We may be apart, but we’re in this together

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I’m pretty sure that we can all agree that life and work don’t feel “normal” right now. Even as we unite as communities to “flatten the curve” and adopt social distancing routines, it’s hard for us to be apart from colleagues, friends, and our community. But there’s solace in knowing that our communities are protected by our combined effort and that we’re all in this together. I hope everyone reading this is healthy and safe.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had so many conversations with library colleagues that have amazed me. Even though the way that we’re supporting our communities may have radically changed, our conversations have felt remarkably “normal” in that they all have the same balance of professional responsibility and personal good humor that I’ve come to rely on, time and again, during my career.

You are all amazing. And your libraries do amazing things, which is why we put the OCLC Community Engagement Award out there—to hear more about them and spread the word. And it’s why we’re extending the nominating deadline from April 30 to May 31.

We’ve already received some fantastic entries. Really different community engagement projects from all over the country, connecting in many different ways.

Some highlight how libraries are working to connect different parts of their communities together, bringing businesses together to form partnerships that can get more done in concert. Some are new takes on traditional library programs like bookmobiles, but adjusted to meet new or challenging circumstances. Some leverage new technology to help connect kids and adults to 3D printers and scanners … and some provide wonderful, creative new ways to engage with traditional printed materials. Others are specially crafted to reach a small, underrepresented segment of the community or are meant to draw in a large number of people to meet, mix, mingle, and experience the joy of coming together for fun, learning, and fellowship. The variety and creativity are inspiring.

Reading the entries submitted so far has been such a great experience for me, personally. It absolutely reinforces something that we all know—library staff are incredibly creative people who care deeply about engaging their communities in locally distinctive ways.

We know that these last weeks have been really challenging. That’s the main reason we wanted to extend the award deadline—to make sure that everyone who wants to has a bit more time to submit their project.

Reflecting on the current situation

During the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve seen awesome community engagement efforts, too. While participating in the “OCLC Virtual Town Hall: Libraries and the COVID-19 Crisis,” last week, I was struck by all the creative ways that libraries are reinventing and extending services to support their communities as we “isolate together.” Libraries are obviously shifting to provide more online materials and e-resources. They’re doing virtual story times and making sure that resource sharing services are keeping pace. They’re helping teachers and parents with home-schooling assignments and materials.

And so we also want to extend the award entry period to make it possible for you to submit a program you may have just initiated to help provide resources and connections to your community during the pandemic. If you have started a new program for this purpose, please submit it for consideration.

I’ll close the same way I started—I hope you’re healthy and safe. And I deeply appreciate the work you’re doing now, which is the work you always do—to share knowledge and keep our communities connected, even when we’re apart.

You can submit your community engagement project using this form until midnight US EDT, May 31, 2020. Full details are available here.