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Community Libraries’ Role in Building Resilient Communities


The charge to build resilient communities is one that multiple collaborative partners strive towards, together, across the state of Vermont. With the support and investments of so many advocates, highlighting every incredible ally in this journey can be difficult. In the Franklin and Grand Isle regions, however, one of our stellar partners in building resilient communities comes from the on-going, consistent support of the library network. Can this be true? With new-age technology, the furthering trajectory of the use of libraries may seem trivial to some. Do we even use libraries anymore? The simplest answer to this question: YES!…and if you aren’t accessing your local library, there are ample opportunities to gain supports and resources to learn more about what our beautiful communities have to offer.

The Global Perspective

Libraries seem to be one of the silent pillars of communities, not only in Vermont, but across the world. Veil and Bishop (2014) highlight four capacities in which libraries advance community resilience: economic development, social capital, information and communication, and community competence. From offering macro-level effects on communities, i.e. physical sanctuaries during disaster relief efforts (Veil and Bishop, 2014; Jaeger, Langa, McClure, and Bertot, 2006) to the more micro-level effects of being a free, openly accessible site for children and adults to stay connected through internet access, libraries have the ability to bridge gaps within our communities.

Grace and Sen (2013) discuss library networking in the promotion of community resilience, focusing on environmental agenda and sustainability within smaller communities. The study found a significant increase in access to technological resources, professionalism and social capital, demonstrating the possibility of true impact on community resilience networks.

“Social capital and social trust are adaptive capacities that are applicable for adaptation to any external or endogenous disruptive event or shock and as such are general resilience adaptive capacities and capacities for enhancing both general community resilience and specified community resilience. As institutions creating social networks and as highly trusted institutions, public libraries create social capital in the local community.” (Varheim, 2017). With consideration to the possibilities for community-wide support, the exploration and utilization of our libraries throughout Franklin/Grand Isle Counties encourages exciting opportunities for a more resilient community.

Meeting with our Library Network

During one of the Franklin/Grand Isle team meetings, I was able to sit down with several of our librarians to discuss varying dynamics of our library network. “We’re so much more than books…we are a free resource, open to everyone, and we work with a lot of community partners to support their work as well.” As the group sat around a common table, discussions of current events, new activities, and discussing shared goals exuded passion for the health and wellness of our connected region. With the ability to meet, discuss and brainstorm, the realization of the work being done within our local libraries was not only evident, but enthusiastically presented as an exciting prospect for future growth.

For our youngest community members, each library offers unique and accessible skill-building programs, encouraging children to learn and engage with their communities. Throughout each day, librarians are supporting children of all ages to read more, engage in positive social connections, and providing opportunities for parents to engage in free, structured activities with their children. From themed backpacks that families can check out to learn about various topics (i.e. nature-themed bags) and offering free movement & music classes, to offering teen craft nights and family movie showings, the availability of resources truly seems endless! Additionally, our libraries can provide free passes to locations including state parks, museums, Shelburne Farms, ECHO Center reduced cost vouchers, city pools, and much more! Free Wifi access, laminating/printing, faxing, and more are also available to adolescents and adults who may not have access otherwise. (NOTE: each of these vary for each library, so make sure to visit your local library to find out more!)

With so many supports coming from our libraries, having the ability to collaborate with community partners has elevated community resilience through collective impact strategies to ensure that all families stay connected. Partnerships with our local libraries are shared across the region with our designated mental health agency, Northwestern Counseling and Support Services (NCSS), our local Parent Child Center-NCSS, Department for Children and Families, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), RiseVT, Restorative Justice, VSAC, The Notch, various conservation partners, and more! The ability to come together in these community hubs provides an open-door style for the entire region to stay involved in the looping efforts to make Franklin/Grand Isle counties the best they can be. From working with DCF to support community-based family visitation for parents and children, to supporting community playgroups (i.e. Georgia’s community playgroup is now located at their local library), the network provides multiple opportunities for community partners to benefit from their local libraries. Informally, libraries also act as safe spaces for kids during after school hours and in-between school programming.

