I just left a very full room at Park Plaza Cooperative, a resident-owned manufactured home community in Fridley, where they were discussing what they’d like to see in the community for library services. The meeting included Libraries without Boundaries, Department of Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker and State Librarian Jen Nelson, librarians from various Anoka County Libraries and of course local residents.
My table included Bonnie, retired from a doctor’s office, Cecelia who is three years old, her mom Tina, Victor, a librarian from a local branch library and my colleague Bernadine Joselyn. Plenty of people spoke English, some were more comfortable in Spanish, a table mate guestimated that half the community had internet access in their home. Another table mate had had access but found it too expensive, although she missed it.
We met in a new community center. A center design to withstand an F5 tornado! And a place for local residents to hang out, during storms and sunny weather. The community center is bright and welcoming and a perfect place to become a library space – or a library without a boundary. (I wrote about another Libraries without Boundaries project last year when they put computer kiosks and wifi in laundromats.) And that’s what we discussed – what would people like to see in the space and what services do they need.
Immediately people went for ideas for kids. Kids need a place and computers to do homework. English Language Learners could use language support and even for kids who speak English but whose parents might not, they could use support in school. Kids need a place to get books.
Soon ideas spread to other ages. People need access to computers to get jobs. Maybe mobile broadband hotspots to check out to work from home. Access to devices and training – on computers and other topics.
Now the librarians are going to take these ideas and come up with some recommendations. I love this process. Each community has different library service needs. And while a brick and mortar library is great – we now have the ability to bring so many services beyond the building – outside of people, computers and broadband access. It’s great to tailor the needs to the community – and to meet people where they are.
Libraries without Boundaries will be having a similar meeting in Rochester tomorrow. I’ll be keeping an eye for opportunities in the future. Libraries and librarians (with and without boundaries) can be the magic glue to a community digital equity plan!