For many years residents in Madison have requested opportunities to gather together in their local neighborhood in ways that are accessible, free, and fun. They asked for events with activities where they can get to know each other and build community, enjoy their neighborhood parks, and strengthen relationships.
In 2022, staff from various City of Madison Departments and from the Mayor’s Neighborhood Resource Teams (NRTs) organized opportunities for residents in eight neighborhoods, hosting a total of 31 events. Over 3000 people participated throughout the summer and Madison Public Library and the Dream Bus were delighted to participate and promote Library resources and activities at every single event!
"When the City started to join together to build these opportunities, I knew that the Library was a natural partner and that we would want to participate,” Library Youth Services Manager and Parks Alive! committee member, Tammy Ocampo said. “We wanted to bring the community out after the last two years of being inside because of COVID. People were excited to get together, have food and listen to music, to have some fun in their park and to start to heal.”
The library has a long history of supporting these kinds of community events - including hosting the first It Takes a Village in 2021 and helping to organize the north side Increase The Peace events. They are opportunities to connect with our communities, introduce them to library resources and to invite them into our buildings.
“It is important because it provides a sense of community, it links a lot of people together,” Teen Services Librarian Will Glenn told us. “Everybody initially links the library with books, but this is a perfect example of how the library does other things in addition to providing knowledge through the books.”
Renewed Energy in Our Parks
At Parks Alive! events, residents had the chance to get a library card, check out a book on the Dream Bus, participate in our summer We Read program for youth, and often just play around - blowing bubbles with librarians, creating art with the library’s summer Artists in the Neighborhood and Dream Bus Maker interns, or finding a place to read a book together or on their own. Librarians also worked as community organizers to provide vaccine clinics, guest artists, and identifying community members to lead activities.
The chance to connect with our Madison community is incredibly important to our library staff. “At one event, afterwards someone came up to me and they sat down and said they had never felt this energy in this park before,” Youth Services Librarian Jessi Havens told us. “That was really exciting feedback because I think it highlights why we’ve been doing these events. There are people always looking for something positive to do. And that’s what these events are about - doing something positive for the community and giving people the opportunity to come out and lead activities.”
Those people “leading activities” were often youth from the community, paid through the city with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“As you can see, there are lots of people enjoying themselves and it brings people out and creates a positive community,” Becky Green from Mentoring Positives said. Mentoring Positives is located right next to Worthington Park, and their youth had the opportunity to lead activities and earn a paycheck at Parks Alive! events in that park.
“Parks Alive! has actually been fantastic for myself and my children,” local mom DeCarla Moore told us, “My three kids, they love it. My two boys especially because they’re little, they love all the activities and the music and the live activity. My daughter loves it because sometimes she comes out to work and she listens to music and dances. My boys love it too because they always have popcorn and water. And tonight they just had a blast, coming out and listening to music.”
Looking Forward to Summer 2023
We are excited to be part of another season of Parks Alive! to start again in 2023.
Madison Public Library librarians and the Dream Bus staff will participate in Parks Alive! events again this year, offering opportunities for neighborhood residents to get a library card, check out library materials, or participate in fun, family activities.
As our Making & Learning Intern Mary Allgood told us last year, “the Dream Bus is pretty much the coolest thing ever. It’s a mobile library with a fun mural on the outside. It was great to help kids and their families create some crafts and have a good time!”
Connect with us at a Parks Alive! event near you in 2023! The full schedule is available on the Parks web site.
See more photos from Parks Alive 2022 on the Madison Public Library Flickr page.