The February 2022 newsletter of Let’s Move in Libraries includes:

  • A time sensitive funding opportunity from the AARP
  • A recap of our “Nature Programming Community of Practice” call
  • Connect Young Children to Nature: A funding opportunity for cities
  • Information on two upcoming free webinars
  • An interview with a Community Health Librarian
  • A new resource to help with funding health initiatives

This month’s featured image comes from Seattle Public Library. There, since 2015, C. Davida Ingram, pictured here inside the Central Library’s “living room,” has used her role as public engagement programs manager at The Seattle Public Library to empower communities of color.

According to new reporting by Shareable “Ingram ended 2021 on a high and powerful note, collaborating with an extensive group of community partners and local artists to produce a series of artistic and educational events—all part of a focus on public health amid the pandemic. That includes the event ‘What the World Needs Now: A Dreamathon’ and the second-annual ‘Reflections’ Dance Festival. She also worked with community partners to launch BLOOM Food Justice Initiative, a BIPOC-led community garden initiative and youth fellowship addressing pandemic-era food insecurity.”

Seattle Public Library’s support of the BLOOM Food Justice Initiative enabled the creation of their community garden. The garden, tended to by mostly young community members, provides lessons in food sovereignty, environmental stewardship and community connectivity.

Ingram said of the BLOOM Food Justice Initiative “In the first year, we picked 300 pounds of apples, made cider and passed it out at a BIPOC healing event, and we did other projects that were more modest in scale. For this year, the young folks want to focus on soil remediation, but that’s what BLOOM allows us to do, to think quite a bit about our relationships—not just human to human, but also human to soil and nature.”

Read the full story, including an interview with Ingram, on Shareable.

Have an inspiring story of how your library supports community health? Share it with us!

A time sensitive funding opportunity from the AARP

U.S. public libraries are invited to apply for the 2022 AARP Community Challenge grant program!

Last year 13 public libraries from across the United States won this award, using the grant to fund everything from Intergenerational Music Playgrounds to outdoor seating.

The AARP Community Challenge program provides “small grants to fund quick-action projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages.”

Learn more at the AARP webpage and get your funding application in by the March 22, 2022 deadline!

A recap of our “Nature Programming Community of Practice” call

On January 20, Kelly Senser, Programming coordinator for Loudoun County Public Library, Virginia, and Let’s Move in Libraries Advisory Board member led an online community conversation on nature programming and public librarianship. More than 40 people joined for the call, which featured a lively discussion of resources that can help librarians support access to nature.

To facilitate dialogue and networking, the call was not recorded, but Kelly did keep track of the resources shared. Those included:

What resources have you used to spark nature connections and nature-based learning at your library? Let us know!

We’re also looking for more individuals willing to lead calls like this one. Let’s Move in Libraries wants to be a platform for peer-to-peer learning among both public librarians and public library partners.

Do you want to lead a call on this or another topic related to healthy living and libraries? You can contact us directly or fill out our Let’s Move in Libraries Experts Form.

It’s a simple process. We just pick a time and a topic, spread the word, and then you facilitate an open conversation on Zoom with your colleagues and peers. It’s really that simple!

Connect Young Children to Nature: A funding opportunity for cities

Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) invites cities to apply to receive support and technical assistance to implement strategies that connect young children to nature more equitably.

A recent national landscape scan suggests that cities can equitably enhance nature connections for young children through “nature-based programming at city facilities, such as libraries and recreation centers.”

As a result, librarians are invited to learn more about the Connect Young Children to Nature program, and to consider working with your city government to apply for this opportunity.

CCCN invites city teams to apply online by Friday, March 18, 2022. Learn more at their website!

CCCN will prioritize the participation of cities that hold National League of Cities membership in good standing.

Information on two upcoming free webinars

In February and March we’re organizing two free webinars all are welcome to join!

On February 24, at 1 pm Eastern Time, Erin Schmändt, Caro Area District Library, Michigan will lead “How to introduce your community to new healthy habits.”

70 individuals have already signed up for the webinar!

Here’s a description: Trying something new can be intimidating. Sometimes it just takes a trusted institution, like a public library, to offer an introduction for someone to take that step. Library staff will learn in this webinar how to build partnerships and to offer classes that bring wellness to the forefront. This webinar was originally presented as “Yoga? Zumba? Meditation? Those Aren’t For me!” at the Leading Big in Small Places virtual rural library conference sponsored by the University of Michigan School of Information, the Library of Michigan, and the Institute of Museum & Library Services in November 2021.

