Gail Borden Public Library's Global Neighbors Series helps our patrons experience the culture and contributions of the people who live in our community. Our goal is to foster an understanding between cultural and ethnic groups to help build a stronger community through social, civic, and global awareness.
The series, held three times in 2019, featured local speakers from the chosen country as well as traditional food, music, film and other activities. We had programs for Scotland, Germany, Columbia and Poland.
Unfortunately, we had to postpone our program on Greece that was scheduled for May 2020 due to COVID-19.
It usually takes a couple months to coordinate the presenter, entertainment and food for the program.
Our first step is to research and consider our whole library district’s demographics and where people come from. We are lucky to live in such a diverse area! Once we choose a country, we need to find a speaker/presenter for the program. Through our partnerships and contacts, we have found presenters from each country who are local to Elgin.
We do not look for professional speakers, just someone who is from that country and can give a casual, authentic presentation about their country's culture. For example, the presenter for our Germany program was a teacher at Elgin Community College. Along with her PowerPoint presentation, she brought interesting German artifacts and utensils.
Once a presenter is chosen, the next step is to find authentic food and entertainment. The restaurants we contacted are in Elgin or the surrounding area. For entertainment, I look up weekend schools or cultural dance schools in our area. For our Poland program, I found a Polish Weekend school who came and performed traditional dances for us.
We started promoting about three weeks prior to the program with newsletters, fliers and a large poster in the building.
With all the generous contributions from local restaurants, dance groups and gratis presenters, we have been able to provide these programs within a $100 budget.
On the day of the program, we make sure everything is set up for the presenter, entertainers and food display. We had two or three staff members and two volunteers on hand to help greet, take pictures and pass out food. We needed to to make sure the timing for everything was planned out.
We had over 100 people at each event with overwhelmingly positive feedback. Patrons were asking when we will have the next one so it's disappointing that the pandemic has left us without the anticipated Greece program.
I believe these types of programs are much needed given the racial inequity we are facing in current times.
Unfortunately, with current restrictions on in-person programming, we are not sure how the attendance would be if we presented this program virtually. If you want to do this program once it is safe to be together, we discovered that the best flow is to have patrons get food first and then sit for the presentation. Another tip is to keep the presentation to 15 or 20 minutes, then have time for Q&A and entertainment at the end.
About This Library
Gail Borden Public Library serves the fifth largest library population in Illinois and is the largest library district in the state of Illinois for population served. We also cater to a diverse group of patrons.