DPL Community Closet

Plan

Goals/Objectives for Service:

Image
https://twitter.com/cadl/status/10595421534567

I took my inspiration from the Capital Area District Libraries (CADL) Community Closet. Denver has a large homeless and low income population and this service would be greatly impactful. There were roughly 30,000 people who experienced homelessness between July 2019 and June 2020 in Denver and the surrounding counties (MDHI, 2020). While the Denver Public Libraries has an extensive list of assistant programs there is no permanent area focused on helping those in need at the library. Therefore, I am proposing a community closet filled with daily necessities (e.g. tooth brushes, tooth paste, soap, shampoo, dry goods, femine products, etc.) available to anyone who enters the library. The supplies will be gathered through donations of staff and patrons.

Description of Community you wish to engage:

The community I want to engage are the homeless and low income visitors that use the library mostly for personal hygiene and shelter. Along with these supplies a list of shelters, food banks, and other health resources will be placed in the closet for anyone to take and use. These visitors do not fully engage in the library’s services and collections because their basic needs are not being met.

Action Brief Statement: (Fill in the blanks):

Convince patrons that by providing daily necessities they will be welcome to the library which will increase their use of library resources because they feel safe. 

Evidence and Resources to support Service: (URLS, articles to help guide you)

Alman, S. W. (2018). Communication, Marketing, and Outreach Strategies. In S. Hirsh (Ed.), Information services today: An introduction (2nd ed.) (pp. 331-342). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

American Library Association. (2010). B.8.10 Addressing Poverty, Economic Inequality, and the Responsibilities of Libraries. ALA Policy Manual. https://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/policymanual/updatedpolicymanual/section2/52libsvcsandrespon 

American Library Association. (2019). Libraries Respond: Services to Poor and Homeless People. https://www.ala.org/advocacy/diversity/librariesrespond/services-poor-homeless 

A Precious Child. (2021). About. https://apreciouschild.org/who-we-are/about-us/ 

Capital Area District Libraries. (2021). CADL Cares. https://www.cadl.org/about/who-what-why/community-partnerships

Doherty, M. (2018). CADL Cares supports the community. Lansing State Journal. https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/opinion/contributors/viewpoints/2018/12/07/viewpoint-cadl-cares-initiative-sponsors-community-closet/2225521002/

Ellicottville Central Schools. (n.d.) ECS caring closet. https://www.ellicottvillecentral.com/domain/232

Klinenberg, E. (2018). Libraries and Social Infrastructure. Library Journal. https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=181003-Eric-Klinenberg-QA

Metro Denver Homeless Initiative. (2020). State of Homelessnesshttps://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/mdhi/pages/2652/attachments/original/1602515777/StateofHomelessness_Final.pdf?1602515777 

Twitter. (2018). CapAreaDistLibraries. https://twitter.com/cadl/status/1059542153456746499

Mission:

To provide everyone basic human needs to further support their thriving. 

Guidelines:

  1. User’s privacy will be maintained at all times.
  2. Only one person in the closet at a time.
  3. Anyone can access the closet during open hours.
  4. The resource staff on duty will maintain the cleanliness and organization of the closet.
  5. Only unopened hygiene products and gently used outwear will be accepted.

Policy:

The head librarian, outreach coordinator, and management will be responsible for creating and maintaining the policies around the community closet. The ALA Policy Manual Section B.8.10 Services and Responsibilities of Libraries (2010) stresses the importance of removing any barriers disadvantaged peoples face in accessing the library. In addition to the ALA Policy Manual, CADL’s community closet provides an example of a policy to follow. They collected donations in bins in the lobby and then placed the acceptable items in the closet (2018). Other non-profit clothes and pantry drives can provide a framework to organize human centered programs. A Precious Child upholds the values of respect, empower, and inspire through their many programs that enable low income people to access supplies (2021).

