Background and Purpose

In California, Sacramento is known to many as a “Farm-to-Fork” city. It is a city where weekends and weekdays are filled with farmers’ markets. It is a city where local restaurants use fresh local ingredients in the most mouth-watering meals. While the city of Sacramento continues to embrace the farm-to-fork brand, the Sacramento Public Library (SPL) system is not far behind. In the past, SPL has hosted cooking classes with the help of local health organizations and distributed lunches for children under 18 years old during the summer months. This library system also has seed libraries, which allow the public to take seeds home for free and grow their garden. Additionally, one library has a demonstration kitchen which has been used to host in-person cooking classes. 

Considering all of the services SPL currently offers, the ever-changing ways of seeking and consuming information, a blog (“Cooking with My Library”) will be created to help promote food literacy for individuals of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. The blog ensures that SPL continues to “reach all users, not just those who come through [the library’s] doors” (Stephens, 2016, pg.1). Plus, SPL will embrace a new way to engage with different communities, especially during the digital era where individuals search and gather information using different handheld devices (Stephens, 2016). Additionally, food can bring communities together, help communities understand each other, and allow libraries to teach literacy (Taylor, 2018). The hope for SPL’s food literacy blog is to bring communities together to understand one another through food literacy. 

The idea of creating a blog came from the multitude of culinary literacy services already pioneered at different libraries across the U.S. Libraries like the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center, the Madison Public Library, and the Charleston County Public Library have created pages within their websites with information about food or culinary literacy. The information on the websites ranges from recipes to cooking video tutorials. Further inspiration came from The Kitchen Library website, which shares healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. SPL has not ventured into blogging, but it is never too late to try something new, mainly if it engages with its audience and further its food literacy skills. 

Goals/Objectives for the Service

The objectives for this service include: 

-Connect gardeners, food enthusiasts, library users, and non-users of different ethnic backgrounds to food literacy.

– Create a participatory environment by allowing the public to participate in the blogging process by sharing their unique recipes and engaging through live cooking classes via Zoom.

– Promote the existing SPL services, including the Seed Library and the demonstration kitchen.

– Teach individuals about gardening and its direct connection to food and healthy eating. 

– Utilize STEM concepts while preparing meals and engage participants in why the measurements of each food are essential. 

-Engage and develop relationships with the underserved and multilingual communities by connecting them to food literacy and other library services. 

– Promote healthy eating for all age groups.

Description of Community You Wish to Engage

I hope to engage individuals of all ages and ethnic backgrounds that may or may not use the library in Sacramento from this service. In particular, I would like to grab the attention of multilingual individuals whose primary language might not be English. The blog will be a great tool to connect individuals who speak multiple languages and learn English. Additionally, I wish to engage with the community immediately surrounding the libraries which host the seed libraries. The libraries might serve gardeners who are looking for recipes to prepare their harvest. Finally, I hope this site will bring food enthusiasts—individuals who might not be professional chefs but are chefs in the eyes of their families.

Action Brief Statement

 For patrons: 

Convince users and non-library users that by engaging with the Food Literacy blog, they will learn ways to prepare food which will help them develop healthy eating habits and engage with other community members because the library is a place that welcomes participation among community members, encourages them to continue to develop essential skills and learn something new. 

For staff:

Convince library staff and administrators that by creating a blog dedicated to food literacy for library users and non-users, they will further the library’s mission to provide spaces of growth and learning which will allow the public to see the library as a space that does more than loan books because the program will engage the public in a service that goes beyond the “normal” business hours of the library.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to the service 

Mission and Policies 

The mission for this service will align with SPL’s overarching goal of providing a space to inspire communities to discover, learn and grow (Sacramento Public Library, 2021). Like the mission, the policies for the blog will align with the social media policies created by the Communications and Virtual Services (COM) department of SPL. One slight difference from the established policies is that the COM department will have little say on the content created for the blog. The newly hired library associates will be responsible for the content posted on the blog. 

Guidelines

Since this will be the first time SPL will create a blog, the library system will refer to the tool kit provided by the Free Library in Philadelphia or by contacting the library itself for guidelines guidance. However, considering that community members can participate in making the blog posts by sharing their recipes, further guidelines will be implemented and shared with the public. The guidelines for participating community members will include post length, word choice, and participation limits. When hiring the library associates, the proper hiring process will occur, including an interview with the outreach manager and administrators for SPL. Likewise, when calling for volunteers to help film the cooking videos, they will go through the volunteer placement and interview process. Ideally, the volunteers will be college and university film students. 

Staffing Considerations for this Service 

Since this is a new service, two library associates will be hired to help maintain the blog. Ideally, the library associates will be bilingual in one of the top three languages spoken in Sacramento. Currently, the most common languages in the Sacramento area are Spanish, Chinese and Russian. The associates will also have a background in health literacy, blogging, using WordPress, and using Zoom. Additionally, partnerships with local organizations promoting healthy eating/cooking will be hired for short-term commitments, ideally six-month commitments. Finally, film and photography college and university students will be called to volunteer and help film/edit the videos created for the blog. Student volunteers will be selected based on their experience of editing video and knowledge of video editing software. 

