“We had to become unlibraried”–Caroline Lloyd, Outreach Specialist for the Robeson County Public Library

I met with Caroline Lloyd in late February 2021. She has been the Outreach Specialist at RCPL for around a year. After our initial conversation, I realized that the Good News is much broader than I anticipated–so we had a second meeting. This edition of Good News from a Good Neighbor has been difficult for me to write for the simple fact that I don’t have confidence in my ability to adequately describe the role RCPL plays in our community. The short version is that the staff isn’t just sitting behind a desk waiting for you to check out a book.

The Library and Charles Darwin

As I think about public libraries in general, and the Robeson County Public Library specifically, Charles Darwin and his studies on evolution and the “survival of the fittest” come to mind. With limitless access on our phones and tablets to all forms of media, many people today have questioned the long term need of a public library. If you view the public library as simply a place to check out books, you’ve got it all wrong. Today, the Robeson County Public Library is “quietly” bringing its creativity and resources out and into our community.

In early 2020, one of the outcomes of that focus was the Dewey Delivery Program which created a pen-pal program connecting elementary school students with residents of assisted living facilities. First and second grade students at Southeastern Academy Charter School in Lumberton along with residents at Wesley Pines were “introduced” to each other through the magic of writing letters.

Also, RCPL offers “Take & Make Crafts” for children each Thursday. Geared towards toddlers and elementary-aged children, the crafts have been a huge success and are offered at all library locations in Robeson County. “Family Storytime” craft kits are also available with a goal of incorporating family involvement in reading enrichment and hands-on crafts.

In February, RCPL conducted the “Say Something” interview series involving local African-Americans who have worked within the Civil Rights movements and are fixtures in the Robeson County. Go to the library’s website or social media page to watch the most recent interview with Angus Thompson, the first African-American public defender in Robeson County.

In October 2020, when COVID put the breaks on our normal Halloween festivities, RCPL created an incredibly fun Halloween experience for kids and their families. In a word, it was perfect!

What’s the Good News?

As you can see, RCPL has really broadened its focus. Let’s think of the impact of juts one of the programs Caroline Lloyd leads. I hope you take a moment to let your mind’s eye imagine the actual implementation of the Dewey Delivery program: an RCPL staff member reading a book about pen-pals to a group of first and second grade students, who are sitting on the floor listening intently. A few students eagerly raise their hands to ask questions. The students write a letter to someone they’ve never met, telling about their school, their favorite food, game, color, and so on. Imagine residents in an assisted living community opening these letters, smiling at the partially legible handwriting of a first grader and yet still able to begin a “long distance” friendship across multiple generations. Imagine the letters making their way back to the students and the smiles and the questions and conversations of 6-7 year olds learning about people and about life. And back-and-forth it goes without the instant gratification of an email or a text or social media post. And unlike an email or a text, the memories of this back-and-forth exchange will not be deleted.

I mentioned in the introduction that I didn’t feel confident in my ability to fully capture the scope of how the Robeson County Public Library has evolved in its outreach programs. The Good News from a Good Neighbor is that I am quite confident that I have indeed failed. You’re going to need to explore the library and its programs for yourself. And strangely enough, you can do that without actually going inside the library. RCPL is doing great things–and right now it seems that nearly all of those good things occur outside of the four walls of the library. It is my belief that COVID didn’t cause the evolution of the library–I think COVID simply required the need to “become unlibraried” to occur at a much quicker pace. The shift began much earlier as technology made many of us believe we could get the same books and services on our own. Congratulations to everyone at the Robeson County Public Library for not only recognizing the need to evolve, but actually putting that recognition into action. We should all be delighted in the Good News that RCPL will be an integral part of our community for years to come!

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