The November 2023 newsletter of Let’s Move in Libraries includes:

  • How to celebrate StoryWalk Week 2023!
  • How to add your voice to the national agenda on food justice and public librarianship
  • A funding opportunity for U.S. libraries interested in starting or expanding food education or food access initiatives
  • How to participate in our November Birds of a Feather conversation

This month’s featured image comes from our inaugural I Partner with My Public Library Awards initiatives.

R. David Lankes, the Virginia and Charles Bowden Professor of Librarianship at University of Texas at Austin, recently wrote that “Library science is getting harder to teach. The variety in libraries of all types is increasing as more and more mold themselves to their communities rather than field-wide norms.”

As librarians continue turning outward to communities, what they and their communities develop together becomes ever more diverse across space and time.

But are there some common elements amidst this variety?

Yes! Across communities, strong partnerships are the common thread.

As we finished up a three-year, federally-funded project looking at how 18 public libraries collaborate with community partners to increase access to healthy living opportunities (HEAL at the Library), we began thinking and talking about what we could do to create a platform for public libraries to share their partnerships with others.

We found in the HEAL at the Library project that what public libraries did with their community collaborators took a wide variety of forms, encompassing everything from community gardens to bike lending; from StoryWalks to free, hot meals for older adults. Read more in our 18 case studies.

We wanted to create a space to discuss, share, and celebrate the amazing things that come from the work that public libraries do in collaboration with their communities.

That was the seed from which the I Partner with My Public Library Award emerged.

By creating a broad platform to celebrate excellence in community partnerships, we seek to elevate the central role of these partnerships to the work of public librarianship.

Before the HEAL at the Library grant ended in August 2023, we created an award structure, solicitation, timeline, and vetting process, and then in June 2023 we released our call for nominations to the world.

In the end, we received 55 submissions from public libraries in 22 states that serve a mixture of urban, suburban, small town, and rural communities. Nominees included community based non-profits (12), local governmental entities, not including schools (11), Individuals (8), regional or national non-profits (7), businesses (5), Cooperative Extension agencies (5), K-12 Schools (4), and faith-based institutions (3). Thirty-five (35%) of nominations reference partnerships that have been in place for at least 5 years.

With such a strong pool of applicants, the process of selecting only 10 awardees was extraordinarily difficult. The final list of awardees was informed by the following criteria:

  • Geographic diversity
  • Length, depth, and impacts of the collaboration
  • Mutuality of the relationship

Who won in 2023?

To give you a sense of what we are celebrating, here are brief snippets about the 10 winners and the libraries that nominated them. Read more at our webpage, which was updated on November 1, 2023 to include both the 10 final awardees as well as all Honorable Mentions.

