Newton County Library has been selected as one of 517 libraries to participate in Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries, an American Library Association (ALA) initiative that helps library workers better serve their small and rural communities.
The competitive award comes with a $3,000 grant that will help the library create an outdoor space for library and community use. The library recently received a grant from the Home Depot Foundation for 4 picnic tables and 2 raised beds, which should be in place by mid-May. The Libraries Transforming Communities grant will further develop the outdoor library space to bring community education and interaction outside of the building and onto the library’s grounds. The funds will also be used to increase visibility and awareness of the library, its mission, and its functions.
“NCL’s goal is to promote the library’s grounds for library programming and community use by creating a welcoming and engaging outdoor space, a commons, to be used during the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and after the pandemic is resolved,” said Library Director Kenya Windel. “While the library as a community center is not a new concept, the need for it in an accessible outdoor space has become evident. While some libraries were more equipped for that need, NCL was not. We are planning modest improvements and enhancements to complement NCL’s rustic yet engaging outdoor space.”
As part of the grant, Windel will take an online course in how to lead conversations, a skill vital to library work today. Windel will then host a conversation with residents about resources available in Newton County and use the grant funds to create a functional outdoor space for small gatherings, library and community programming, and community use. Funds will be used to purchase signage, umbrellas for the picnic tables, a pet litter bag dispenser, an animal-resistant trash can, plant ID signage for the gardens, and materials to build a Story Walk.
In addition to equipping county citizens with the knowledge they need to access community resources, the overarching purpose of this project is to develop and promote community unity in a safe space on common ground. Windel hopes that exploring the topic of community resources will help county citizens grow their understanding of others, other organizations, their experiences, and their missions and provide space for the diverse identities of Newton County’s rural population. Windel says the library outdoors is also going to be a nice place just to have lunch with a friend on a pretty day.
If you are interested in getting involved or taking part in the conversation, please contact Kenya Windel at (870) 446-2983, or visit www.newtoncountylibrary.com for more information.
Since 2014, ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative has re-imagined the role libraries play in supporting communities. Libraries of all types have utilized free dialogue and deliberation training and resources to lead community and campus forums; take part in anti-violence activities; provide a space for residents to come together and discuss challenging topics; and have productive conversations with civic leaders, library trustees and staff.