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Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

BROOKS MITCHELL

STAR Library Network, Space Science Institute, National Center for Interactive Learning

Project BUILD

NSF Awards: 1657593

2020 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Informal / multi-age

Public libraries are vital community centers offering resources, activities, and other learning opportunities. In order to best serve their communities, libraries must look outward to discover more about how community members think and feel about important topics and to make connections with local organizations and partners that can help address these issues to achieve a common goal. This short video will showcase how one library participating in the STAR Library Network's (STAR Net) NSF-funded Project BUILD utilized Community Dialogues to more fully engage and learn from the community that it serves.

A Community Dialogue is a loosely facilitated discussion that provides the opportunity for library staff and community leaders or members to discuss common, community-based challenges or aspirations. Community Dialogues can help libraries expand their understanding of patrons’ feelings about their local library and its programs, obtain meaningful feedback from the community on who visits the library and why, have a conversation about how the library can better serve ethnically, economically, and geographically underserved and underrepresented audiences, and better connect with local organizations and potential future partners that have shared interests with the library and community. These events are about more than leaving the room with a list of to-dos and answers to all the questions. Rather, they are about discussing topics and issues in an inclusive and uninhibited environment, with community representatives and stakeholders. 

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Original Discussion from the 2020 STEM For All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    Education Coordinator II
    May 4, 2020 | 06:29 p.m.

    Welcome! It is our pleasure to showcase the wonderful work of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLC) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and how they are bringing important voices to their community STEAM conversations. This video highlights AARLC's most recent Community Dialogue, which is a chance for the library to expand its understanding of patrons’ feelings about the library and its STEAM programs, obtain meaningful feedback from the community, have a conversation about how the library can better serve ethnically, economically, and geographically underserved and underrepresented audience, and better connect with local organizations and potential future partners that have shared interests with the library and community. This Community Dialogue was a part of Project BUILD, a project that engages youth (grades 2-5), their families, librarians, and professional engineers in an informal learning environment with age-appropriate, technology-rich STEM learning experiences fundamental to the Engineering Design Process, and featured conversations specifically about the impact of engineering programs at the library.

    Libraries are so much more than book repositories. They are places of inclusive, equitable, life-long learning, and Community Dialogues help libraries understand more about their communities while also helping community leaders learn more about the library's numerous programs, resources, and services. We hope that this video also gives you a sense of the "many hats" that library staff often wear. Whether running STEAM programs for tweens, helping patrons find important services, recommending books and other resources, or facilitating important conversations, library staff around the country are finding innovative ways to bring our communities together.

    We would like to specifically thank Lisa Jackson, the Youth Services Supervisor at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, for facilitating this conversation. I have had the pleasure of working with Lisa across several projects; in addition to many other talents, she is extremely skilled at bringing people together and making them feel at home. Thanks to Beatrice Chavez (STAR Library Network / Space Science Institute) and Anne Holland (STAR Network / Space Science Institute) for filming and conducting interviews, respectively. Royalty free music for this video was provided by Bensound.

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Audrey Shor
    Anne Holland
  • Icon for: Joanne Stewart

    Joanne Stewart

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 5, 2020 | 08:37 a.m.

    What a great way to engage the community! In addition to working with the Boys and Girls Club, what other things grew out of your earlier meetings?

     
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    Anne Holland
    Lisa Jackson
    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Anne Holland

    Anne Holland

    Informal Educator
    May 5, 2020 | 10:00 a.m.

    Hi Joanne! These Dialogues have been conducted at more than 100 libraries, so there are a lot of answers to that question! There's a library who now does a weekly book drop-off at the nearby reservation, one that changed their signage to be more welcoming to new latinx immigrants, another who started a teen advisory group to specifically lead these dialogue efforts, and quite a few who have gained new partners (and funding) as a result to talking with the leaders in their community. Libraries are already fantastic at talking to their patrons, this isn't anything new, but  thinking outside the library and speaking to folks who may not already benefit from it's resources is encouraging libraries to further cement their role as community leaders!

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Brooks Mitchell
    Lisa Jackson
  • Icon for: Leigh Peake

    Leigh Peake

    Informal Educator
    May 5, 2020 | 12:25 p.m.

