2023 Awardees

During Summer 2023, a call for nominations for the inaugural I Partner with My Public Library Award received 55 submissions. The final list of the 10 awardees was made on October 1, 2023, with an online awards ceremony scheduled for November 3 at 3 pm Eastern. Watch the Awards Ceremony, which featured brief remarks from Mr. Austin Beutner, Founder of Award Winning Vision to Learn.

The 10 Award Winners for 2023 are, in alphabetical order:

  • Child Care Resource and Referral of Washington County, Oregon
  • City of Chillicothe Transit Department, Ohio
  • Community Action Thrift Store, Kansas
  • Department of Parks and Recreation in Columbus, Indiana
  • Dr. Laura Munski, Dakota Science Center, North Dakota
  • Hartford Public Schools, Connecticut
  • Holly City Development Corporation, New Jersey
  • Stop the Violence Team, Virginia
  • Tony Faiz Khayat, Arkansas
  • Vision to Learn – National non-profit nominated by public library in Georgia

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

Additional information on these collaborators, and how they partner with public libraries can be found below.

With such a strong pool of nominations, we also wanted to shine a light on other community collaborators, which led us to create a list of 2023 Honorable Mentions. Go to our Honorable Mentions webpage to learn more about these amazing collaborators, organized into the categories of: local non-profits, local government & business, and affiliates of state & national organizations.

Who was nominated in 2023?

Nominations came from 22 states. Based on data from the U.S. Institute of Museum & Library Services, the nominations were split among urban (24%), suburban (27%), town (26%), rural (15%), and multiple community types (9%).

They 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).

Forty (40%) of nominations explicitly mentioned issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, or engaging historically marginalized populations through their collaboration. Sixty (60%) discussed a back-and-forth relationship – one in which it is not merely the partner doing something at the library – but instead a more complex give-and-take. Thirty-five (35%) of nominations reference partnerships that have been in place for at least 5 years.

If you missed this year’s call to nominate your public library’s key community collaborators, don’t worry. This annual award to celebrate the power of community partnerships will again solicit nominations in Summer 2024.

Why is Let’s Move in Libraries sponsoring this award?

Since 2016, the non-profit organization Let’s Move in Libraries has been a national and international voice advocating for strengthened partnerships between public libraries and others that want our communities to be healthier places for all. Through this work, we have seen that public libraries can do a lot to promote health, but this health promotion work is almost always made possible by community partners and community collaborators. Recognizing a gap around this topic, in 2023 Let’s Move in Libraries launched the annual I Partner with My Public Library Award to begin the process of creating a platform to celebrate and acknowledge the crucial work of community collaborators to the work of public librarianship. This award is open to all partners, not only those focused on health promotion.

Child Care Resource and Referral of Washington County, Oregon

In a nomination letter, Julie Handyside, Early Childhood Outreach Librarian at Cedar Mill Community Libraries, Oregon, wrote that Child Care Resource and Referral of Washington County (CCR&R) has developed strong partnerships with all three libraries in its service area, including Cedar Mill Community Libraries, Beaverton City Library and Washington County Cooperative Library Services. These strong partnerships, according to Handyside “remove access barriers to child care provider trainings, provide successful grant support, and leadership support with a child care provider mental health summit.”

In particular, Handyside noted that “CCR&R invited all three libraries to participate in the planning committee for its Child Care Provider Mental Health Summit. This free in-person conference offers child care providers an opportunity to connect with each other, attend trainings on self- care and mental health, and visit useful informational tables hosted by local organizations. Library staff were able to make in-person connections with child care providers, share summer reading and upcoming child care provider trainings and meet CCR&R staff in person.”

She added that “CCR&R staff care of, and dedication to, child care providers was shown at the summit. They carefully crafted a day to support, encourage and educate providers. Staff attention to detail from session topic choice, photo booth, table fidgets, raffle prizes, translation services and simply talking to providers created a day where child care providers important work was celebrated.”

Handyside summed it by saying that CCR&R are “Champions of child care providers and the important work they do. The staff of Child Care Resource and Referral of Washington County, Oregon are a vital community collaborator with local libraries,” including through child care provider training offered at public libraries.

Rachel Su, Child Care Provider Training attendee and Community Trainer, added that “CCR&R Child Care Provider Training at the library has been a valuable service for me. During the pandemic they continued classes and helped me through it. CCR&R has a really important role with the library on goals that support adult education and child development, Further, as library patron, they encouraged, supported and trained people like me who have gained skills to provide a better learning environment for children.”

