welcome Kit” committee.  At our first meeting, and in follow-up discussions, this is what we came up with:

The welcome Kit for each Neighborhood Library will include:
  • A floor plan map with location of materials.
  • A job description for visiting staff by job category.
  • A list of recommended nearby food vendors.
  • A supply of coffee/tea/sweetener/milk and canned soup and other long keep snacks maintained by the local staff, with an invitation to use them.
The schedule of activities and plans for the day will be updated and displayed, and part of the orientation.

Visiting staff will be welcomed and oriented by the person who meets them first, or that person will introduce the visiting staff to the person who will orient if they are urgently occupied.  It is the responsibility of all staff to welcome visiting staff.

At the Cluster meeting where this plan was presented, staff commented how important it is to be welcomed and oriented, and know what is expected, and where things are located.  Because staff have gotten better acquainted at our monthly cluster meetings, when we need to go to another cluster library, we are not only seeing familiar people, but we are better able to help our customers because we know where things are.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Impressions of the Cluster from within

Last week I was working on a proposal to present at a conference, and sent an email to all the cluster librarians asking for insights.  It didn't matter if it was a word, a sentence, or a paragraph.  In response I received the following very thoughtful and insightful response from the librarian at Widener Library, Christina.  It needs no other explanation.

Team Building-  I think that the monthly staff meetings encourage team building on across our individual branches and the cluster. In these meetings, I often find myself talking to a librarian sitting nearby. These starter conversations usually lead to a good idea about cross branch programming and resources for our communities. Once the fire is lit, we can flesh out the details electronically via email. For example, Chera, Mieka and I were discussing that the kindergarten registration programs are great for the cluster. We agreed that a program was needed for 7th graders to decide on their high school choice. Chera did the leg work to contact a representative from a local organization. I believe he attended the last cluster meeting and that we intend to each host a workshop at our respective branches (MPS, LMB and WID). Also, the cluster meetings bring together employees of job classes within the cluster and allow an open forum for discussion of policies and procedures. The meetings also serve to ensure that all branches within the cluster are offering consistent, excellent service to our communities.

Community Collaboration- There are always organizations who’d like to collaborate with us. Often, budget is the greatest barrier. Many of our local organizations are non-profits and have limited resources. Many, if not all, of our cluster branches do not have Friends’ Groups to fund supplementary programming and supplies. We rely heavily on grassroots money from the sale of flash drives/Books-To-Go/donations and TOPSS programming, which is given to us based on either a first come first serve model or a geographic model. A steady funding stream through the cluster via fundraising/targeted grant writing will allow us to bring free, innovative programming to our communities that they do not have access to currently. Another barrier is technological devices. STEM programming often requires the host site to provide the tech needed for the program. Some of our branches have labs, iPads and smartboards. However, I’d like to see a laptop cart for the cluster which will allow each branch to host a variety of STEM workshops including computer coding, video game coding, forensic science and architecture.

Shifting Duties and Responsibilities- I don’t see a shift in my job duties, per se. I have always tried to maintain a balance between reference, outreach and programming. However, juggling three duties can sometimes mean that one is falling through the cracks. The cluster model helps me plan accordingly both individually and collaboratively.  In order to balance the workload of the duties and responsibilities, my supervisor and I have weekly meetings during which we discuss outreach/programs/staffing/meetings/anything that is relevant to the daily operation of the branch. We try to ensure that at least one of us is in the building while the other is conducting  outreach into the community. We have created a list of targeted groups that we’d like to connect with in our zip code and will begin to do in the near future. This list includes seniors, children with learning disabilities, mental health organizations, new moms, 55+ job seekers, and incarcerated individuals among others.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 2014 Cluster Meeting - Let's Have Some Fun

Thursday, March 6, 2014, was our sixth all-cluster meeting.  Technically speaking it was the last meeting of the "pilot."  By all indications, the pilot was a success, and we will be moving forward as an official cluster.

