Columbus Public Library is one of 10 libraries taking part in an intensive 18-month training in the “turning outward” approach. Here, Cindy Fesemyer describes the Root for Columbus project, in which her library is sending a “wishing tree” around town to collect residents’ aspirations for Columbus. Not only is the exercise getting people thinking, but it’ll result in data that will help the library in the next phase of the process: tackling the challenges that are most important to residents.
About six months into our Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) training grant, the team from Columbus, Wis., decided to add another tool to our community organizers’ toolbox. Well, we didn’t decide so much as bend to the creative mind that is Mary Lou Sharpee, one of our team members. Mary Lou had a vision of something colorful and interactive that would get people talking in our community. She had a vision, and the library had a good deal of help turning that vision into a reality.
In early October, we launched the Root for Columbus campaign. The first week of the campaign, there were three ways to "root for Columbus" within the library itself. The two that are still here are construction paper trees, bare of leaves. One tree is on the tall glass doors to our very busy community room, and the second is on the bulletin board by the magazines and fireplace. Beside each tree is a Root for Columbus sign — complete with the library’s logo — and the question, “What kind of community do you want?