Jennifer Wolf, Children’s Librarian at the Beaverton City Library, added that “Beaverton City Library has been providing free trainings for early childhood educators since 2015. Through the years we’ve developed a growing partnership with CCR&R of Washington County, and our services to child care providers have flourished because of it! CCR&R provides wrap around services, starting with advertising library trainings directly to providers via their newsletters, social media, and in one-on-one conversations directly with the providers who need these trainings the most, and ending with processing and entering the community education credits into the state database for providers, many of whom lack the time, technology, or expertise to scan, upload, and submit the certificates themselves. Our partners at CCR&R are instrumental in helping library staff understand the needs and barriers that many childcare providers have in accessing library resources and bringing ideas of how to make it easy to use the library. Likewise, they have educated themselves on current library services like computer classes, technology help offerings, library of things, to tell providers in the area what the library has for them. Early childhood educators, the children and families they serve, and the library all win because of CCR&R’s partnership with our libraries!”

Katie Anderson, Collections and Resource Librarian in the Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) noted that “CCR&R is an essential partner for WCCLS and member libraries. They are able to identify what trainings are most needed and promote them directly to child care providers. CCR&R has a relationship with the Oregon Center for Career Development, the statewide professional development system for child care provider, so they are able to streamline tracking continuing education credit for participating providers so they don’t have to do it themselves. Without CCR&R we may not meet providers needs as effectively, and would not get the level of participation in the training series.”

Handyside added, “CCR&R’s partnership with the Cedar Mill Community Libraries contributed to the library receiving a Library Services and Technology Grant to support the Bookshare program. Bookshare brings library services such as a monthly book box delivery and storytime to child care providers and the children they serve. CCR&R provided contact support to Preschool Promise locations allowing the program to expand. Preschool Promise offers, free high-quality preschool to Oregon families who are living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. CCR&R staff made connections and communication between the library and Preschool Promise locations possible. Bookshare currently serves 14 Preschool Promise locations with crafts designed to develop fine motor skills in young children, books in 25 different languages and storytime designed to promote Kindergarten readiness.”

Learn more about the “2023 Washington County Early Childhood Mental Health Summit,” in which “attendees were able to network with other educators and learn more about resources offered by our partner agencies, public libraries, LifeWorks NW, Trauma Informed Oregon, Child Care Substitute of Oregon, Dougy Center and others.”

City of Chillicothe Transit Department

A portion of the City of Chillicothe’s Transit map, showing the library as a central transit hub in the city’s downtown.

James Hill, Executive Director of the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library in Ohio, writes in a nomination of Chillicothe City Transit that in 2021, “the City of Chillicothe was revamping their bus routes throughout the city and county to be more streamlined and consistent. The library was approached by the then Transit Director, Asti Powell, about relocating the transit hub to a corner of the Main Library’s parking lot.

The Chillicothe & Ross Public Library had a new bench put in near the main branch that looks like a book.

Hill said “it was good timing as we had just reconstructed our parking lot, and were able to designate the corner near Paint and 6th St. as the bus area. Additionally, the city received a grant from AARP for a bus stop swing, which is similar to a porch swing, and together we’ve created flower beds and other landscaping around the space.”

As a result of this partnership and placemaking collaboration, Hill writes that “since January 2022, all of the city’s bus routes start and stop at the Main library. Previously, the routes terminated at the transit office, which is a nice building but located in an isolated area of the city. Riders coming from the once-daily routes to county stops had to wait, sometimes for hours, in the depot waiting room. Now, while waiting, they can use the free wifi‚ available even in the parking lot‚  come inside the library and browse the stacks, read a newspaper, hop on a computer, or even explore downtown. As the library was struggling to increase foot traffic after the pandemic, having the built-in bus audience has been a boon” to all.

The partnership has continued to grow with the new transit director, Aaron Kennedy. Hill writes that “This past January, we jointly purchased a book-shaped bench for the area. The library’s graphic designer painted the outside cover to resemble an old book, while the transit department stenciled the inside with a history of Chillicothe’s Transit system. It’s been a conversation piece for out-of-towners who come to the library to ride the city’s Trolley, which is also new for the city.”

Hill sums it up by saying that “the partnership has increased both the library’s and the city’s visibility and continues to grow.”

