Mar 2016 – Libraries and Nonprofits Working Together

We went into our meeting with the following intent – to explore how the libraries and nonprofits in Clay County can support each other’s missions, goals, and projects. What services or facilities can the libraries offer to our organizations or clients? Are there any new programs that the libraries would like to sponsor or co-sponsor with any of the nonprofits? How can the nonprofits help support our libraries? Does the library see any role in assisting with county-wide projects such as a Resource Directory or Speakers Bureau?

And following are the notes from a very lively discussion between our Clay Library professionals representing the Fleming Island, Green Cove Springs, and Orange Park branches, Friends of the Library, and the Library Board of Trustees, and Shaping Clay nonprofits.

It became apparent almost immediately that a common refrain echoed throughout our entire discussion – how to get the word out. While it was expressed in different ways, the challenge we all face is having people know what we do, how they can access us, and for some, even that we exist.

Our libraries shared these comments. They are expected to do more with less as some of their funding has been reduced by 60% over the last 5 years. Not only do they need to add books and other information resources, but also need to expand computer labs and Wi-Fi service, and are faced with some of the facilities that are aging and need updates.

In terms of providing resources for the community, among the library’s many initiatives, three major ones are 1) to get teens into the library, 2) to work with the schools and families to engage students in summer reading programs to prevent the ‘summer slide’ or drop off of grades, 3) and to support a love of life-long learning throughout the community. The libraries hold many events throughout each month, but not everyone who could benefit from these programs hears about them.

The libraries have meeting rooms which are used, but often are underutilized. On April 7, Saint Leo University is presenting a five-hour Compassion Fatigue Training Seminar held at the Orange Park Library. Saint Leo expressed an interest in further exploring the use of the library’s meeting rooms, since their space on the St. Johns River State College campus is tight

Clay County Literacy Coalition wants to expand throughout all of Clay County and will explore working even more closely with the libraries. Presently 80 volunteers are working with 100 adult students who are learning English or getting their GED. However, most efforts have been in the Orange Park area, and they are now prepared to reach out throughout all of Clay County.

The Shepherd Center expressed frustration that people still don’t know who they are or what they do. This nonprofit has been in Orange Park for 22 years. It strives to improve the quality of life for adults over 55 with educational programming focused on health and wellness.

Molina Healthcare too offers many services that are not well known. As part of their commitment to serving the community they are compiling a resource guide of services that are provided which will be distributed throughout the state. Contact france.maestas@molinahealthcare.com if you want to find out more and be represented in their Resource Guide.

The Florida Department of Health / Clay County’s major emphasis is on driving improvements for overall population health in Clay County. Of course the health of each individual adds up to our community’s overall health. This organization too is continually exploring ways to get the word out about healthy choices, behaviors, and lifestyles.

Community Hospice does a lot of outreach in the community, but many people still don’t understand hospice care and the level of support they provide to the entire family, including children’s programs. They are yet another example of getting the word out. Mercy Support Services is fairly well known in the community and the call center connects requests for assistance to service providers throughout Clay County.

We then brainstormed a variety of ideas about how to help us all get the word out throughout Clay County.

  1. It was noted several times that the Reinhold Foundation has an excellent directory of nonprofits, but organizations need to regularly update their information.
  2. Explore with Clay Electric and Clay Utility Authority whether messages can be included with their bills or in the newsletters they send out to residents and businesses.
  3. Make it a goal to participate in the next Clay County Agricultural Fair by having a table or booth. One way to accomplish this is to join the Clay County Chamber and participate with their table.
  4. Hold community nonprofit and/or volunteer fairs. These could be held in conjunction with the community’s Farmers’ Markets. They would have to be held in several locations in order to reach everyone – Orange Park, Keystone Heights, Green Cove Springs, Fleming Island, and Middleburg.
  5. Coordinate a speaker’s bureau, an idea which has been raised several times at Shaping Clay meetings. We believe that we could start small and approach this as a joint-venture between the libraries, Shaping Clay, and seek involvement of the Clay Chamber, as well as other stakeholders. The library would consider hosting lunch and learn programs in their meeting rooms as a start. It was clearly stated that these would be informational programs and not sales pitches. It was further discussed how these could evolve into more in-depth panel discussions.
  6. There are great events sponsored by various organizations, but there is no one place to find out about them. If you are not on a specific email list, then it’s unlikely you’ll hear about them. Here are a few examples of events and their sponsors within a couple week period.
  • Clay Florida 5 Year Plan Presentation – Clay Economic Development Corporation
  • Clay County Water Summit – Clay County Chamber
  • Non-Profit Appreciation Event – Clay County Chamber
  • Clay Safety-Net Alliance Meeting – Formerly Mercy Network
  • Clay County CHIP Release Meeting – Florida Department of Health / Clay County
  • Rotary 501 Run, Expo, and Car Show – Orange Park Rotary
  • Compassion Fatigue Training Seminar – Saint Leo University
  • Business and Educator Networking Social – Clay County Chamber

We will explore if there is one place that all of the events from various organizations can be posted. And better yet, if summary slides or notes are released after an event, to add them to the event directory. Challenges will include how to navigate through a large collection of events if you are only interested in specific topics. The libraries are updating their website and agreed to explore if they could serve as the central ‘online place’ to post these events. We also discussed how to define ways that we can post each other’s events when appropriate.

There were 6 great ideas floated at our meeting. To all those who attended, and to those who weren’t able to join us, we need volunteers to step up and join us if we are to move any or all of these forward. Please contact Doug Greenberg at dougclaylit@aol.com or Karen Wintress at kkwintress@yahoo.com to let us know what initiative you’d like to contribute to. Also, if any key points were missed in these notes, please let us know.

While we didn’t discuss this at our meeting, here’s a great website that we should be aware of: http://www.fun4clayandbradfordkids.com. It includes hundreds of activities for families and kids in Clay and Bradford counties. Katy Hall would love to hear from anyone who has activities to add to her site at katy@fun4clayandbradfordkids.com, and it costs nothing to add them. I’ll make sure that she is checking out the library website for activities.

Please plan to join us for our next meeting on April 29, 8:30 – 10:30 back at St. Vincent’s in Middleburg. We are going to celebrate our Clay Agricultural Fair by finding out more about agriculture, food (recovery, pantries, deserts), school or other curriculum about nutrition, and ways that the nonprofits, agriculture, and other stakeholders can work together to support this very important sector of Clay County.