Here is more information on Erin’s journey, from that presentation:
“A few years ago, my assistant director and I attended training from the Harwood Institute on Community Conversations. It taught us, as the library, to Turn Outward and start conversations with residents about what they wanted their community to be. From that we learned many things. One was that while our community has lots of wide, open spaces (fields and forests), we also have high rates of obesity, smoking, and unhealthy habits. Another was that while we have unhealthy habits, many residents want opportunities to live an active, healthy lifestyle. I was raised by generations and generations of farmers and people involved in the agricultural field. They know what hard work is, but are often too busy working to focus on the healthy part. The conversations helped make some things happen in the community regarding parks. Now, how could the library help? We can teach them new activities that will add to a healthy, active lifestyle. Why the library? They trust us. We have been teaching them for decades. Literacy activities for their kids, computer classes, craft classes, and so much more. Walking Club was the first fitness program that we started.”

Learn more in the webinar!

Then, on March 16 at 12 pm Eastern Time we’re organizing a webinar on “Checking out Health and Wellness at the Library.”

Save the date! We’re finalizing details on this webinar but plan to feature librarians from across North America who have worked with others in their communities develop kits and collections focused on health and wellness, including seeds, exercise equipment, and more. Learn more about The Library of Things, health kits, and how you too can “Check out Health and Wellness at the Library.”

Sign up now!

An interview with a Community Health Librarian

Last month, Rory Martorana of the New Haven Free Public Library in Connecticut filled out our Let’s Move in Libraries Experts Form.

One of our priorities this year is to share profiles of library workers making a difference in community health. To that end, Rory graciously agreed to share with us some of the work that she does at New Haven.

We’d love to feature you in a future newsletter! Fill out our Let’s Move in Libraries Experts Form to get started.

Question: In October 2020, you started working as a Community Health Librarian at the New Haven Free Public Library in Connecticut. Tell us a little bit about your journey to this role? What personal and professional motivations brought you to this place in your career?

Answer: I’ve actually been with NHFPL for over 6 years. I started out as a Library Technical Assistant at one of our 5 branches. Over the course of my time here I’ve work at every branch location and in each department. When I first started in 2015, I was pre-diabetic and terribly out of shape. In 2019, some of my co-workers at the Stetson branch had started going to a personal training studio so I joined as well. I wound out working with a phenomenal trainer, who taught me a ton about nutrition and strength training. That year I lost over 80 lbs. and went from having obesity and a variety of other medical issues to being the strongest and healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. I had a perfect annual physical for the first time since my teen years, my asthma became more manageable, and I finally had energy. I realized health was a passion of mine, got into powerlifting and completed coursework to become a certified trainer and nutrition coach myself.

When I was promoted to Adult Services Librarian in the Reference Dept. at the Ives Branch, I wanted to make health and wellness more of a focal point within my work at the library. What’s the point of all this training if I can’t use it to help the local community? Many of the Ives librarians have areas of focus, such as Local History, Technology, and so forth. While each location in our system had addressed health independently there was definitely more to explore. I wrote up a proposal for our administrators to make it my specialty on top of my other regular work. Now I get to apply this passion to my library work daily. I also coordinate our library’s Staff Wellness program, which has been a lot of fun. I’m on a mission to remove as many barriers to health as possible for the local community, especially financial limitations and a lack of access to health literacy skills and information, which were big hurdles for me when I started my journey.

Question: I see you are the *Coordinator of the popular “Books Sandwiched In” and “Books & Barbells” author discussion program series” – tell us a bit about those series? How did they get started, what do they entail, and do you have any lessons learned for librarians seeking to develop similar programs?

Answer: Books Sandwiched In is one of our longest-running programs here at NHFPL. I believe it got started in the early 2000s. Our current Director, John Jessen, and his predecessor both had a hand in its early iterations. When I came over to Ives my supervisor, Seth Godfrey, was in the process of trying to reboot it in a virtual format. He asked me to take it on with some colleagues. The program consists of biweekly lunch hour author talks hosted on our Zoom account by various library staff systemwide. It’s brought in a lot of great authors, activists, and thinkers to share their work with. Books & Barbells was a natural branch off that, maintaining the same conversational format with authors but focusing more on fitness and nutrition. It was a great summer series during our off-time from BSI that I hope to bring back this year.