Learn more in the article “News Briefs: book bench installed at main library, new adult law enforcement training being offered at PRCTC.”

Community Action Thrift Store

In Kansas, Erie City Public Library Director Julie Kent said in a nomination letter for the Community Action Thrift Store that it is a “community store operated solely by volunteers in our tiny town of 1,100 people. The store is supported by the community with donations of household items and clothing, which are sold or given away to anyone who needs the items.”

Rose Fry, a volunteer at the store, reports  “the work of the thrift store is quite important. We offer clothing for families for $4 per bag and that makes families able to care for their kids. As our small town has no clothing or housewares, the thrift store is vital.”

According to Kent, “The thrift store uses the proceeds of their sales to support community causes, including gift certificates for residents of Senior Housing at Christmas, family Christmas baskets in December and Love Baskets in February, expensive medications for families, children’s lunches and milk for school kids, school supplies, swimming lessons – 30 paid for during summer 2023 – and of course, the Erie City Public Library.”

Volunteers at the Community Action Thrift Store

Kent said “Our partnership with the Thrift Store has been ongoing. They supply the library with craft items for our kid’s craft and other adult programs. They purchased a big screen television for our community room to be used for movies for our Seniors and our kids. This summer, they donated $300 to our summer reading program to purchase kids books as rewards for reading.”

She added, “Our summer reading program is very popular with the kids who come in and is due to these generous people from the Thrift Store. We purchased 218 children’s books from a used book store to give kids when they return books they have checked out.”

This support is important because, “according to Kidscount.org, 60 % of the children in Neosho County, Kansas are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunches. Our families are vulnerable to poverty. We are very proud of our community and the great things that working together can make happen.”

Kent provided one example that illustrates the extremely close relationship between the public library and the thrift store: “As the library has become the hub of the community, we often know about families that may need clothing or food so can call the Thrift Store for a specific need. Just this week at the library, we were visited by two men who were part of a 5,000 Mile Multi-State Bike Ride, sponsored by The American Cancer Society, Wounded Warrior Project and The Longest Day Project of the Alzheimer’s Association. They came to the library to cool off, drink some coffee, use the internet and rest before continuing their long trip on their way to Florida. We discovered that during an overnight stay in a campground, someone stole their backpacks containing their food, clothing, shoes and socks. They had only the plastic sandals they had in their tents to wear. We called the Thrift Store and they graciously offered to help them get clothing to continue their trip.”

Kent summed it up by saying that “The Erie Kansas Community Action Thrift Store is a great partner of the library and the small town. They use money they make selling donated items in their store to enhance and enrich our community. We are very fortunate to have the Erie Kansas Community Action Thrift Store as a community partner.”

Learn more about this partnership on the library’s Facebook page.

Department of Parks and Recreation in Columbus, Indiana

In a nomination letter, Kate Grafelman, Children’s Programming Librarian at the Bartholomew County Public Library (BCPL) wrote, “The Department of Parks and Recreation in Columbus, Indiana [partnership] provides access to library programs to community members who are not able to get to the library itself. They [also] invite the library to their own programs and events where we can provide resources and services to the community.”

She added that “the most lasting evidence of the Department’s valuable partnership with BCPL is the permanent StoryWalk® that the two groups installed together in November 2020. The Department provided a beautiful path near a pollinator garden in one of their most popular city parks to be the home of the StoryWalk®. They installed the 20 StoryWalk® displays that BCPL acquired through grant funding. In addition to installing the displays, the Department took the extra step of ensuring they were along a wide paved path, each on their own offset asphalt pad to make them completely wheelchair accessible. The Department continues to maintain the path that the StoryWalk® is on, which is part of their city-wide ‘People Trail’. BCPL maintains the StoryWalk® displays and switches the stories out monthly. This permanent installation provides early literacy and movement opportunities to the many neighborhoods, schools, and the public park situated nearby. The collaboration and goodwill that make this installation possible has paved the way for the strong relationship that BCPL has with the Department of Parks and Recreation.”