Briefly outline how your service’s grant, allocated funding, budget, available free-space, etc. will be distributed:

This service would be cost free to the library once the space is constructed and designated for the closet or cupboard. Since it relies on donations from patrons and staff promotional material will be necessary to promote the new service. Bins to collect the donations will be located at each entrance. I would place the closet off of the lobby to provide some privacy as well as easy access and monitoring from the staff present. One of the resource staff would be assigned to the closet every day to monitor the activity and reorganize and restock when necessary. A closet would need to be converted or constructed for this purpose. One main concern is the prevalence of drug use and the misuse of the closet. I propose a frosted glass door to maintain some privacy while being easily monitored for misuse.

Action Steps & Timeline:

  1. Draft a policy for the community closet detailing how donations are received, what donations are needed, who will be responsible for maintaining the closet, where the closet will be located, safety concerns for the closet.
  2. Policy approved by the board of directors.
  3. Construction on the closet.
  4. Promotional materials for the community closet designed and distributed.
  5. Donation bins placed by both entrances.
  6. Once the closet is completed the donations will be placed in the closet and it will be open to the public.
  7. Surplus donations will be stored nearby the closet.   

Staffing Considerations for this Service: 

The duty of maintaining and monitoring the closet will be added to the resource/reference staff duties. One staff member will be assigned to the closet per shift. Ideally the closet will be self sustaining and will require little to no maintenance. 

Training for this Service: (Who gets trained? Who is the training instructor? Who designs the training? When can training be effectively scheduled?)

All resource staff will be trained on how to maintain and organize the closet as well as appropriate responses when there is a safety concern. The reference librarian, outreach coordinator, and security will provide training on all aspects of the closet. A list of appropriate people to contact in case of emergencies will be provided. Training will be scheduled before the closet is open and during a work day when the library is closed.

Promotion & Marketing for this Service:

Flyers will be produced and hung up throughout the library as well as all social media platforms. An op-ed in the newspaper will be printed to spread awareness to people who do not access social media. The library could partner with local schools, businesses, and social services to gather donations and promote the service. A mailout to residences within Denver county calling for donations and inviting individuals to use the closet will also promote engagement.  

Evaluation:

At the end of the day, if the closet does not meet the needs of the library’s users then it is not successful. To determine if the closet is successful an anonymous paper survey will be conducted to evaluate awareness and use, user’s demographics, the products most wanted, changes that could be made, what other library services they used, and if patrons would continue to use the space. The activity of the closet will be monitored over a 3 month period to track foot traffic and in demand supplies. With this information the library can re-evaluate the supplies offered, placement of the closet, and marketing strategies.

As the program is monitored, edited, and improved the goal is to increase the wellbeing of patrons and their use of the other library resources. I envision individuals and families embracing the library as a home and refuge. Once this program is established I would like to see other outreach programs, such as, short term childcare or job placement be enacted to further support the surrounding community.

How museums and archives are changing the narrative

With Covid 19 and the Black Lives Matter movement I have seen a growing awareness of the narratives that have shaped our institutions and collections. However the struggle to right wrongful acquisitions or hurtful stories is not a new one. I remember when the rightful ownership of the Elgin Marbles was hotly debated on the news before Brexit. The British Museum remains firm in their rightful ownership of the pieces and Greece has been fighting for the return of the Elgin Marbles for nearly 200 years to no avail (Selwood, 2018). This issue spotlighted museums around the globe and many patrons began to question the validity of collections and narratives. I believe many cultural institutions have good intentions and the preservation of artifacts is their main goal, but there is still room to improve. One way to expand the single perspective is through creating dialogue with different people. The Penn Museum has a large collection of Middle Eastern, African, and South American art but no one from those cultures to describe these pieces. Ellen Owens and Kevin Schott created a refugee docent program which employed refugees as docents in the galleries of their choosing. The docents provided first hand experience, knowledge, and stories to the ancient artwork on display (Ulbay, 2020). Reading Ulbay’s article was the first time I had heard of this program and I think it is an amazing way to support refugees and address the one-sided narratives in many Western museums. I can appreciate Middle Eastern art but I will never have the affinity someone from the Middle East will have in telling stories about their culture. Fortunately, today there are many archives, libraries, and museums developing projects which invite people of different backgrounds to contribute to the narrative being told such as The Liberate Archive, DIY History, and Citizen Archivist program (Becerra-Licha, 2017). Creating hyperlinked institutions furthers this communication by opening the platform to everyone. I hope with the intense self-awareness of the last two years we, as a community, embrace the uncomfortable and further develop policies that foster multiple perspectives. 

