Connecting Community

This article originally appeared in the Fall, 2020 issue of the Library’s print newsletter, Transformations.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library connects people with information, with others, and with opportunities to participate in the life of the community we share.

Martha Yesowitch is the Library’s Community Partnerships Leader, and her role is to build relationships with other organizations to expand reach and impact. “Libraries are fundamentally about people,” Yesowitch shares. “Our community trusts the Library, and by working together we can provide reliable information and opportunities to engage around issues important to the people of Mecklenburg County.”

The ability to leverage the complementary audiences and expertise of the Library and partners make a collaboration most impactful. Two new
partnerships exemplify this approach:

Look Back, Move Forward
In partnership with Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Engage 2020 began as an election-year program series in celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

Mayor Vi Lyles, Engage 2020 Honorary Chair

It’s become much more – a safe space for our community to learn from one another, to put current issues into historical context, and to learn from the past to create a better future. Ongoing programs highlight the stories of Black women in the suffrage movement and throughout the civil rights movement, and the partnership is collecting and archiving stories of how this watershed year is affecting people from all facets of our community. “Civic engagement helps to build a stronger community, and there’s no better organization to provide the forum and the resources than the Library,” explains Hannah Terrell, Branch Leader at Allegra Westbrooks Regional Library and co-chair of the Engage 2020 committee.

Engage 2020 is presented with support from Pivotal Ventures, a Melinda Gates company.

Report for America
Local decisions have day-to-day impact, but local news is often under-reported or overshadowed.

Dante Miller, Report for America reporter

In partnership with WFAE, Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and Wikipedia, the Library has engaged in a national service program called Report for America. Three reporters – one embedded with the Library – will cover hyperlocal news, with a commitment to reporting for the community, not just on the community. The reporters will interact with community members in “news deserts” to learn what residents want others to know about their neighborhoods and share the stories locally and on Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia. Reporter Dante Miller is exuberant about the possibilities. “This partnership fuels my dual passions for community work and journalism. By using the immense resources of the Library I can enhance every story with solid, trusted research and context.”

The Charlotte collaboration marks the first time Report for America has funded a position at a non-journalistic entity.

For over a year, the Library has been part of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, supported by the Knight Foundation and part of the national Solutions Journalism Network. Nine partners – La Noticia, Charlotte Observer, WCNC-TV, QCity Metro, WFAE and QNotes, along with the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Free Press – began with a focus on finding solutions to the affordable housing shortage. In recent months, the group has pivoted to address the urgent needs of our city’s most vulnerable communities in the midst of the pandemic. A recent article on the Knight Foundation’s website cited the partnership as a bright spot in local news coverage, and identified the Library as the group’s “unique power source,” providing neutral ground for civic support and engagement.

Your support allows Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to engage in innovative partnerships. Please consider making a gift to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation to continue this important work.

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