Another signature partnership between BCPL and the Department centers around the annual ‘Come Out and Play’ program led by Parks and Recreation. Grafelman said that in Summer 2023, “the Come Out and Play program invited all community youth ages 6-14 to a free, supervised camp on summer weekdays from 1-4:45 pm. This program provides free childcare, free lunch, high-quality activities, and free transportation to and from the camp. This program is made especially successful because of the Department’s commitment to partnering with community groups that share their community goals. The free lunches at this program were a service of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation’s Summer Feeding Program. The Department also partnered with BCPL on this program, inviting the library’s BCPL Express van to visit every Monday to provide a free book to every child in attendance. The ‘Come Out and Play’ program also held a field trip to BCPL to allow the youth in attendance a chance to learn about the library and what it has to offer. The Department lets community members know about the library and access our services and resources as one of the numerous ways they fulfill their mission of enriching lives.”

Sandy Allman, Community Outreach Librarian and BCPL Express Coordinator, added, “I highly value collaborating with Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. Over the years, many staff members [there], especially Jacob Hendricks, have gone above and beyond to foster a relationship between Parks and Recreation and BCPL. Jacob ensures that participants [in park programs] know where the Library is, how to use it, and assists in participating in the BCPL Summer Reading program. This year alone [2023], we have already visited Parks and Recreation for Storytime in the Park, Come out and Play, and special events such as Summer Carnival and the Harry Potter Birthday party on twelve occasions, distributing over 600 free books to the youth of Bartholomew County who would not have otherwise had those literacy opportunities.

“Jacob and staff have also encouraged the Library to become a vendor at the Parks and Recreation Farmers Market program. Since 2018, BCPL has been a vendor at the market, which is a wonderful platform for Storytime, Summer Reading, and Library Card sign up outside of our Library buildings. Parks and Recreation staff have also collaborated with Library staff on our Summer Reading launch party, both in providing a location for this event, as well as having Parks and Recreation staff as visiting vendors at many Library programs on the Library Plaza in recent years.”

Teen Programming Librarian Dakota Hall, states that the partnership has “allowed us to offer outdoor programs like yard games, nature walks, and sports events for our teens that would not be possible in the library space.”

Learn more at the Come Out and Play webpage, and the StoryWalk landing page.

Dr. Laura Munski, Dakota Science Center

The nomination materials in support of Dr. Laura Munski, Executive Director of the Dakota Science Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, included the voices of the library director, the library’s STEM coordinator, and two staff of the children’s department.

Collectively, they discuss how Dr. Munski has since 2009 worked in close coordination with the Grand Forks Public Library not only to bring STEM education to the library, but also to connect the library to grant funding, connections with innumerous STEM educators, and the resources and support needed to build a successful, multi-faceted library-based STEM learning infrastructure. Furthermore, with Dr. Munski’s support, the library has successfully shared these resources with other public libraries across North Dakota, paying forward the collaboration.

In a nomination letter, 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 to the GFP library staff. She has had an incredible impact on the Grand Forks Public Library and on all the people who attend our programs. 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.”

In addition to helping the library start and sustain STEM programming, “The connections Dr. Munski established between Aaron and others in the community has been invaluable. From the University of North Dakota’s (UND) Engineering Department to the Turtle River State Park staff and numerous organizations in between, enduring collaborative relationships have been made thanks to Dr. Munski’s efforts,” said Wendt.

Her impacts have also resonated across the state of North Dakota. Wendt notes that “Dr. Munski also serves as a mentor and a teacher. She has shared her areas of STEM expertise with Aaron, who has in turn shared that knowledge with the North Dakota library community by presenting at various conferences and workshops.”

Delores R. Clark, STEM Coordinator at GFP Library and at the Dakota Science Center added that thanks to a grant Dr. Munski helped to write the library was able to provide “travel funds for other North Dakota librarians to come to the library for training. These are things we could never had accomplished without Dr. Munski’s generous involvement.” Clark added that Dr. Munski “is instrumental in contacting the community via several media outlets and school communications. She brought me to a rural school consortium to share the activities and programs we do, and now they have written grants and implemented programs.”

In a separate nomination letter, Aaron Stefanich wrote that since the library’s partnership with Dr. Munski started in 2009 she “has devoted countless volunteer hours to help create accessible, educational, and memorable STEM opportunities for youth and families across Grand Forks County. Every month the library hosts STEM programs for children at the library, all done in partnership with Dr. Munski and DSC.”

In addition to connecting the library with experts from the University of North Dakota in fields as diverse as Geology, Geography, Atmospheric Science, Engineering & Mines, Geosciences, Music, and Physics, Stefanich said that her “connections with STEM professionals helped the library create partnerships with a variety of community organizations, including North Dakota Extension Services, Turtle River State Park, Grand Forks Horticulture Society, Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District, Northern Sky Astronomical Society, and more. The library has also hosted national traveling exhibits for the Dust Bowl, Discover Earth, Discover Space, Thinking Money for Kids, and #PlantWildflowers.”