We started the meeting, as always, with introductions and other news and items that needed to be shared, including an update on the Mango Languages contest.  We found that several of the staff ran into a snag with the Mango Languages contest.  Mango requires the use of a microphone connected to the PC.  Since none of the library's PC's have them, several people tried to start and could not get past the first lesson.  In order to solve this, we have ordered two headsets with built in microphones for each library.  I have "swag" from Mango Languages that will be used for prizes once people get underway with their language-learning.

This meeting was the first of the six that I "allowed" an "outsider" to come in to present a topic.  I really felt it was important for the staff to become a more cohesive unit before I honored any requests for observation or time on the agenda.  In this case, it was Sarah Levin-Lederer, from TOPSS, who is the Library Project Coordinator facilitating the partnership between FLP and the  Philadelphia Department of Public Health..  This was the first presentation of DPW's Dispense Assist training.  We all learned about how the library might be asked to help in the event of the city's needing to distribute some sort of vaccine and medication to all of it's citizens in a very short period of time.  (Let's hope we never need to use it.)  

The third portion of the agenda was planned by the cluster's "Fun" committee.  At their suggestion, we arranged to have "Trivia with Bob."  The staff from each library played as a team.  We did two rounds of questions with a few shout-out type questions between.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.  Our thanks to Bob Rubenstein for coming out to do this.  

Finally, I decided to get another "barometer" reading by having staff weigh-in using stickers on a target.  It seems we are really hitting the mark with the monthly meetings.

More to come soon.

Friday, February 28, 2014

February 2014 Cluster Meeting

February's meeting was held at the Widener Library.  Most of the staff from all of the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries were in attendance.  I find that there is very little absenteeism at these meetings.  I'm going to be optimistic and believe that is because everyone sees the value in the meetings.  I actually have a small indicator that this is the case.  I put a "target" and some stickers up at the December meeting and asked about the value of the meetings, as well as the level of the morale of the staff.  There was a small response that indicated some enthusiasm, but nothing dramatic.  In February, I brought the same "target" back to the meeting, with different stickers, so we could differentiate December's feedback from February's.  There was a slight increase in the number of respondents.  And, it warmed my heart to see that the folks responding did feel the meetings are improving the morale in cluster.  There also was general agreement that the monthly meetings are helpful.  Here is a photo of the targets.

We have two committees made up of representatives from each of the six branches.  One is looking to standardize, as much as possible, things like PC use.  It has taken some compromise, but we believe we have a workable solution to the chronic I-would-like-a-guest-pass patron.  In a future post, I will have an image of the sign that is being created to post at each of the six libraries.  This committee is also looking to have a Welcome Kit, of sorts, at each branch.  In this way, visiting staff will have one place to look for information about the layout of the branch, particular issues that may crop up, and where the best places to get lunch may be.

The other committee, is the Fun Committee.  They presented their ideas at the February meeting.  Things like ugly sweater days, and contests were discussed.  At the March meeting we will be having a very short session of "Trivia with Bob." 

At one of our earlier meetings two separate suggestions came up.  One, was a request for another contest similar to the gadget contest that Jamie Wilson ran in the fall.  Another was a suggestion that it would be a good idea if we had more Spanish speaking staff.  I took those two ideas and mashed them together.  

I announced a North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries Mango Languages contest.  More than half of the group indicated interest in this.  I'm anxious to see how many actually are doing it.  In this first month, I've requested that each person participating take a screen shot of the Mango Languages page that shows how many lessons you have completed, and email it to me.  There will be some prizes for lessons completed, etc.
It will be an interesting experiment.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A word about this blog.


If you are reading this because you are curious about the formation of the first cluster of the Free Library of Philadelphia, I suggest you start at the bottom with the posts from December 2013.  This really a chronological account of events from the first meetings to discuss what a cluster should be to the current time.

The cluster, and the blog are both works in progress.  We're still not really sure where we are going, but we are finding our way and continue to discuss the directions we should be taking.  Also, the blog was written primarily for co-workers at the Free Library so they can follow along with the progress.  There has been much curiosity and speculation about our process.  So, I apologize if language is used that is not familiar to anyone outside of the Free Library.

With all of that being said, I hope you learn something about us.  And, I hope you enjoy the posts.

