Above: Our 2022 LIL cohort at their final convening on January 20, 2023. Photo by Kerri Young.
On January 19 and 20, we hosted our final meeting of the 2022 Library Innovation Lab (LIL) cohort to share stories, memorable highlights, and learnings from a year of bringing public humanities programming to libraries and communities across California. Each year, the program provides a practice-based professional development experience to a group of California public library staffers along with grants for public programs that engage immigrants and foster more welcoming and inclusive communities (please note the application deadline for LIL 2023 is February 1).
Each of our nine project directors, all of whom are library staff serving in a variety of roles at libraries across the state, were tasked with researching, designing, implementing, and assessing a small-scale, short-term public humanities project. Each of their projects was unique, reflecting the needs, interests, and values of the immigrant community or communities – Afghan, Chinese, Filipinx, Khmer, Mexican or multicultural – for which it was designed. Cohort participants experimented with a wide variety of programming formats, including exhibits, installations, presentations, and demonstrations of traditional arts and cultural forms and practices; others focused on documenting immigrant community histories, struggles, and achievements; still others focused on collecting and sharing stories, songs and poems through texts, digital media, and interactive programming – one library developed a podcast series while another offered a guided walk. Many of the activities were multigenerational although some libraries emphasized engaging families, teens, or seniors; many included programming conducted in languages other than English to increase accessibility; all provided opportunities for the broader community to learn more about California’s rich and complex cultural mosaic.
At the meeting cohort members provided reflections and insights about factors that led to success. Many credited collaboration and support from coworkers as key. Others felt that establishing strong relationships with individuals and organization in immigrant communities was essential. “Persistence” was another word mentioned, with many noting the importance of being flexible and adapting to changing circumstances and conditions, whether it be a resurgence of Covid, unexpected bad weather, or a last-minute cancellation by a presenter. Much appreciation was expressed for the encouragement the cohort members gave each other, as well as the counsel and support they received from our experienced library mentors.
“Building relationships, building community partnerships, learning how to get answers…it was a great exercise.”– Toktam Gholami, Los Angeles Public Library
We are grateful to this cohort for another year of inspiring work. Despite the challenges they faced, all displayed a high level of professionalism as well as enthusiasm and warmth that they in turn shared with their communities. Many plan to continue their programs beyond the grant period (some aim to develop future programming based on their LIL experiences), so we encourage you to visit their respective websites and social media channels for more information and for upcoming events near you, using the links below.
Connections: Connecting through Art, Nature, Healing and Story
Old Town Newhall Branch Library, City of Santa Clarita Public Library
Project Director: Farima Kafai, Librarian
Creating Vines of Hope: A Filipino-Community Celebration
Delano Branch Library, Kern County Library
Project Director: Fabiola Orozco, Delano Branch Supervisor