Kirbie Sondreal, Assistant Children’s Librarian, added that “through her work and collaboration, the library has become a hub of quality STEM activities that are incredibly popular with our patrons. These include weekend STEM events that focus on one theme such as chemistry or geosciences, multi-day summer activities like NASA Astro Camp, and First LEGO League Robotics in which children can learn the basics of coding.

Sondreal added that Dr. Munski “is also incredibly well-connected in our community. Her ties to the University of North Dakota have made possible collaborations with multiple departments for our weekend STEM programming, in which local college students help to lead children in STEM activities related to their field of study. Through Laura we have been able to connect with our community, finding volunteers and collaborators for this program and many others.”

Sondreal added that Dr. Musnki “is also an incredible savvy grant writer. The most recent largescale exhibit Laura helped us to attain was last summer’s ALA Thinking Money for Kids exhibit, featuring interactive exhibit panels and activities to teach children about financial literacy, and this fall we will have an exhibit on blue whales through Tangled Bank Studios with programs to supplement that Laura helped to plan and implement. None of the programs or exhibits mentioned would be possible without Laura.”

Sondreal concluded “The learning opportunities Laura Munski has made possible to our patrons and community are invaluable.”

Learn more at the library’s STEM Kids webpage.

Hartford Public Schools

In a nomination letter, Brenda Miller, Executive Director, Culture and Communications at Hartford Public Library (HPL), wrote that “our urban public library and school partnership, a collaboration we call ‘Boundless,’ serves as an impactful, multifaceted, dynamic model that creates equitable access to resources and programming. Our outcomes include rising reading levels, lowering learning loss, supporting both HPL and Hartford Public School’s (HPS) strategic priorities and an increased use and awareness of library resources.

“The Boundless program and partnership development has followed a solid trajectory from intensive exploration to installation and initial implementation to full implementation — and cycling back to exploration as needed. The initial exploration included extensive research and melding of best practices to create core components to achieve Boundless desired outcomes. Just this summer [2023], HPL and HPS’s partnership brought more than 3,000 young readers into our libraries. From Summer Learn partnerships to Block collaboration, HPS and HPL have come together to further leverage the resources and expertise of both institutions in this innovative Boundless partnership.

HPS 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. When I was a child, the Park Street public library branch was my second home. One of our major goals is to make all schools community schools; Boundless gets us closer to our goal. Boundless benefits our students, teachers, families, and the entire school community. And it profoundly supports our literacy goals which we know are key to student success. Supported by a Media Specialist, this is a traditional library where the past and future meet; combining all the tools our students need to thrive in the 21st century.”

HPL President and CEO Bridget E. Quinn said “The seamless integration of library and school that we started … opens a vast array of educational opportunities for students and targeted assistance for teachers. In addition, the Boundless Library has become the focal point for the increased intellectual enrichment of the surrounding community.”

According to HPL Youth and Family Services Manager Katherine Trouern-Trend, “3603 Hartford Readers are reading, dancing, and singing from Barbour Branch Library to South Church and right on over to the Park Branch Library.”

An HPS teacher said that through this partnership, “we have more access to resources that have made students more interested in STEM [and other] subjects.”

Miller added that, “Without a doubt, the 6-year-old Boundless program has been impacted over the course of its development by numerous challenges. Those challenges include the COVID pandemic which resulted in closure of both the library and the schools, staffing issues, flooding of Hartford Public Library’s Downtown Library, and budgetary constraints primarily impacting the schools. Despite these challenges, the Boundless team has demonstrated remarkable ability to learn and adapt as the challenges have occurred to keep the program intact and progressing in line with its intended outcomes.