This service will not require staff members as the library associates will help to monitor and update the blog. The associates will also make the proper arrangements/connections with health organizations to schedule live Zoom cooking classes. Each associate will work full-time, while the film student volunteers will only work when filming takes place. 

Training for this Service 

Since two experienced library associates will be hired to monitor the blog and help schedule program presenters, there will be a short training. The training will cover the background of the service, the do’s and don’ts of the blog, and potential ways to create informative and engaging posts. The COM department will do this training. Additionally, the COM Department will present a short “walk-through” training of the established WordPress. The COM department will also be responsible for training the film student volunteers. In addition to the COM department training, general SPL onboarding training will be given to the associates. The Human Resources (HR) department presents and designs this general training to orient the new hires to SPL policies. On the other hand, the film student volunteers will receive a similar volunteering onboarding training designed and presented by the Volunteer Coordinator at SPL. 

The scheduling for this training will depend on when the associates and volunteers get hired. Ideally, the onboarding training with Human Resources will take place a week after receiving the position acceptance letter. Immediately after the training with HR, the associates will receive their training with the COM department. Similarly, the student volunteers will receive their training with the volunteer coordinator a week after receiving their position acceptance letter. Following the orientation with the coordinator, they will have their training with the COM department. 

Funding and Space

Although SPL is a large system, current library staff will not participate in making the blog. Instead, with grants, sponsorships, and funding from the Friends of the Sacramento Public Library, two library associates will be hired to establish and run the blog using WordPress. After four years, funding will continue to be gathered with the help of local health organizations, local politicians, and fundraisers. Also, funding will be allocated to three college/university students who will volunteer and help the library associates in filming and editing cooking tutorials. A stipend of $500 will be given to the volunteers for every three-month term. 

Funding will not be necessary for the software used to edit the cooking tutorials nor filming equipment as volunteers will use the software and equipment already in use by the COM department. However, funding will be designated for the business version of WordPress. As for space, volunteers and library associates will be assigned to work at the Central and Colonial Heights branches during filming and editing days of both the video and blog. Additionally, the demonstration kitchen owned by SPL will be used to film the cooking tutorials. Finally, partnerships with health community organizations will begin as unpaid partnerships, but they will develop into paid partnerships with time. 

Action Steps & Timeline

Since the new service will be a blog that will include community participation, it can become a prototype for other libraries. However, it will not be replicated within other library locations in the SPL system. The Library Board, Administration, and COM department have to give the green light for this service to be implemented. If grant funding is not secured for hiring new staff, the library board should approve using alternative library funding to hire the associates. After the board approves the service, the administration should then approve the workspace for volunteers and library associates and communicate with the library that houses the demonstration kitchen. Finally, the COM department has to approve the purchase of the business version of WordPress. 

If the service gets rejected by the Library Board, library administration, and COM department, the alternative plan will be to host cooking classes in person using the demonstration kitchen for a set length of time. The cooking programs will partner with local restaurant chefs and be held at different libraries in the SPL system. 

Timeline

  1. The project is pitched to the Library Board, SPL administration, and COM department. [1 week]
  2. Approval of the services from Library Board, SPL administration, and COM department [2 weeks]
  3. Initial gathering of funding through grants, sponsorships, and the Friends of the Public library [3 weeks]
  4. Interview process and SPL new hire training of two library associates [1 month]
  5. Interview process and SPL new volunteer training of college/university film student volunteers [3 weeks]
  6. Purchasing of WordPress [1 day]
  7. Library associates gather information of potential community health organizations to partner with for cooking video tutorials [1 month]
  8. Library associates contacting and establishing schedules with health organizations [3 weeks]
  9. Establish initial blog posts by library associates [3 weeks]
  10. COM creates a landing page for the service on SPL’s website [2 weeks]
  11. The service is launched with the help from the SPL COM department [3 weeks]
  12. Evaluation of the service using various tools [every six months]

Promotion & Marketing for this Service 

Promotions for the new service will start through SPL’s various social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. The COM department will create Interactive Instagram stories by asking questions about cooking styles and favorite foods. Additionally, the student volunteers will create a short video for SPL’s Youtube channel, highlighting what the blog is all about. At the same time, it will be necessary for library staff to use word of mouth to promote the blog. Library staff will be encouraged to talk about the blog when interacting with library patrons at the desk or answering a reference, especially about cookbooks. The COM department will also create a flyer to help library staff help promote the service. Library supervisors will be encouraged to place the flyer next to the cookbooks, create a cookbook display, or post the flyer on the upcoming events board at their branch. Once the blog is live, prerecorded cooking tutorials will continue to promote other aspects of the blog. Additionally, during the live Zoom cooking classes, the chef will help promote the blog.  