    Great video and such a great moment around the one-minute mark when your community participant names her issue: "they don't think that these careers are achievable. They think that they're for other people, people who don't look like us." As you know we've been trying intergenerational, youth-led conversations around climate change. I'm curious what you see as the most effective resources, training, mentoring, support -- whatever -- that helps librarians feel confident hosting sessions and navigating the role of facilitator around a STEM topic where they obviously can't be expected to be experts? Thanks for your great work! 

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Brooks Mitchell
    Anne Holland
    Lisa Jackson
  • Icon for: Lisa Jackson

    Lisa Jackson

    May 5, 2020 | 01:45 p.m.

    Hello Leigh! Everything I've learned about Community Dialogues, I learned from Anne Holland and the STAR Net library: https://www.starnetlibraries.org/resources/comm...

    Also, some tips would be to try to get a cross-section of your community with families as well as business leaders and community leaders present. Ask open-ended questions to encourage discussion and let your community do all the talking! Good luck in your endeavor!

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
    Anne Holland
  • Icon for: Anne Holland

    Anne Holland

    Informal Educator
    May 5, 2020 | 02:10 p.m.

    Awww, Lisa is so nice!! Leigh, one of the big things I always like to tell people who may not be comfortable being facilitators, is don't! Have a community partner facilitate, or even better, have everyone sitting together with no set facilitator, and work as a group (easier with small groups obviously!). There's certainly no one right way to do a Dialogue (though of course I'm partial to Lisa's way!)

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
    Lisa Jackson
  • Icon for: Lisa Jackson

    Lisa Jackson

    May 5, 2020 | 01:18 p.m.

    I had never heard of Community Dialogues until working with the Space Science Institute on the Project: BUILD grant program. What a wonderful (and efficient) way to gauge the community's interests, knowledge of issues and desires. 

    Joanne, we made connections with local organizations right here in our community: Community Based Connections (family mentoring programs), Mt. Hope Charities and renewed our relationship with our community park. We were also able to market our STEM kit lending program that was a component of the Project: BUILD program. The comments and questions from attendees helped me see where the library may be missing opportunities to engage and support the community - whether through programs and services or in materials to acquire for the library.

    I will be conducting a dialogue later in the year to gauge distance learning and virtual programming issues. My audience will be community members and stakeholders - although this format would work equally well with the audience being the librarians themselves...and through the dialogue, I'm sure to find out things about outreach to our community that is relevant and useful!

    I encourage all entities to use the Community Dialogue format to work through issues within your community - whether it is the public community or your work community. 

    Thank you to Anne Holland, Beatrice Chavez and Brooks Mitchell for your support and your good works! 

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Brooks Mitchell
    Anne Holland
  • Icon for: Preeti Gupta

    Preeti Gupta

    Facilitator
    May 7, 2020 | 07:59 p.m.

    Thank you presenters for sharing an interesting project. What are your suggestions for how people can set up these experiences in their own cities? How did you cull all of the ideas and decide which ones make sense for you to tackle? What are some challenges you faced and suggestions you can give to us in order for us to proceed?

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Anne Holland

    Anne Holland

    Informal Educator
    May 9, 2020 | 12:11 p.m.

    Hi Preeti! What I like to recommend is that folks first have an open ended conversation (likely with community leaders or stakeholders) to determine what that big idea should be. You'd be surprised how often it ends up being something that no one had thought about! These Dialogues are about unearthing the potential issues in a community, not necessarily already having a great idea and immediately jumping into it. 

  • Icon for: Lisa Jackson

    Lisa Jackson

    May 8, 2020 | 10:51 a.m.

     Hello Preeti! Suggestions for setting up and conducting the dialogues can be found here: https://www.starnetlibraries.org/resources/comm...

    To conduct the dialogue, you will need at least one note taker who can transcribe what is being said so that you can review it soon after the dialogue. Sometimes I go into the dialogue looking for insights on specific things ("how can I get more people to come into the library?" "How can we raise the level of awareness of the many great resources we have to offer?" and so on) ...and then sometimes, oftentimes, someone will bring up a topic or a solution that you hadn't even thought of and that just adds to the knowledge base that you are building. 

    Some challenges are getting invitees to attend (we solve that what offering a dinner meeting where we eat and chat), funding for supplies and food, finding a time or times that are good for the wide variety of people we invite - I try to get folks from the community, from the business sector and from community organizations and finding the right time to conduct the program can be a challenge. 