Additional impacts from the partnership include the following:

  • An innovative plan to use HPS student ID’s as library card access points allows seamless access to both school and public library services and resources.
  • Developing Boundless Collaboration blocks where HPL liaisons, serving as glue for the day-to-day on-site Boundless operations, are welcomed in the schools by HPS staff. For teachers and staff, what the Boundless initiative offers is clearly appreciated, and recognized for its utility, and high usage; the resources were described as “critical” for ESL students. Teachers and staff especially noted how important it was to have the liaisons physically present at the school. HPS interviewees described their HPL counterparts as friendly, problem-solvers, and as being considered celebrities or rock stars by the students. HPS, and the energy and spirit in which their staff embraced this partnership, made Boundless that much more robust.
  • Boundless Collaboration blocks were launched in 2018; as of 2023 about 50% of schools have medium to high levels of engagement with their assigned HPL branch/department. This is remarkable progress towards the 60% goal for this implementation period given the challenges.
  • In 2018, the Boundless partnership moved to further deepen the connection between schools and libraries for teachers, students, and community by launching a pilot program at Hartford’s Rawson School to make the library a daily presence in the school and serve as a springboard to establish Boundless libraries in other schools. Because of this success, we are opening another Boundless Library at the West Middle School (PreK-5th grade) in Fall 2023 modeled after the pilot at Rawson.
  • The Boundless website/Boundless LibGuide was designed in partnership and launched in 2019.
  • A Unified Summer Learning Program was launched in the Summer of 2021, resulting in a 300% increase in participation with approximately 900 HPS students engaged; in Summer of 2022, 1,351 HPS students participated, a 50% increase over Summer 2021. In 2023, more than 3,000 students participated, a 50% increase over last year’s numbers.
  • Undertaking annual events for Read Across America Day and Read for the Record. These partnership programs began in the Fall of 2020.
  • COVID had a substantial impact on Boundless, for example, the Boundless Library @ Rawson closed in March 2020 and did not reopen for public service until February 2023. Across the system, library staff could not do class visits and classes couldn’t visit HPL branches for all of the 2020-2021 school year and some of the 2021-2022 school year. While the impact of COVID required both HPL and HPS to do major re-tooling to meet their individual organizational mandates, HPS required focusing on the critical needs of continuing students’ education remotely and on getting them back to the classroom when schools reopened. HPL shifted its focus from an in-person approach to establishing a broader and more accessible array of educational and learning-oriented virtual resources and services to support teachers/staff and students.
  • Funding and deployment of existing and new resources to support the launch and early implementation were instrumental in HPL/HPS capacity to launch and continue Boundless’s development.
  • Each school has a designated HPS liaison to work with HPL.

According to Miller, “28 percent of Hartford’s population live below the poverty line. A richly diverse community, 43 percent of our schoolchildren live in households where English is not the primary language. To educators and librarians alike, this indicates a need for classes in English for children and adults, as well as remedial classes for those who need varying degrees of language help. It also translates to homework clubs, after-school programs directly related to specific curricula, and new ways to get books to people of all ages.”

Brenda Miller summed it up by saying that “It is inspiring to work with a partner who champions the fundamental right to read. In professions increasingly under fire, this partnership has flourished.”

Learn more about this collaboration at the Boundless Hartford webpage.

Holly City Development Corporation

Librarians from Millville Public Library Jess Schriver and Courtney Reese at a Play Streets event organized by HSDC in collaboration with the public library, alongside many, many other community partners. Photo credit: Isaiah Showell.

Courtenay Reece, Library Director of the Millville (New Jersey) Public Library, wrote the following in her nomination: “Holly City Development Corporation (HCDC) is a strong advocate for the Millville Public Library in Cumberland County, New Jersey.” She added that HCDC represents and serves “one of the poorest districts in New Jersey,” and as such “advocates for community members who have little or no voice.”

The mission of HCDC is “to ‘Inspire and Empower Neighborhood Change’ through economic development, housing, and community development.” It does so through community collaboration, community planning, and community action.

A key recurring partnership with the library (and others!) has been in the annual PlayStreets collaborations, offered annually since 2018. Playstreets is a yearly summer event that closes a street to traffic to open the street for a day of play. The program runs six weeks every summer and garners support from over 20 agencies/partners, averages 45 to 50 volunteers per week and averages 150 resident participants per week. Reece writes that “they invite us each year to have a voice and a vote in designing Playstreets, a community building activity that takes place over six weeks in the summer.” She adds that “HCDC has also under written summer reading programs.”

This pattern of collaboration led to an even larger partnership focused on securing the funds needed for a new library building. Reece writes that HCDC “Executive Director Heather Santoro is a library patron, and she has frequently provided financial support for the library.” The biggest contribution to the library has been their search and discovery of $1,170,000 in state and federal funding to support the expansion and renovation of the 1965 existing library. Reece said “these funds will allow us to complete the project and, most important, to make sure there is a working elevator in the renewed library.”