Leader of the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries  (The Cluster)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Community Council and Public Innovation

As mentioned in the "Public Innovation and the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries" post, we have been using some of the methods developed by the Harwood Institute to gather public knowledge about the communities we serving.  This is a very basic and elementary start to the process.

As a beginning exercise (ragged start activity) at the first NPNL Community Council, I distributed Harwood Institute community questionnaires.  Not everyone completed one, but for the folks that did, I think there is some valuable and useful information.  Below is a compilation of that questionnaire. As we gather more information, we will begin to look at the information gathered, and try to tailor our services in a way that can bring about a transformation in the community, however small.

“Community” Survey – Seven respondents
       What kind of community do you want to live in?
           There were two general themes to this question plus a specific mention of the library.
1.       Resources to “uplift and educate the community.”
·         Social Capital that can build and equip its residents
2.       Safety
·         Fewer bars and stop-n-go’s.  More sit-down restaurants, bakeries and fresh foods
·         People know and look out for each other
·         A place where children and teens have constructive outlets and learn to give back to their community
·         Economic stability
3.       Library – to be open and clean and demonstrate via its looks they care about our community.
2.       Why is that important to you?
·         Several people mentioned they live in the area and have a vested interest.  They want a suitable environment for future residents.  Two people mentioned a dramatic negative change in their community in recent years.
3.       How is that different from how you see things now?
·         One person sees growth, but feels the community on a whole is “being pushed out of the process by lack of communication”
·         Another sees people keeping to themselves and not getting involved in community affairs.
·         Violence, ignorance and no literacy are factors.
4.       What are some of the things that need to happen to create that kind of change?
·         Communication, inclusion, equity, respect, tolerance
·         Great leaders, real programs (not a lot of lip service)
·         Resources allocated to support local organizations that focus on neighborhood/community empowerment.  And, have a record of success and commitment
·         Computer classes, job search classes, math club or classes
**Tomorrow’s engineers and technicians need math & science, AND library help!
·         More community meetings and events to draw attention to problems and solutions
·         Matching funds participation from many of the different business and corporations
·         Individuals (grass roots advocates), community based organizations should, on a continuum meet/leverage resources

Outreach in the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries

Contrary to popular belief, librarians do not sit at their desks all day. Along with our various job duties (computer assistant, information retriever, social worker, therapist, mediator, etc.), we are tasked with going out into our communities. Outreach allows us to promote programs/services offered by the Free Library to new audiences and connect our existing patrons to community resources. A majority of our outreach takes place in our neighborhood schools; we supplement teaching curricula with story times, project assistance, information literacy, book talks and more. Furthermore, we also conduct outreach in non-academic settings, including churches, non-profits, businesses and other community organizations. Although we face several obstacles (inadequate staffing, building issues, limited financial resources), we are an impassioned group of librarians seeking to create partnerships and serve as the bridge between our community and our neighborhood organizations.

At the Widener Neighborhood Library, several ongoing programs are a direct result of extensive outreach. Our weekly GED class, which will begin again in February, came about after the instructor picked up a branch business card at an outreach event. Quarterly business programs from Temple University’s Small Business Development Center began I stopped by their office and asked if they present offsite workshops. Our Children's Librarian conducts weekly storytimes that have grown exponentially due to her persistent visits to each daycare provider in our area. Even our patrons assist us with spreading library information throughout the community by sharing our flyers. Attending community meetings also benefitted outreach efforts tremendously because we are able to connect with new individuals/groups, such as the 22nd Police District and Philly 311.

The Kensington Neighborhood Library provides extensive outreach to its community through El Centro High School and the East Kensington Neighborhood Association. Interns from El Centro completed projects at the branch and invited the Adult Librarian to their final presentations. The East Kensington Neighborhood Association provided an opportunity to share the library’s events and network with other organizations. The librarians also identified a local Vietnamese population and are in the process of coordinating outreach events for these individuals.

