Redwood City Public Library Director Derek Wolfgram and the entire RCPL leadership team are committed to inclusion.  The first of the library’s five operating principles is:  Our community is welcoming and inclusive, celebrates the diversity of our population, and enjoys a friendly, neighborly community spirit.

The Redwood City Library has been using innovative programming to build relationships between various parts of the community, such as the Human Library event that lets people check out a “book” of a one-on-one conversation with someone whose identity or life experience you’d like to learn more about.

To keep pursuing the vein of inclusive welcoming, this summer the Redwood City Public Library is launching Library Takeover. Residents are invited to propose their own ideas for programming, especially if they help reach parts of the community less likely to be using the library already. Successful applicants get small grants, marketing resources and planning support from the library. The due date to apply is July 19.  Teams will be selected in August and this new community-initiated programming will roll out this fall.

Common Knowledge has been delighted to support Library Director Derek Wolfgram and his management team (pictured above) as they approach the Library Takeover project as an opportunity to not only offer small grants but to invest in new relationships and make the library as welcoming as possible to those parts of the community that may be underserved.  While Redwood City Public Library has a robust programming and communications function, they still want to increase use by more people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, seniors, veterans and residents with disabilities.

Instead of just announcing the Library Takeover as a grant opportunity, in June four orientation sessions were held at different branches as well as the main library. In addition to strong publicity, the management team conducted personalized targeted outreach calls and attendees indeed reflected the hoped for diversity, including those who knew very little about the library’s many offerings. The highly interactive meeting was designed as a fun and informative program that earned high marks by all participants. The library provided a visually attractive overview of its services that prompted positive feedback at the end of the session:

“I wasn’t aware of all the programs and resources you offer.”

“Sí, me gusta lo interesante que hay para ofrecer a la comunidad / I like all the interesting things that the Library offers to the community.”

“The new programs that are offered now, specifically the human library, that I feel is a wonderful experience for all of us with the current society we live in now.”

“The programs are a lot more diverse in the offerings that I expected.”

Attendees also shared their ideas about what does and doesn’t make a good event. The word cloud below, which reflects participants’ answers across all four orientations, confirms that the community is looking for ways to connect that are welcoming, comfortable, interactive and that offer chances to learn.

The Library Takeover project is just getting underway, but the Redwood City Public Library is already achieving goals of being more welcoming, developing new relationships and making information about its offerings more accessible.  Participants share their appreciation:

“Yes, I loved how welcoming the event felt from the very start to the very end. It was truly amazing to hear all the resources offered at the library.”

“It is great that you are listening to the community needs. Thank you!”

“La comunicacion facil y la acogida de los encargados de la Biblioteca / The easy communication and the warm reception of the Library staff.”

“Keep up the great work – love the constant outreach and innovation.”

Any library, agency or local organization can choose to help make their community more welcoming.  Are you familiar with the Welcoming America network? This year’s Welcoming Week is September 13 -22.  Visit this link for all kinds of resources. And stay tuned for what happens next in Redwood City as the Library Takeover project selects and supports new community teams.