  • Child Care Resource and Referral of Washington County, Oregon was nominated by three public librarians who worked with this organization to “remove access barriers to child care provider trainings,” as Julie Handyside, Early Childhood Outreach Librarian at Cedar Mill Community Libraries put it. Notably, this organization invited public library staff to join them on the planning committee for a Child Care Provider Mental Health Summit, where public library staff had the opportunity to network both with other child care providers while also attend trainings on self-care and mental health.
  • City of Chillicothe (Ohio) Transit Department was nominated by James Hill, Executive Director of the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library for the work the library and the transit department have done together to fully integrate the public library into the community’s transit system, including designating a portion of the library’s parking lot as a transit hub, complete with a “Main Library Bus Stop Bench” shaped like an open book. Hill notes that “As the library was struggling to increase foot traffic after the pandemic, having the built-in bus audience has been a boon to all.”
  • Community Action Thrift Store was nominated by Erie City (Kansas) Public Library Director Julie Kent for its work to connect library patrons and the community at large with critical resources in this small town of 1,100 people. Kent wrote that, “As the library has become the hub of the community, we often know about families that may need clothing or food so [we] can call the Thrift Store for a specific need.”
  • The Department of Parks and Recreation in Columbus, Indiana was nominated by staff from the Bartholomew County Public Library for the work they have done together (1) to create a permanent wheelchair accessible StoryWalk, (2) on the Come Out and Play program open to community youth ages 6-14, which is a free, supervised camp on summer weekdays from 1-4:45 pm; (3) a Farmers Market program.
  • Dr. Laura Munski of the Dakota Science Center was nominated by librarians from the Grand Forks Public Library in North Dakota for the nearly 15 years they have worked together to increase access to STEM learning opportunities. Munski and the library have also worked together to share their model with public librarians across North Dakota. Wendy Wendt, Director of the Grand Forks Public (GFP) Library, said that “Dr. Munski is our strongest partner and serves as a collaborator, a connector, a mentor, and a teacher. Beginning in 2009, Dr. Munski and the GFP Library’s Children’s Librarian Aaron Stefanich collaborated on a STEM project for the library that would be so popular that it continues to this day.”
  • Hartford (Connecticut) Public School was nominated by Brenda Miller, Executive Director of Culture and Communications at Hartford Public Library for the Boundless program, a partnership that involves library staff working closely with school staff to address equity gaps in the educational system. Hartford Public School Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said, “We are thankful to our partners-in-learning at the Hartford Public Library for working beside us, shoulder-to-shoulder, to increase educational access for our beautiful and capable students.”
  • Holly City Development Corporation was nominated by Millville (New Jersey) Public Library director Courtenay Reece for their successful six-year community collaboration focused on creating annual PlayStreets celebration, “a yearly summer event that closes a street to traffic to open the street for a day of play.” More recently the partners have worked together to secure $1,170,000 in state and federal funding to support the expansion and renovation of the 1965 existing library, located in one of the poorest districts in New Jersey.
  • Stop the Violence Team was nominated by Sierra Sauls, Project Coordinator in the Adult Services Division of Norfolk (Virginia) Public Library for their work to spread awareness about and the stop senseless acts of violence. To commemorate Juneteenth 2023, Norfolk Public Library sponsored its annual festival at the library, which was made more successful due to a collaboration with the Stop the Violence Team, who helped the library coordinate a Community Parade. Sauls notes that “through networking and established relationships, we were able to bring together many local organizations, neighborhood residents, and our very own Norfolk City Councilman John E. Paige. It was truly a sight to see, watching the dozens of people coming up the street, chanting to the rhythm of drums. This event brought over 700 people together. It was such a success that the community is already inquiring about next year’s festivities.”
  • Tony Faiz Khayat was nominated by Donald W. Reynolds Library director Kim Crow for the nearly 30 years in which Khayat has volunteered his time to teach free Yoga classes at the library to over 750 students ranging in age from 18 to 94. Crow points out that this is especially notable since Mountain Home, Arkansas, has only 13,000 residents. Tony accepts small donations which he hands over to the library, and over the years his classes have raised $80,000 for the library.
  • Vision to Learn was nominated by Tom Brooks, Communications Specialist at Georgia’s Cobb County Public Library, for its work across America to provide children with free vision screenings, eye exams, and glasses. Since starting at a non-profit in Los Angeles in 2012, Vision to Learn has increasingly worked with public libraries (alongside schools and other community organizations) to close the “eyeglasses gap.” Cobb County Public Library has worked with Vision to Learn since 2018, and in 2023, the partnership had locally enabled 694 children to receive eye exams, resulting in 484 returning to school with new glasses.

Austin Beutner, founder of Vision to Learn, provided brief remarks at the 2023 I Partner with My Public Library Awards Ceremony, held online on November 3, 2023. Register for the awards ceremony at the Awards webpage, and subscribe to the Let’s Move in Libraries newsletter for the call for nominations in 2024.

How to celebrate StoryWalk Week 2023!

For the third consecutive year, Let’s Move in Libraries is teaming up with the Association of Bookmobile & Outreach Services (ABOS) for StoryWalk® Week 2023!

This year the celebration will be November 12-18. During that week StoryWalk® Week will take over ABOS and Let’s Move in Libraries social media platforms, and all entries will be saved on the StoryWalk® Week 2023 webpage.

StoryWalk® Week is the result of a partnership between ABOS and Let’s Move in Libraries.

To learn more check out our StoryWalk Webpage, and also check out submissions from 2022 and 2021.

