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Team Spotlights

Learn more about the 12 teams in communities across our state who are part of Wisconsin Libraries Transforming Communities (WLTC), in their own words.


January Spotlight: Oregon Team

Q: What made you interested to be part of WLTC? How does it connect to your ongoing work in the community?

Kelly Allen: I loved being outside the library walls and doing outreach events. I wanted to be more effective in working with community organizations.

Amy Miller: Kelly asked me to join her team and I LOVE to work with Kelly! My job focuses on community outreach and engagement so this is a perfect fit!

Q: How did your team decide to participate in WLTC?

Kelly: I saw this intriguing opportunity come through my email. In many ways I was doing community engagement in my work and enjoyed it. I saw the WLTC project as a way to formalize my training and really hone my skills. I asked Amy because I work with her on a few community partnerships. She knows everyone in town or who you should ask!

Amy: Kelly reached out to me with an exciting opportunity to collaborate with her and her many friends in library land! We have worked together often in the past and we saw this as an opportunity to learn from the best and to work together to support a community project that would be identified through community engagement.

Q: Has your experience with WLTC so far led to any different perspectives or new interests in your work in the community?

Kelly: Prior to WLTC, I assumed the library would need to be a driving force behind any community project, from start to finish, that it is a participates in. That’s not necessarily true. The library can be the facilitator of community conversations and connector between organizations and community members. If the library hosts a community conversation and safety of a crosswalk at a busy interaction is what residents keeping talking about: fixing roads is not part of the library’s mission, but we can provide the space for people to discuss this issue. We can share the concerns of community members and give to our local or county agencies that deal with roads and traffic. Providing space and information are part of the library’s mission.

Amy: The idea of intentional community conversations was new to me. The format helped us to focus on identifying groups from across the community to ensure we were hearing from the many diverse voices in our community. A new perspective that was shared is one that I have up in my office on a post it note: “Build programs and services with the community, NOT for them.” That perspective is helping to drive our work in making sure we are listening to the needs and wants of our community.

Q: What challenges are you experiencing in doing community engagement work?

Kelly: The pandemic is our biggest challenge. Naturally, how to live and work in these times is a focus for everyone. We have been able to move some of the conversations to think more broadly about community issues.

Amy: COVID-19 has challenged our progress. From redesigning our jobs to finding times to have our community conversations has been difficult. From our community conversations, we learned that if we focus our conversations on aspirations for the future, we are gaining better insights into what our community wants and needs. In our early conversations, the challenges with COVID-19 were consistently the focus of each conversation. In those conversations, we focused on active listening including offering ideas to support their work during these challenging times. Learning from that experience, we have now moved to aspirational questions in our community conversations. With this change, we hope to better identify a meaningful and impactful community project.

Q: What are you looking forward to with your teamwork?

Kelly: We are seeing some common themes and I’m excited to start focusing on one to become our project. We had a small, quick win with our Fall Fitness and Wellness Challenge sponsored by the Oregon Area Wellness Coalition (OAWC). The Library and Community Education and Recreation are both members of OAWC, and Amy is the facilitator of the coalition. Community members wanted things to do outside of their homes and feel a part of a community, even at a distance. Our Fall Fitness and Wellness Challenge aimed to inspire healthy habits, freshen up your fitness routine, encourage you to try new things, stay consistent, get out in the community and be a supportive, healthy influence on others. There were three ways to play. The printable BINGO card and Goosechase app included a variety of activities - crafting, nutrition, exercise, sleep, helping others, and more. For those who only wanted to focus on exercise, we had the 50k quarantine option. Everyone who completed the challenge received a $5 gift card from a local business which was funded by Community Ed & Rec.

Amy: We are excited to continue our conversations and our learning with WLTC. We are beginning to see common themes in our community conversations. We are also hearing hope and excitement about the future of our community in our most recent conversations. We look forward to further defining our project including developing goals and a timeline to complete the project to better our community.

For questions about this information, contact Cindy Fesemyer (608) 266-8053