Lillian Marrero Neighborhood Library works closely with Congreso, especially around adult education issues, and its PANAM Charter School. Ms. Diana Garcia, the assistant principal, invited the adult and children’s librarian to visit the school, have a tour and participate in the Literary Parade on October 31. Since that event, they have received over 300 library card applications from the PANAM students and scheduled visits to the library with each of the classes. The Teen Librarian is currently hosting college prep every Monday from 1/6/2014 thru 2/24/2014 from 4:00 to 5:30pm. She also made contact with organizations such as BUSCA, Temple and I-LEAD by attending a network session sponsored by PCPR, after attending an introductory outreach session with a fellow librarian.

These examples mentioned represent a small percentage of the awesome outreach provided by the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries. We look forward continuing outreach and creating new partnerships within our communities.

-Christina P. (Adult/Teen Librarian at the Widener Neighborhood Library)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

North Philly Cluster Training: Bringing in 2014 with a bang! …and a click! …and a snap!

On January 2, over thirty Free Library staff members from the North Philadelphia Cluster participated in maker training, at the Kensington Library. Kensington is one of four neighborhood libraries (along with Lillian Marrero, Cecil B. Moore and Widener) that are participating in Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant-funded “Maker Jawn: Design It * Make It * Share it” programming. The goal of the Maker Jawn crew is to mentor youth as they articulate their interests through the lens of technology.

Maker Mentors are library staff, students, engineers and artists who lead daily sessions with young makers, across North Philly. The training was facilitated by Branch Manager, Rebekah Ray, Programming Specialists (K-Fai Steele, Barbara Tait and Khaleef Aye) and Maker Mentors (Brittany Walker and Amanda Suarez). The outcomes have been quite interesting! At Kensington, kids have created an entire arcade of games using nothing but cardboard. Youth from the Cecil B. Moore Library created 3d-LED snowflakes for decoration of the children’s department. Widener youth made characters using squishy circuits (PlayDoh with LEDs and batteries). At Lillian Marrero, kids have learned to edit photos using a green screen and free online software like PIXLR.

One positive outcome from all of this is the community building and strengthening that takes place when the rest of the Library staff gets involved (as seen below). These moments serve as opportunities for youth empowerment, intergenerational learning, skills sharing and positive youth development.

So, in an effort to demystify what it means to be a maker in a library environment, introduce cluster staff to some really cool and inexpensive technology, and have some serious FUN, some of the Maker Jawn crew hosted stations that consisted of some of the more popular maker activities. From PlayDoh to LEDs, everyone was able to get their hands on the tools that are being used throughout the cluster. Here are some highlights:
                   Lillian Marrero Branch Manager, Rebekah Ray
                   leads an e-textiles station where staff was invited to 
                   bring items that they “lit up” by sewing in batteries and LEDs.

                    K-Fai demonstrates the Makey Makey, a
                    device that allows the user to use conductive
                    items (such as PlayDoh, fruit, and even
                    themselves) as a controller.
                   Staff took photos in front of a Green Screen and edited
                   them using the free online software PIXLR.
                   Cluster staff learns to make their own video
                   games, online. Game making has become a great
                   way for kids and teens to explore creativity and strengthen
                   their strategizing and problem solving skills.
Are you interested in doing some of this? Here are some links to FREE resources that were used, as well as additional information about the Maker Jawn movement: - additional information regarding the Free Library’s Maker Jawn project - MIT’s scratch piano, an online music creation program that’s used with the Makey Makey –online photo editing software –online game creation website –online game creation website –online video software – great site for e-textile project ideas

Have Fun!
The Maker Jawn Team

The First Community Council Meeting

I had a lot of anxiety going into this meeting.  I was worried that either too many people would show up, or that no one would show up.  Cecil B. Moore's meeting room is not that large, and too large of a crowd would have been uncomfortable for everyone.  All six of the North Philadelphia Neighborhood Library Managers were very diligent about distributing the invitation.  We had RSVP's from close to 50 people from various organizations, large and small.  Fortunately, in regards to space, not everyone came.  We had approximately 30 people from a variety of groups.

Each attendee was given a sign-in sheet which asked for complete contact information.  It also provided space for comments in response to two questions.  The following are the responses, with an indication of the organization the respondent was representing.