How to add your voice to the national agenda on food justice and public librarianship

UNC Greensboro Department of Information, Libraries, and Research Associate Professor Noah Lenstra, along with Dr. Christine D’Arpa at Wayne State University in Detroit, were recently awarded an 18-month grant, from the Mellon Foundation’s Public Knowledge program for their research, “Public Libraries and Food Justice.”

We are asking public library workers across America to join us for a short online conversation about this topic. Our hope is that through these conversations and convenings, we will strengthen our knowledge about the public library work that goes into food-related programming and partnerships. Our ultimate goal is to use this understanding to build infrastructure, advocacy, and awareness around it. Get started by filling out this short, one-page form, which we designed to collect information on public library workers interested in joining these conversations, to be scheduled in Winter-Spring 2023-2024.

Public libraries have long offered food-related programming and resources, often through partnerships with local Cooperative Extension educators, farmers, farmers markets, chefs, and gardeners. However, D’Arpa notes, “in recent years we have witnessed a shift toward a more explicit concern among library workers with a growing inequity of access to food in their communities.”

“This work is intended to help us understand and document how public libraries and library workers collaborate with communities with a special eye to food justice issues,” said Lenstra. “Our interest is less in the public library food justice programs themselves than the processes and relationships and resources necessary for them to be developed and succeed. In order to understand those steps and fully appreciate their subtleties, complexities, and the resulting collaborative nexus we will engage directly with library workers. Their voices and how they talk about their work is at the center of this research project.”

Drs. Lenstra and D’Arpa will work with a strategically selected team of research fellows and graduate student assistants to convene three meetings of public library workers. The purpose of these convenings, and of the overall project, is to better understand how and why public libraries become involved in food justice efforts. The results of this exploratory research project will set the stage for more in-depth analysis of the roles of public libraries in supporting, sustaining, and possibly accelerating local food justice movements across America.

Join us in this exploratory project! Add your voice and join the conversation. You can also share this link with others you think may be interested in joining the conversation (

Learn more on the Let’s Move in Libraries webpage.

A funding opportunity for U.S. libraries interested in starting or expanding food education or food access initiatives

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Patrick Leahy Farm to School Grant Program is designed to increase the availability of local foods in schools and help connect students to the sources of their food through education, taste tests, school gardens, field trips, and local food sourcing for school meals. Grants can launch new farm to school programs or expand existing efforts.

On an annual basis, USDA awards competitive Farm to School grants that support state, regional, and local organizations as they initiate, expand, and institutionalize efforts to increase access to food and to food education among America’s youth.

Grantees include schools and districts, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers or groups of agricultural producers, non-profit entities, and state and local agencies.

In other words, public libraries (and state libraries!) are eligible to participate in this program, which has been offered annually since 2013.

Are you considering applying for a grant and need support?

In partnership with the USDA, the Kids Garden Community is hosting a special, free informational session on November 8, 2023 from 3:00-4:30 PM ET to provide application support for those applying for youth garden-related projects. Sign up now!

This session will consist of:

  • Grant information presented by the USDA
  • Tips and lessons learned from grantees
  • Q&A and peer support

Please note that you are also encouraged to attend the two USDA Getting Started webinars on November 1st and 2nd and bring your additional questions to this session.

This informational session will be recorded. If you cannot attend but have questions, please add them to the registration or reply to this discussion thread in the Kids Garden Community.

If you do not have capacity to apply this year, please bookmark this annual funding opportunity as one to look at in a future year!

How to participate in our November Birds of a Feather conversation

Want to join a community of public library workers and partners interested in the topics celebrated by Let’s Move in Libraries? Join us in our monthly Birds of a Feather conversation series.

Beginning in February 2023, we host monthly one-hour Birds of a Feather online conversation. The next event will be November 15. Join us for an inspiring, engaging, open and lively conversation.

What is a Birds of a Feather conversation? It’s an opportunity for individuals with shared interests to gather together (birds of a feather flock together) to share resources, inspire one another, and generally build community.

These events are never recorded so that all participants can share freely. Join us!

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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 HEAL (Healthy Eating & Active Living) programs and services in public libraries. Also follow the project on FacebookInstagramYouTube, and Twitter to stay up-to-date. The Let’s Move in Libraries project focuses on how public libraries create opportunities for individuals of all ages and abilities to engage in healthy activities.