Further promotion will take place outside of the library system. Whenever possible, library staff will promote the service during outreach events in the community. These events can be either community festivals/celebrations or when conducting school visits. After all, this blog is meant for all age groups. Information flyers will be distributed to local businesses like restaurants and grocery stores to help promote the service. 

Evaluation

Every six months, the service will be evaluated using various methods. One evaluation tool used will be surveys. Participants who attend the Zoom cooking classes will be asked to give feedback through a survey. In the survey, the participants will be asked to rate the class, the information learned, and their overall experience attending a virtual cooking class. The use of surveys will also be linked to each of the prerecorded cooking tutorial videos. Additionally, an in-person survey will be given to library users over the age of 18 to know if they are using the service and if they find it helpful. Finally, the surveys will be translated into multiple languages. 

A second method will be checklists. During the live Zoom cooking classes, one of the library associates will be present and use a checklist to note attendance, behaviors, and interactions. A third method will be analyzing the analytics of the blog and prerecorded cooking videos. Which blog posts are more popular among users? How long are the videos viewed? A final method will be a message box. Blog users will be welcome to give feedback at any time using the “how are we doing?” message box affix to the top of the blog. 

Stories

The hope for this blog is that the library gets to see the positive effects the information in the blog is having on families across Sacramento. It is to hear stories in person and through the surveys of how a recipe helped them lower their sugar intake or how their children started to love broccoli. I want to tell stories about individuals who felt connected with a recipe shared by a community member because it reminded them of home. I would also like to see the interest they have in other library services like the seed libraries. Finally, I hope that users find the blog interactive and innovative. 

Expansion of the service 

Although the world is slowly adapting to new technology and individuals gather information from online platforms, “they can never replace the value of physical spaces where [people] come together and “live life in public” (Lipsey, 2015). In the interest of expanding the blog and going beyond an online platform, funding will be secured to purchase a mobile kitchen just like the Books and Cook’s mobile kitchen from the Camden County Library System. The mobile kitchen will stop throughout Sacramento, but it will focus on serving areas with food scarcity needs or in underserved communities. However, the purpose of the mobile kitchen will be the same as the blog. It will encourage users to learn ways to eat healthily. 

Resources to support the Service

Ewen, L. (2018, September 4). A movable feast: Libraries use mobile kitchens to teach food literacy. American Libraries Magazine. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/09/04/movable-feast-library-mobile-kitchens/. 

Llewellyn, T. (2021, May 25). How public libraries are part of the solution to food insecurity. Shareable. https://www.shareable.net/how-public-libraries-are-part-of-the-solution-to-food-insecurity/. 

Oyuela, A. (2019, October). The Mobile Kitchen Changing Food Education Across the U.S. Food Tank. https://foodtank.com/news/2019/10/the-mobile-kitchen-changing-food-education-across-the-u-s/. 

Taylor, K. R. (2018, September 28). Food literacy programs teach more than cooking and nutrition. School Library Journal. https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=food-Literacy-food-for-thought. 

Libraries with similar Service 

Antill, R. (n.d.). Supporting Food Literacy when you can’t gather: Read eat grow gets creative. Let’s Move in Libraries. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://letsmovelibraries.org/supporting-food-literacy-when-you-cant-gather-read-eat-grow-gets-creative/.

Culinary Literacy Center – Free Library. (n.d.). Support the Culinary Literacy Center. https://libwww.freelibrary.org/programs/culinary/.  

Madison Public Library. (2019, April 15). Food literacy at the library.  https://www.madisonpubliclibrary.org/impact/community/food-literacy-library. 

The Kitchen Library. (n.d.). Healthy Food Network. http://thekitchenlibrary.ca/. 

References 

Bowers, J., Fitzgerald, L., & Urminska, S. (n.d.). Free Library Culinary Literacy Toolkit. Free library of Philadelphia . Retrieved October 6, 2021, from https://libwww.freelibrary.org/assets/pdf/programs/culinary/free-library-culinary-literacy-toolkit.pdf. 

Escalante, E. (2019, September 24). How Sacramento became the ‘farm-to-fork-capital’. abc10.com. Retrieved from https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/sacramento/what-is-farm-to-fork/103-6b905007-69f3-40cc-bd1d-c079d07002af. 

Lipsey, R. F. (2017, December 6). 100 great ideas for the future of Libraries — a new paradigm for Civic Engagement. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/100-great-ideas-for-the-for-the-future-of-libraries_b_6551440. 

Saclibrary. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved October 6, 2021, from https://www.saclibrary.org/About/Mission-Vision. 

Stephens, M. (2016). The Hyperlinked Librarian: Skills, mind-sets, and ideas for working with the evolving library. In The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association. 

WordPress cost: WordPress price: Compare our plans. WordPress.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2021, from https://wordpress.com/pricing/.