Question: What advice to you have for librarians seeking to offer adult and virtual programs related to “Nutrition & Health Literacy Instruction and/or Fitness in the library?”

A selfie Rory took with local personal trainer, Debbie Russell, who was teaching a POUND Fitness class on the library’s balcony in Fall 2021.

Answer: Talk to everyone! As an introvert, this is something that can be challenging for me but is definitely worthwhile. Make sure to connect with local partners and get a sense of your service area’s needs by chatting with library visitors. Talk to librarians at other libraries who have done it before to get a sense for what’s in store. Reaching out to the local community allowed me to partner with Yoga In Our City for weekly yoga classes last summer.

Once you know your community’s needs and wants, you’re better situated to fulfill those needs. Financial barriers can be one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to taking control of one’s health. I wanted to do as much as possible at the library to eliminate these roadblocks so people can become more active and better versed in health literacy topics without going broke. On Jan. 8th I ran a very successful beginner-level nutrition program. I got a lot of great feedback from participants and am now in the process of creating a curriculum of programs and classes on various wellness topics within my own sphere of expertise (fitness and nutrition). When it warms up again, I’d love to get outside with some fitness classes since those did well last Spring and Summer.

For topics outside my wheelhouse, I’ve partnered with several local nonprofits that are equipped to present reliable information on other health matters, including Health Equity Solutions, the Yale Alzheimer’s Research Center, Lupus Foundation of America, and more. For the most part, these programs don’t cost the library money, and the partnerships we make through them are so valuable.

Question: We’re also really interested in how this library work connects with the community. Could you tell us a bit more about how your work interfaces with the community? Specifically, how do you learn about and respond to community needs/interests, and how do you partner and work with others in your community who share your passion for community health?

Answer: Get out in your library’s local communities and talk to people! Most of my success with programming is because I learned from some of the best programmers. My former branch manager, Diane, is a fixture in the Dixwell/Newhallville neighborhoods of New Haven, where Stetson Branch is located. Everyone knows her. She taught me to foster relationships within the community and look to the community for input on what they want & need. There’s so much knowledge and talent within the local community that libraries should be tapping into. The entire team at Stetson did this really well, and it stuck with me when I went on to develop programs and services in a different branch. Get to know the local Community Health workers in your area. They’re always willing to help!

Question: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Answer: My work builds on a solid foundation of outreach and initiatives NHFPL has been a part of over the years. Pre-Covid, Stetson Branch hosted an annual health fair in May. The Wilson Branch ran a great health initiative called Body and Soul in partnership with Yale. The Fair Haven Branch work with a local farmer’s market to increase the community’s access to fresh produce. Mitchell Branch allowed me to take over their outdoor space in August to host in person fitness and Zumba.

A new resource to help with funding health initiatives

We all know that in libraries there are always more ideas than there are funds to implement them.

We want to share with you a new resource that may help you and your library think about creative and effective ways to fund health initiatives at your library. On January 7, 2022, the National Recreation & Park Association released “Financing Health and Wellness Programs: A Toolkit for Park and Recreation Professionals.”

Although the focus is parks and recreation professionals, much of this advice could be applied by public librarians.

Here is an excerpt:

“As community-based organizations explore new sources of funding, many will have questions such as:

  • What type of funding is available for my program?
  • Should my organization approach the funder directly or work with other community-based organizations? If so, how do we form a partnership?
  • What do we say when we reach out to discuss funding health and wellness programs?
  • What resources are out there to help me secure funding?”

Do you also have these questions? If so, get answers in the full report, which actually includes public librarians as partners.

Page 10 states “If you decide a funding partnership is the right model for your agency, the first step is to reach out …. Other organizations, such as an Area Agency on Aging, public health departments, senior centers and libraries, also offer health and wellness programs and would be worth engaging.”

What resources do you use to fund your library’s health initiatives? Let us know!

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Subscribe to the Let’s Move in Libraries newsletter for monthly editions of success stories, educational opportunities, and food for thought that will deepen the impact of healthy living programs and partnerships involving public libraries. Also follow the project on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter to stay up-to-date. The Let’s Move in Libraries is an international initiative focused on supporting Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) through public library programs and partnerships.