  1. Which Free Library of Philadelphia services could assist my organization or enhance my community.
a.      Materials
                                                              i.      More Spanish materials (Providence Center)
b.      Space
                                                              i.      Hosting meetings (Philly Rising)
                                                            ii.      Portable board in the vestibule for current events ( Falomi)
                                                          iii.      Meeting space to conduct character building workshops (Sturdivant)
c.       Hours
                                                              i.      Saturday Hours ( Falomi Club)
d.      Program
                                                              i.      Job Readiness, Literacy, after school, STEM (Philly Rising) 
e.      Computers
                                                              i.      Any/all computer access and training services. Specifically for job preparation (Philly Rising)
f.        Outreach/Partnership
                                                              i.      Book or topic talks @ summer day camps or Wed. night youth groups (Philly Open Air Church)
                                                            ii.      Attend Final Friday Community Dinners 
                                                          iii.      Networking opportunities to leverage the services we provide (Sturdivant)
                                                           iv.      Libraries host Intro to Jazz Workshops – free concerts (Philadelphia Jazz Project)
                                                             v.      Help to get word out about Clarifi (Clarifi.)

  1. 2.  Comments
a.      Libraries across the city have been terrific partner for these services and we hope to expand to more (PhillyRising)
b.      Would like to offer workshops to the Free Library, starting with this group of libraries (Philadelphia Jazz Project)
c.       The library is a place of learning.  I’d like to see more STEM (Men and Women for Human Excellence)
d.      My family loves the story time for toddlers at LMB.  It would be good to do the story time on Saturdays when other preschoolers are not in preschool
e.      The library should seek funding for prime time advertisement telling residents just how the library can make a difference in their lives using real people who have benefited from their library experience.  
f.        This is a great opportunity as it affords organizations the opportunity to leverage social capital.
There was no formal agenda for this meeting.  We allowed the representative from each of the organizations to describe the work they do in the neighborhood, and for other people to ask questions.  When all of the groups were finished, each of the six library managers had a chance to tell the group about their library and what makes it unique.
Most of those present were from grassroots organizations.  One is working with the formerly incarcerated to help them be job ready and get employment.  Several groups are working with children, especially in the areas of math and science.  The value in this was that some of these groups had no idea of the existence of the others and were able to network.  (I see this as a “real” value-added benefit of these meetings. I don’t know that high-level work will be accomplished here.)  The “higher” level groups present, (Clarifi, Philly Rising, SEPTA and Phila Police, Mayors Commission on Literacy, as well as the library) were able to get their messages out to the grassroots organizations.  There were multiple “ah-ha” moments among them.
Based on some of the activities shared, we were able to tell the group about resources they can access immediately, such as Learning Express Library and the Job and Career Help Center on our databases page.

We are planning the next meeting for some time at the end of February, or the beginning of March.

The December Staff Meeting - I'm going to learn your name

Again, in December, I started the meeting with an update on all relevant Free Library news.  Most of the staff really do seem to appreciate this.  I've noticed the group is getting louder and a little harder to call to order.  I actually see this as a good thing.  It's an indicator that they are getting to know each other better and have much to say.

After this initial dissemination of information, I encouraged people to sign up for three different committees.  The Fun Committee, The Program Committee and a third committee whose function was yet to be determined.  Unsurprisingly, The Fun Committee got the largest response.  They are currently looking at ways for everyone in the cluster to have more fun while doing their job and, I hope, they will have something to report to us at the February meeting.

Then, we spent some time doing a team building/get to know you activity.  Team juggling is an activity I've done many times before.  By adding an extra element of calling out names, and constantly shifting who is in each group, it can facilitate the learning of names.  The room got very loud with the calling out, and laughter.  We all expended much energy and had a great time.  My intention is to do a similar activity each month until everyone knows everyone else's name.  It's an ambitious goal, but one to which I'm committed.

The meeting concluded with breakout groups by jobs.  Municipal Guards, Library Assistants, and Librarians.  My hope was they would each share successes and challenges of their particular work.  Since I could not be in all three places, I can only assume that happened.  In future meetings, I plan to have groups break out based on other criteria.