References

Becerra-Licha, S. (2017). Participatory and post-custodial archives as community practice. Educause. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/10/participatory-and-post-custodial-archives-as-community-practice 

Selwood, D. (2018). How Brexit has revived controversy over the Elgin Marbles in Britain. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/elgin-marbles-parthenon-sculptures-ancient-greece-british-museum-brexit-a8520406.html 

Ulbay, N. (2020). Refugee docents help bring Penn Museum’s global collection to life. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/02/17/795920834/refugee-docents-help-bring-a-museums-global-collection-to-life?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_term=nprnews&utm_campaign=npr 

More than just diversity

I was surprised by the weekly readings Dr. Stephens chose for Information Communities. I expected articles and book chapters defining communities and information seeking behavior; however, the readings were focused on what libraries can do to interact with communities, the implicit prejudices we have and how we perpetuate them, and why diversity matters. Libraries are implementing different technologies and tactics to engage with the community. In Madison the library hosted three different community organized takeovers which were selected from 39 proposals. The takeovers created opportunities for public interaction in ways the library had not considered before and developed the foundation for more takeovers in the future (Smith, 2017). The Northern Regional Library in Ghana created the Northern Regional Library Technology for Maternal Health to combat high maternal mortality rates through text messages and educational materials (Baute, 2013). Many libraries have also embraced Instagram as a social platform to promote, connect, and facilitate community engagement (Mollett and McDonnell, 2014). The use of social media is so ubiquitous we hardly think about it anymore and creating an online presence further integrates libraries into the public sphere.

I really appreciated Christain Lauersen’s (2018) keynote from The UX in Libraries Conferences. Lauersen begins the talk by telling a story of when he lived in a neighborhood with a high Middle Eastern population and after his shifts he would put his tips in his socks just in case he was mugged. He was never mugged and was treated only with kindness from his neighbors and this experience made him realize the power of implicit biases. We all have prejudices we have learned growing up or from others and as library professionals we need to acknowledge them and move beyond them. The rest of his keynote creates a powerful argument for diversity, but more importantly, inclusion. Without inclusion, diversity is just creating more groups that are separated from each other. Inclusion is welcoming others who are different from ourselves to share in our lives and participate in the dialogue. Inclusion is key to creating programs and resources for information communities since information communities can be any group that shares a common interest. This will inevitably include people who are different from ourselves and if we do not have the attitude of inclusion we will consciously or subconsciously exclude those we claim to serve.

References

Baute, N. (2013). How a modern library keeps mothers healthy in rural Ghana. ​​https://www.eifl.net/blogs/how-modern-library-keeps-mothers-healthy-rural-ghana 

Lauersen, C. (2018). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/

Mollett, A., & McDonnell, A. (2014). Five ways libraries are using Instagram to share collections and draw public interest. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/04/16/five-ways-libraries-are-using-instagram/

Smith, C. (2017). Madison’s library takeover. ​​https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/madisons-library-takeover/?utm_content=buffer8a08c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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The Participatory Museum

Nina Simon (2010) directs her book at museums and constructs the reasons for, implementation of, and evaluation of participatory programs within an institution. Libraries and museums vary slightly on collection type and mission goals; however, they share a common objective of engaging with the community and establishing a learning environment. The Participatory Museum echoed many of the ideas librarians have written in the last 15 or so years. The book is divided into two parts: part 1 focuses on the need for visitor engagement in a museum and part 2 outlines the different ways to facilitate participation. I will outline these sections and relate them to the literature addressing libraries specifically. 