Other local events, including holiday-related programs, are also supported by our library network. From holiday food drives to ‘trunk or treat’, our librarians work with organizations and families to provide this space for all to access. With some of our libraries getting between 20,000-27,000 community member visits a year, the utilization of our libraries is essential for community resilience.

Funding Our Local Libraries

Each library has a pre-determined budget throughout the fiscal year, which is determined by its respective town Selectboards. While the libraries have incredible resources and active library directors to offer tons of resources, the financial ability to do so relies heavily on these budgets and from the donations/grants of other community partners. Our libraries depend on the communities’ financial investment, allowing for library programming to remain free for everyone. Parents and other volunteers often bring donations to libraries, including offering supervision of activities when they are able. This network of support works to tip the scale of hand-to-hand support between network members and the sense of municipality shines across the region. To continue supporting your local library, please see the table below to get in touch with your local library.

Throughout the Franklin/Grand Isle Counties, we have the privilege to access 16 local libraries. Take a look at the list below to find a library near you!

Library Library Director Contact
St. Albans Free Library MaryPat Larabee 11 Maiden Lane,

St. Albans, VT 05478

https://www.stalbansfreelibrary.org/

H.F. Brigham Free Library Cheryll Derue 104 Main Street,

Bakersfield, VT 05441

https://hfbrighamlibrary.wordpress.com/

Enosburgh Public Library Brenda Stanley 241 Main Street,

Enosburgh Falls, VT 05450

https://enosburghlibrary.net/

Fairfax Community Library Emily DiGiulio 75 Hunt Street,

Fairfax, VT 05454

http://fairfaxvtlibrary.org/index.html

Bent Northrop Memorial Library Sarah Montgomery 164 Park Street,

Fairfield, VT 05455

http://www.bentnorthrop.org/

Haston Library Josh Worman 5167 Main Street,

Franklin, VT 05457

https://franklinhastonlibraryvt.org/

Georgia Public Library Bridget Stone-Allard 1697 Ethan Allen Highway,

Georgia, VT 05454

https://www.georgiapubliclibraryvt.org/

Highgate Library & Community Center Michelle Beaulieu 17 Mill Hill Road,

Highgate Center, VT 05459

https://hlccvt.org/

Town Library Marlene Hambleton 86 Mountain Road (Route 242)

Montgomery, VT 05471

https://www.montgomeryvt.us/directory/library

Arvin A. Brown Library Kathleen Engstrom 88 Main Street,

Richford, VT 05476

https://aabrown.org/

Sheldon Municipal Library Elizabeth Nye 1640 Main Street,

Sheldon, VT 05483

https://www.sheldonlibrary.org/

Swanton Public Library Caleb Rupp 1 First Street,

Swanton, VT 05488

https://swantonlibrary.org/

Worthen Library of South Hero Keagan Calkins 28 Community Lane,

South Hero, VT 05486

https://southherolibrary.org/

North Hero Public Library Caroline Korejko 3195 U.S. Route 2

North Hero, VT 05474

http://www.northherolibrary.org/

Grand Isle Free Library Rhonda Richard 10 Hyde Road,

Grand Isle, VT 05458

https://grandislefreelibraryvt.wordpress.com/

Isle La Motte Public Library Joyce Tuck Main Street,

Isle La Motte, VT 05463

https://islelamotte.us/services/library/

Alburgh Public Library Gina Lewis 16 South Main Street,

Alburgh, VT 05440

http://www.alburghpl.org/

 

References:

Grace, D., & Sen, B. (2013). Community resilience and the role of the public library. Library

Trends, 61(3), 513–541.

Vårheim, A. (2017). Public libraries, community resilience, and social capital. Retrieved from:

http://www.informationr.net/ir/22-1/colis/colis1642.html

Veil, S. R., & Bishop, B. W. (2014). Opportunities and challenges for public libraries to enhance

community resilience. Risk Analysis, 34(4), 721–734.

 

 

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