Blog Written by Noah Lenstra, PhD
As a doctoral student I was curious about how public libraries and senior centers supported digital literacy among senior citizens and older adults. Unexpectedly, I noticed that older adults talked quite a bit about their exercise when they visited these institutions – how to stay active, how to keep each other motivated. They were talking about physical literacy. I began researching what public libraries are doing to support physical activity, active lifestyles and physical literacy. I’ve discovered that there is quite a bit going on and a lot of interest in doing more.
And that’s what led me to Impact Through Innovation, thinking about the data I’d collected, the webinars I’d been doing, and the website I was building. I had questions about how I might take this phenomenon to the next level and give public librarians the support they need, to feel comfortable taking their spaces in this new direction.
ITI has supported the development of my “Let’s Move In Libraries” website (letsmovelibraries.org). One really powerful step was the vision plan – long-range thinking about sustainability of the project. Thinking through what that would look like and what I would need. Also, ITI helped connect me to a local web designer. That was very helpful in making the site more user-friendly but also in the conversation we had about techniques to make the project more impactful, such as soliciting and sharing librarians’ success stories of librarians, to excite and animate people about what is possible.
The website now has three main components. The first is a live, real-time map of where libraries are doing initiatives supporting physical activity across the country. Some libraries will check out bicycles or have yoga classes in a meeting room. Or they’ll have a story walk in which the pages of a children’s story are laminated and posted throughout a park. There’s a huge variety of programs and services and it’s mostly a grassroots phenomenon. The website captures that and, hopefully, inspire libraries to do new things.
The second part is the webinars that I offer. As the project has expanded, I now receive requests to collaborate with other librarians and library groups to develop and deliver continuing education webinars. I am working with state libraries in Indiana and Iowa, and as well as with OCLC/WebJunction (a non-profit with the slogan ‘The Learning Place for Libraries’), the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, and the National Institute on Aging, to incorporate Let’s Move in Libraries into the continuing education webinars they offer. Through these collaborations, I am expanding our reach.
A room full of librarians get moving as part of a Let’s Move in Libraries session at the Association for Library Services to Children in Cincinnati, Ohio, September 28, 2018.
The third component is shared resources, with this intention: “Here’s what I’ve been doing in my library and maybe you should try it.” I’ve been compiling these resources so that they’re more easily discoverable. I know from my research that many librarians experience challenges and growing pains with offering physical literacy programming, because it is new and not in their comfort zone. So that’s what I’d like for the site to be – a place where librarians can go to find what they need to develop programs. See this sharing in action on our social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
For the last 10-15 years, the conversation has been about public libraries as community centers. We even talk about the public library as the community’s living room – a place where you can relax and be with others. The community-building aspect of the programs was surprising to me. But it’s something that I’ve heard quite a bit about: in addition to the health benefits of participating in physical literacy programs, people feel like they are building community through a random assortment of people coming together to do something.