Part 1 of The Participatory Museum (Simon, 2010) explores the need for participation in museums to engage users beyond traditional methods. Users want to interact and create alongside others and the original creator. They also want to see their contributions displayed. In order to create a successful participatory activity the parameters and goals must be well defined so that visitors feel confident about their efforts. Simon stated institution programs should be audience first and they should treat people as individuals. One way to do that is by creating personal profiles which can take the shape of a personality quiz, name tag, or sticker that denotes an answer to a poll. These tags can be visible or not, but they promote a sense of community and spark conversations between visitors. Visitors are unknowingly interacting with the exhibits at the same time, and thus have a fuller experience. 

One of the best exhibits I have ever seen was the traveling exhibition Titanic at the Denver Nature and Science Museum. Even though it has been over a decade since I went to the exhibition I recall the whole experience vividly and it remains one of my favorites. The reason it was so memorable is the participatory element throughout the whole journey. Before entering the exhibit you are given a card with the name and social status of a passenger on board the Titanic. As you learn more and more about the ship and voyage you get a glimpse of what “you” would have experienced, and at the very end of the exhibit you discover if you survived the sinking or not. This simple, but effective, participation invested you in the story not as an observer but as someone who lived the experience.

Another way to encourage engagement with the collection is “create and take” or activities where visitors create a piece and are able to take it with them. When I was a gallery host at the Denver Art Museum, I was fortunate enough to witness the education department develop activities which allowed children and adults to create their own artwork based on the collection displayed. In the Native American collection visitors could make their own miniature beaded bags or create their own mythical story in Chinese lanterns. Each person was taught a little bit about the actual object in the collection and then encouraged to create their own work. These activities are geared towards kids but adults were welcomed to participate as well. 

Finally, Simon stressed the importance to balance interaction and personal experience by creating a network experience without impairing the aesthetic. When an institution creates a program it needs to consider how it affects the overall experience of guests. Will the activity crowd a popular area and make it impossible for others to enjoy? How long will an activity take? Is it stationary or do visitors move throughout it? 

In Part 2, Simon outlines the four types of participation: contribution, collaboration, co-creation, and hosting. Contribution is the easiest and most common, the activities listed above are all examples of contribution participation. Collaboration is defined as staff members partnering with specific members of the public to create an exhibition or activity. Co-creating is a partnership driven by the participant rather than the institution. Hosting is when the institution gives space to partners or encourages visitors to use space and make it more comfortable for them. The Denver Art Museum hosts a monthly nighttime event where there is music, drinks, food, and entertainment related to the exhibits to break down the stereotype of stuffy art museums and welcome individuals who are not usually interested in modern art.

Simon’s final observations are to make things shareable and continuously evaluate programs. She argues social platforms are created to “encourage visitors to develop a stronger emotional connection”, “to promote collaboration”, and “connect personally to a formal institution”. Social platforms allow visitors to share their created content with others and feel their contributions were relevant. Museums, and subsequently libraries, should not be afraid of social platforms but rather embrace them. To evaluate programs Simon suggests to create the process and product with the mindset that activities are not just for participants but also the institution. Once a program is established, ask for feedback, adapt based on responses, publish the edited program, and start all over again.

This diagram is how the Museum of Life and Science evaluates programs against institution goals. Programs are audience first however they should be aligned with the mission of the institution and further their goals as well.

Participation is not just for museums and other cultural institutions, but libraries as well. Every summer reading program I did as a school kid, every “staff pick” book display in the lobby, and every book review are examples of participation. This is not new, but the elements of participation may be different than 20 years ago with the increased use of social platforms. At the Denver Public Library they have a makers space with a recording studio, sewing machines, 3D printers, vinyl printers, and many other tools you need to fabricate different crafts. This space gives people who may not have the tools to create at home the ability to craft at the library. The Virginia Tech Libraries demonstrate collaboration through their Course Exhibit Initiative program where faculty and students partner to create different exhibitions based on assignments or interests (Matthews et al, 2018). By encouraging faculty and students to create virtual or physical exhibits the library is fostering community, conversation, engagement, and learning. Maybe students would be more interested in the library if they are co-owners in the mission. Many libraries have embraced a collaborative environment with users like Virginia Tech Libraries but many still shy away from participation. What is holding libraries back from creating participatory activities? Trust, trust in the users, trust in the program, and fear of losing their prestigious or academic image. “The user is not broken,” Schneider (2006) pithily points out. The user is not the problem and they can not break the library. Participation necessarily removes complete control from the library staff and places power in the hands of the community which increases the value of the library to users. Simon (2010) addresses this fear by encouraging institutions to establish clear parameters and goals for participation. With the proper tools and instructions visitors will produce content that furthers and benefits the institution and community. Michael Casey (2011) advocates that participation is necessary to keep patrons coming back to the library. The age old question is what can libraries provide that Google cannot? Community-centric programs may not be a silver bullet but they undoubtedly increase visitor experience quality. We all go back to places we enjoy.  