    Take a look at the link that Anne Holland has put together and you will find the answers to many of your questions! 

    This is an effective way to gain information and a great way to show your community that you care and that you are LISTENING! 

    Best wishes on your Community Dialogue!

     
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    Preeti Gupta
    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Preeti Gupta

    Preeti Gupta

    Facilitator
    May 10, 2020 | 04:27 p.m.

    Thank you, as we thinking about the place I work, American Museum of Natural History, and how we can become critical to rebuilding our local communities during this pandemic and when our physical building is closed, the key idea is to have these community dialogues in a way that is less about "what can the museum do for you" and more about "what are the needs of your community as related to science and science education"? We, at the museum, need to think very carefully how to structure these conversations! Looking forward to reviewing the resources you provided.

  • Icon for: Anne Holland

    Anne Holland

    Informal Educator
    May 10, 2020 | 06:10 p.m.

    Hi Preeti!

    I'm so glad to hear that AMNH is considering using this framework. Especially since you want to focus on the needs of the community! A big suggestion I make for museum folks is to hold the Dialogue somewhere outside of your venue. So many vulnerable populations have the mistaken idea that museums are not for them. What better way to disprove that myth than to meet them where they are? I'm happy to have a call if you want to talk more!

  • Icon for: Nickolay Hristov

    Nickolay Hristov

    Facilitator
    May 8, 2020 | 12:46 p.m.

    I enjoyed diving into this project and its presentation.  The introductions, summaries and discussion were helpful to see the full scope of the project.  Having recently been part of a diverse community that reimagined and rebuilt its own public library, I can relate to the importance and issues of inclusive dialog and equitable community representation.  I am curious, how do you ensure that full community buy-in and an equitable representation at the dialogue table? 

     

     
    3
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Lisa Jackson
    Anne Holland
    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    Education Coordinator II
    May 8, 2020 | 05:41 p.m.

    Hi Nickolay! Thank you for the comment, and I'd love to hear more about your community and the reimagination of its own public library. If you have any resources/more information to share on that story, I would really enjoy taking a look!

    You are absolutely right in that libraries want full community buy-in and equitable representation when they conduct community dialogues. When we talk about these events with the libraries we work with, we encourage them to "think outside of the box" in terms of who they invite and include a variety of participants to encourage more diverse conversation. Instead of only inviting principals, teachers, and school board members for a conversation about STEM education, for example, we would encourage the library to reach out to other people that have a finger on the pulse of the community. In one community that we worked with, one of the most active participants in the dialogue was the owner of the local sandwhich shop. He wasn't necessarily a STEM educator or policy maker, but he heard day-in and day-out about the actual issues that the community faced. 

    We have a robust Community Dialogue guide on our website where we cover how to plan a CD, who to invite, and much more! I will pass along the links below. 

     

     
    1
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    Anne Holland
  • Icon for: Martin Storksdieck

    Martin Storksdieck

    Facilitator
    May 8, 2020 | 05:26 p.m.

    Lovely project: thank you for sharing, and moreover, sharing some poignant voices from the community (as Leigh pointed out above). I have always believed in the power of community dialogue and that is where my question comes in. You clearly are facilitating dialogue around a variety of STEM-related issues with members of the community. Do you also run them with representatives of community organizations, say to find out more about a local STEM learning ecosystem, assets available to the community and how to better collaborate?  The comment about the Boys and Girls club indicates that, but I wasn't sure whether that was a welcomed unanticipated outcome, or whether the project designs towards that. Sorry if that is clearly explained and I missed it.

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Lisa Jackson
    Anne Holland
  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    Education Coordinator II
    May 8, 2020 | 06:07 p.m.

    Martin - that is a GREAT question. Community Dialogues can serve many purposes and have different goals. In the Community Dialogue Guide, we list some potential goals of a Community Dialogue, including: 

    • Expand your understanding of patrons’ feelings about their local library and its programs, including programming related to STEM

    • Obtain meaningful feedback from the community on who visits the library and why

    • Have a conversation about how the library can better serve ethnically, economically, and geographically underserved and underrepresented audiences

    • Better connect with local organizations and potential future partners that have shared interests with the library and community

    More often than not, a Community Dialogue will accomplish more than one of these goals - or, accomplish something that wasn't even a goal from the start! So yes, forming cohesiveness within a STEM learning ecosystem can absolutely be one goal of a community dialogue. 

