The powerful ways that North Central Regional Library is building community in NCW
EDITOR’S NOTE: To hear my podcast interview with Angela Morris, please click on the podcast link in the Art of Community page or subscribe via ITunes
There is no substitute for face-to-face interactions when it comes to building stronger communities, and the North Central Regional Library serves as an absolutely essential organization for connecting people throughout the region.
To better understand the way our regional library system builds community, I sat down for a podcast interview with Angela Morris, NCRL’s director of public services. In a nutshell, she’s responsible for programming and how staff members engage with the public. You can hear Morris speak to these subjects in her own words by accessing my podcast via iTunes or at artofcommunityncw.com.
Our conversation ranged from the wildly (pun intended) popular visit of author Cheryl Strayed, who wrote “Wild” (a memoir of her trek on the Pacific Coast Trail) to a discussion of about the creative ways the library creates access to experiences and ideas throughout North Central Washington using its bookmobile, local libraries, mail order access and digital downloads.
Access to services is really difficult in some of the far-flung places in North Central Washington and yet NCRL has found increasingly creative ways to bridge those gaps and serve the underserved.
This goal of making sure everyone has access speaks to the importance of making sure that we level the playing field for people in our communities rather than take a more selfish approach.
Morris has a deep appreciation for the value of libraries. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Hooper near Washtucna and when she wasn’t outside riding horses or running with the family dogs, she was reading books. The Whitman County bookmobile was her lifeline to a world of knowledge.
About 11 years ago she started working for the Wenatchee City Library in the children’s program. NCRL has put a high priority on delivering programs for children of all ages.
“When you are serving kids face-to-face every day, that’s where you really get hooked” on the power of libraries, Morris told me. “It’s a wonderful feeling and you know you are making a difference.”
That passion for engaging youngsters led her to become NCRL’s program manager for children before stepping into the role of overseeing the staff and programs for the entire region.
Her love of making a difference comes shining through when you talk with her about the work of the library system.
One of the epiphanies Morris had in her work at the system was seeing the value of literacy fairs that demonstrated how services that the library delivered could have broad impact across the community. Working with teachers, Head Start staff and people from other organizations working to improve early childhood learning, she saw how the library’s work could be leveraged through partnerships.
This connect-the-dots thinking is in keeping with the spirit of Our Valley Our Future, the grass-roots community building effort in the greater Wenatchee Valley.
One of the great successes is that there are nearly 200 book clubs serviced by the library system and that there are more than 1,000 titles in the book club collection. These clubs bring together people who like to read and do social things — a classic community-building formula.
The library system is adapting to the changes in our communities. The traditional strengths of community libraries that create space for programs that serve all ages, plus the bookmobile and mail order programs, have been enhanced with the development of Maker Spaces, that allow kids to not just learn about ideas but to do hands-on work with 3-D printers and other technology.
The regional library has been a key supporter of the Apple STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) consortium as well as the two Mini Maker Fairs that have been held here.
Here are a couple of other key programs that demonstrate creativity. They are providing story time programming for special needs individuals and they are providing programs for juvenile justice centers in Chelan, Grant and Okanogan counties. Those youngster are hungry for education and learning, Morris told me.
The strength of the libraries has always been in programs for children, but adult programs are growing in significance, Morris told me.
Strong, resilient communities work hard to tap into the strengths of all citizens and in that spirit of community, the North Central Regional Library stands tall.