References

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting Participatory Service in Trying Times. Tame The Web. https://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/

Matthews, B., & Metko, S., & Tomlin, P. (2018, May 7). Empowerment, experimentation, engagement: Embracing partnership models in libraries. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/empowerment-experimentation-engagement-embracing-partnership-models-in-libraries 

Schneider, K (2006). The User is Not Broken. Free Range Librarian. http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/

Simon, N. (2010). The Participatory Museum. Museum 2.0.

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Hyperlink and engagement

Even though The Cluetrain Manifesto (Levine et al., 2001) is written for the tech world and the emerging startups in the late 1990s and early 2000s, libraries and other information institutions are equally affected by the creation and popularization of the World Wide Web. This is old news to us today and something we take for granted almost every moment of the day. However, 20 some years later we are still faced with the challenges of integrating the newest technologies and user interfaces to our own field. As soon as we think we have mastered the current shift another one is already taking its place. The rise in demand for e-Books has been replaced by the desire to incorporate our own tags and opinions to the title. No longer are users satisfied with accessing something digitally they also want to interact with the object and contribute to other’s experiences (Simon, 2010). 

Interestingly, Levine et al. (2001) describe how the unfettered access to limitless information on the internet has broken down previously held hierarchies of knowledge and organizations. Many libraries now offer creative spaces or open spaces for community engagement. The Virginia Tech Libraries has embraced the collaboration between user and librarian by instituting classes on digital literacy, building exhibits with community members, and creating High-Impact Practices Librarians who are focused on partnering with students (Matthews et al., 2018). Of course, COVID 19 has accelerated the hyperlinking of information institutions and the community due to the complete shutdown of physical space. Libraries and other information institutions are generally early adopters of emerging technologies but the pandemic forced all of them to pivot or sink. Here in Denver and the surrounding counties libraries were creating programs that were digital and easily accessible. One of my favorite programs I discovered was Anythink Libraries created a chat line for patrons to call in and talk to a staff member about books or anything they wanted. The library knew their users’ demographics were elderly people who came to the library for socialization (Fallows, 2020). By creating this landline they were able to continue the community engagement which was critical for their users. This example also demonstrates the need and willingness of libraries to do something that is not a “librarian” task. As needs change and we become even more interconnected and dependent on the digital libraries will need to re-examine how they engage with their community.  

References

Fallows, D. (2020). The post-pandemic future of libraries. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2020/05/post-pandemic-future-libraries/611458/ 

Levine, R., & Locke, C., & Searls, D., &, Wienberger, D. (2001). The Cluetrain Manifesto: The end of business as usual. Perseus Publishing. 

Matthews, B., & Metko, S., & Tomlin, P. (2018, May 7). Empowerment, experimentation, engagement: Embracing partnership models in libraries. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/empowerment-experimentation-engagement-embracing-partnership-models-in-libraries 

Simon, N. (2010). The Participatory Museum. Museum 2.0. 

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Introduction

Hi everyone,

My name is Jess and this is my last semester at SJSU. I currently live in Denver but am about to make the move to Albuquerque for an archive position. In my first semester I was told to take any class with Dr. Stephens and I am excited to explore hyperlinked libraries and the ever emerging technology we can utilize. Even though my career goals are more archival and collections oriented these technologies can be applied in every sector of LIS. 

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