  • Icon for: Anne Holland

    Anne Holland

    Informal Educator
    May 9, 2020 | 12:14 p.m.

    Martin, everything Brooks said above is absolutely correct. I also wanted to point out that I normally encourage libraries to START with those representatives of community organizations (community leaders and stakeholders), especially if the library staff isn't comfortable facilitating a big open group. These community leaders may not speak 100% for the communities they represent, but it's much easier to start this way, as it's so hard to build trust with populations you may be trying harder to engage with. 

  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    Education Coordinator II
    May 8, 2020 | 06:10 p.m.

    In response to some really great questions that we've gotten, I wanted to post a few resources that the STAR Library Network has developed in relation to Community Dialogues: 

     

     

     

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Anne Holland
  • Icon for: Tiffany Leones

    Tiffany Leones

    Researcher
    May 12, 2020 | 05:37 p.m.

    It's great to see what Community Dialogue looks like in action through this video so thank you for sharing these resources! As a volunteer at my local library, I'm happy to point library personnel to the STAR Library Network.

     
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    Lisa Jackson
  • Icon for: David Sittenfeld

    David Sittenfeld

    Informal Educator
    May 9, 2020 | 06:24 p.m.

    This is terrific work and I'm definitely going to look over these resources. Thanks for sharing this video! I think there is a great deal we can learn in the science center world from what libraries are doing to increase their relevance. Have any of your dialogues actually delved into the changing missions of libraries, asking these participants to help inform and guide your strategic institutional decision-making?

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Brooks Mitchell
    Lisa Jackson
  • Icon for: Lisa Jackson

    Lisa Jackson

    May 12, 2020 | 05:52 p.m.

    Hello David! We have just begun to use the ideas that were generated from this dialogue and have used information from other dialogues to change programming and guide local branch decision-making. We hope that it goes up to the administrative level, but, as you know, things happen very slowly in public libraries - especially change!

    That said, NOW is a great time to do virtual Community Dialogues that deal with providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic....

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: David Sittenfeld

    David Sittenfeld

    Informal Educator
    May 12, 2020 | 06:01 p.m.

    Thank you Lisa!  Yes, we've been doing some virtual dialogues about COVID-19 as well, including one back on March 8 right before our museum closed.  It's not the project we have a video for this year but I am part of an NSF-funded project on co-created public engagement with science in which community members and civic partners work together to determine the topics for our dialogue programs. We've really been grateful to our government partners because we know it's not easy to do this kind of engagement. We had a forum program scheduled last month about the housing crisis in Boston and had to pivot to online version which is less deliberative but still maintains some of the experiences we designed - you can explore that here:https://mos.consider.it/. I look forward to following along with this laudable project, and learning more from your progress!

     
    1
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    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Anne Holland

    Anne Holland

    Informal Educator
    May 12, 2020 | 06:30 p.m.

    Hi David!

    Lisa's response is spot on, but I also wanted to add quite a few of our libraries in our NASA@ My Library program have in fact changed their mission statement and their organizational vision as a result of these dialogues. In most cases, it was to integrate partnerships and STEM into their mission directly. Others it was highlighting the libraries role in reaching populations that don't have other avenues. 

  • Icon for: David Sittenfeld

    David Sittenfeld

    Informal Educator
    May 12, 2020 | 07:15 p.m.

    That's an affirming outcome - congrats!

  • May 11, 2020 | 09:06 a.m.

     This is so cool! I'm wondering how this kind of work can be or has been expanded to integrate community industry partners, K-12 schools and community and technical colleges. 

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Brooks Mitchell
    Lisa Jackson
  • Icon for: Anne Holland

    Anne Holland

    Informal Educator
    May 12, 2020 | 06:29 p.m.

    Hi Megan!

    Great question! Certainly library staff have been including those groups in their conversations, but the guide is very versatile, and we encourage other organizations to try the framework as well. You'd be surprised at how many people respond to such an invitation. Most of our libraries haven't had a hard time getting participants, they've had a hard time narrowing down!

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