Reece sums it up by saying that “partnering with HCDC has been a pleasure due to their commitment to share the word about library services and how it impacts the community at large.”

Learn more in the article “$8 Million Library Expansion Celebrated,” which features the following quotation from HCDC Executive Director HCDC: “This project has been a priority of our community members for nearly a decade. It began in 2013, but it was also reiterated by community members in 2018 as a priority project for the Center City Neighborhood. Our goal as an organization is to work with community members on identifying their needs and priorities and working with residents and community stakeholders to see those programs and projects come to fruition.”

Stop the Violence Team

Sierra Sauls, Project Coordinator in the Adult Services Division of Norfolk (Virginia) Public Library, wrote in a nomination letter that “As a lighthouse for the Hampton Roads community, the Stop the Violence Team is the very blueprint for how to be a great community collaborator. Since 2014, the Stop the Violence Team has worked to spread awareness and educate the community about senseless acts of violence. Together, Norfolk Public Library and the Stop the Violence Team provide positive outlets for youth to engage and interact through library programs and community-enriching programs.

“For example, to commemorate Juneteenth this year, Norfolk Public Library sponsored its annual festival on the grounds of the library and neighboring aquatics center, on Saturday, June 17, 2023. The festival was a success due to Bilal Muhammed, president of the Stop the Violence Team, who helped us to coordinate a Community Parade for our Juneteenth Celebration at Richard A. Tucker Memorial Library. 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. Bilal even made sure to educate our youth on the significance of drums in African culture. This event brought over 700 people together. It was such a success that the community is already inquiring about next year’s festivities.

“In addition to collaborating with Norfolk Public Library for large events, the Stop the Violence Team also gets the word out regarding our regularly scheduled programs. They help us spread the word about the importance of literacy and alternatives to stay busy and productive. It’s one thing to share a flyer, but to see how they take the time to orally promote Norfolk Public Library at community functions is most admirable.

“Whether it’s advocating for community safety or championing a similar cause, Stop the Violence Team is usually there, brightening the scene while clad in their signature orange attire.

“According to Brittany Phanelson, Resident Services Coordinator, ‘Stop the Violence sponsored 20 Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority families during our Resident Services First Annual Holiday Giveaway in 2019. Ms. Atkins personally shopped for each child with a passion to fulfill each wish list request. In addition to providing gifts for the families, the organization supplied food for our holiday event. Each family that attended received hygiene kits and cleaning supplies. The Resident Services Department of Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority would like to send a huge thanks of gratitude to Stop the Violence for their support.’ It is very evident that they have picked up the mantle of community support through leading by example.

“Norfolk Public Library could not think of a more deserving organization than Stop the Violence Team for this auspicious collaboration award. Their reach within the community is like the roots of a tree, anchoring us all together and providing nutrients through their philanthropy.”

Learn more about Stop the Violence Team.

Tony Faiz Khayat

Kim Crow Sheaner, Director of the Donald W. Reynolds Library Serving Baxter County in Mountain Home, Arkansas, wrote in her nomination that “Tony Faiz Khayat’s Yoga classes are a long running success story. For nearly 30 years, Tony has consistently volunteered his time and expertise, teaching Yoga to over 750 students at the library, ranging in age from 18 to 94. This is especially impressive considering our small-town population of approximately of 13,000.

“His students are very loyal, many have been coming for years. There is no charge for the class, instead Tony accepts a small donation to the Library from students for each class. The amount raised through the years now totals over an estimated $80,000. Needless to say, he has made a big impact on the Library and our community in more ways than one.”

Khayat is a graduate of Southwest Missouri State with a master’s degree in business. He received his yoga training at the renowned Bikram Yoga Studio in San Francisco and began teaching yoga in 1978. Locally, he taught at his own studio from 1990 to 1993, in local health clubs, Baxter Regional Medical Center and North Arkansas Community College, now Arkansas Sate University in Mountain Home, until his retirement in 1995.

His wife, Gwen, said that when Khayat retired, a library employee asked him to start a yoga class for employees and library patrons.

“All of a sudden he was at the library teaching yoga, and the class kept growing and growing,” Gwen said.

Sheaner said that “his students are dedicated fans of his unique style of Yoga that promotes fitness and relieves stress and tension.  Students report improved muscle tone and flexibility.  Khayat is a walking example of yoga as the secret to remaining youthful.”

