We are so excited to share that the Gibsonville Public Library is a recipient of American Library Association’s Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative.
The Gibsonville Public Library strives to be a community hub providing access to information and activities directly and helping to connect our community members to services and programs beyond the library’s offerings. The library is positioned to respond quickly to changing needs and has proven this during our current pandemic. Last fall, we started and continue to maintain a well-used food pantry in our library’s foyer, and have reorganized our tiny interior space (about 2,500 square feet) to allow for socially-distanced computer use and by-appointment browsing in addition to curbside and virtual services. We have experienced a large amount of positive feedback in response to our efforts to maintain community ties and services during challenging times, which is both heartening and telling – few other organizations are poised to address community needs in this way.
Our community engagement project, approved for funding by the American Library Association’s Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative, will focus on the topic of what Gibsonville residents need in order to “bounce back” from the pandemic’s effects on families, students, and individuals. In April of 2020, library staff participated in the Gibsonville Community Group, which endeavored to engage a collection of community stakeholders to find out what their friends, families, congregations and neighbors were going through and how the library and other organizations could help. Concerns about students struggling with virtual schooling, where to find supplies like face masks, and where food and funds could be donated to help those in the most urgent need came to the fore. Some of these concerns are still ongoing, others have been largely addressed by initiatives like the library’s “Mask Gibsonville” campaign to provide donated masks for those who needed them. Of course, our students are still struggling, and families are still in need of support. By revisiting and broadening these conversations, the library can once again pivot to address the community’s needs – both new and lingering. We can also help to share the stories of diverse and often underrepresented groups within our community to increase awareness, empathy, and avenues for support.
Our goal is to build a more comprehensive understanding of our community’s current needs, and to communicate those needs with local institutions. The library is a department of the Town of Gibsonville, which is currently planning the safe reopening of public spaces like Town Hall and the Gibsonville Community Center. Information gathered from our community conversations will be shared with town administration, Community Center staff, local school administrators, and our local merchant’s association to help inform not just the library’s offerings, but those of as many other community organizations as possible.
We plan to hold multiple conversations with different target audiences, and will need to be flexible in order to accommodate each group’s needs. By offering socially-distanced outdoor options in addition to virtual gatherings via Zoom, we hope to balance varying safety concerns, technical aptitudes, and group preferences. Sharing what we learn is a major part of our goal so we will post the results of our discussions on the library’s website and social media in addition to providing it directly to other local organizations. Grant funding provided by this initiative will purchase tablets and laptops that will be used to enable virtual conversations and support future programming, as well as publicity efforts to help spread the word about the project.