Khayat said “Yoga has kept me going. My students and classes keep me young.” In Summer 2023, at the conclusion of the class Khayat teaches twice a week at the Baxter County Library, his current students brought him a cake to celebrate his 81st birthday.

Vera has been a student of Khayat’s for 10 years. She regularly goes to the gym and plays tennis. “Yoga keeps me stretched and limber,” she said.

Khayat’s students are devoted to him and credit his classes and yoga techniques for keeping them healthy. Ninety-four-year-old Doris credits him for “keeping me young.”

“It has kept me agile,” said June who has been a student of Khayat’s since 1990. “It is good for anyone to keep stretching,” she added.

Student Vickie said, “I have been amazed at the speed at which I have gained flexibility and strength. It’s hard to go to the gym because of all the people that look good and are fit. (There is) no body-consciousness in Tony’s class. We all have physical challenges, including some folks with knee replacements. Tony’s philosophy is do what you can and find something that works. I recommend it for anyone at any age.”

The three women are enthusiastic in their agreement, “It is never too late to start,” they said.

Bill, a former student who studied with Khayat for many years calls Khayat, “A great instructor. He has a pretty simple technique that is all inclusive, just about all parts of the body, from the feet to the top of the head. You always feel better when you leave his class.”

“We’re all so glad that he does this, for our health and our well-being,” yoga student Ann said. “It’s good for us. We feel good when we do it. And we’re grateful to have Tony donate this time.”

June, has been a Khayat student for more than two decades.  “He’s been so faithful, so regular to do this for the Library. He’s so interested and caring. He’s concerned about all of us,” June said.

Recently, the Little Rock Veterans’ Center heard about Tony’s classes and requested that he introduce the healing benefits of Yoga to a group of veterans at the Bob Davis Veterans Center in Mountain Home.  Now, in addition to his classes at the Library, Tony regularly donates his time working with these veterans in coordination with a Vet Center Readjustment Counselor.

In awe of Khayat’s dedication, Library Director Kim Crow Sheaner said, “Seldom does a library partner like Tony come along — someone so talented, dependable, and inspirational. We realize how fortunate we are to have enjoyed such longevity with Tony and that he has chosen to devote himself to the Library and his students. We look forward to many more years of his classes.”

Learn more in article “Library’s yoga class honors instructor: Tony Khayat has raised over $60,000 for the Baxter County Library during his 25 years of teaching yoga classes at the facility

Vision to Learn

Vision To Learn mobile clinics at Cobb County Public Libraries

In a nomination letter, Tom Brooks, Communications Specialist at Georgia’s Cobb County Public Library, said the national non-profit Vision To Learn (VTL) was founded in Los Angeles in 2012 and since then has “provided children free vision screenings, eye exams and glasses. Vision To Learn operates on-site mobile clinics with professionally trained and licensed staff to give eye care services for children in need.”

Brooks said that around 2018, VTL partnerships with public libraries began expanding significantly through summertime clinics at libraries. As of early June 2023, VTL’s record showed more than 120 public libraries in six states partnering with them to provide eye exams and free glasses for children: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. In August, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in North Carolina hosted VTL clinics for the first time.

Brooks added that “Data shared with me from Vision To Learn showed as of early June 2023‚ even before the summer 2023 round of VTL clinics at public libraries was in full swing, there had been 6,579 exams at public libraries since VTL was founded, resulting in 4,565 children receiving glasses. In Georgia alone, the summer 2023 totals at Cobb County libraries are: 694 eye exams resulting in 484 returning to school with new glasses” who otherwise would not have the eye care they need to succeed.

Approximately three to four million children in the US attend school unable to clearly see the board or read textbooks, and about one in four children will naturally need glasses. Children without the glasses they need are more likely to be misdiagnosed with behavioral issues in kindergarten, be labeled slow learners by 5th grade, and to drop out of high school.

Brooks said through these partnerships, VTL “professionals and supporters promote awareness of the ‘glasses gap’ in the United States. Vision To Learn founder Austin Beutner’s message is clear and unequivocal: ‘When a child comes to school we make sure they’re provided with food, along with the books and school supplies they need. Why not glasses? Every child in every school, everywhere in the country, should have the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life.’”

Learn more at “Cobb County Public Library’s Vision To Learn Partnership Expanding.” Learn more about this organization at the Vision to Learn webpage.

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