By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
OKLAHOMA CITY — Metropolitan Library System customers will get a virtual look into the history and culture of Deutschland as MLS kicks off a partnership with its new sister library, the International English Library in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The two libraries have partnered from across the globe to strengthen cultural understanding between the U.S. and Germany. The joint effort will cross-promote virtual programming and online events that bring the institutions’ two audiences together.
An Oklahoma City native, Jynon Hibbard, was a 16-year volunteer with the International English Library and member of the library’s board of trustees, initiated the partnership.
Hibbard volunteered with the Friends of the Library Booksale for several years before relocating to Germany 25 years ago.
“It’s a real privilege for me to partner with the very library that helped nurture my love for books 55-plus years ago,” Hibbard said. “And now here I am working with the Metro Library from 8,000 miles away. I feel like I’ve come full circle.”
The British Forces established the International English Library in 1946 to bridge the gap between nations that were at war during World War II.
The British Occupation Office created Die Brücke (meaning “the bridge”), a center for community gathering, cultural events and a library of English books.
Today, an international team of volunteers runs every aspect of the non-profit organization, from purchasing books to programming events and marketing services to the public.
Heather Zeoli, Metro Library’s director of development and volunteer services, helped solidify the partnership and said the relationship with the International English Library furthers MLS’s mission of enriching and educating.
“It also gives us an opportunity to engage with citizens and library services staff members in another country who have different views, practices, things they embrace, and because they’re an English-speaking library, we’re able to maximize our impact for our customers and their customers and share resources without the need for translation services,” Heather said.
The partnership will strengthen Metro Library’s efforts to educate about significant events in German history, such as World War II and the Holocaust, which the International English Library educates about as well, according to Heather.
“We have the Henia Ring Schiff Holocaust Resource Collection at our Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, and with this library being in Düsseldorf, Germany, and part of the origin of that library being an outcome of World War II and de-Nazification,” said Heather Zeoli, Metro Library’s director of development.
“It’s a great opportunity to continue the conversation in this generation about how we destroy hate and how we build healthy communities that are free from prejudice and racism,’ she added.
This Oklahoma-Düsseldorf connection could be the first step in a series of sister library partnerships for MLS.
“We’d love to create more of these relationships,” Zeoli said. “This is a really great place for us to start.”
The Metropolitan Library System, serving Oklahoma County residents, includes 19 library branch locations. As the largest library system in Oklahoma, the Metropolitan Library System serves anyone who lives, attends school or owns property in Oklahoma County, circulating over 6 million materials each year.
Beginning this month, Metropolitan Library System libraries welcome customers to come in and “Sit and Stay.” This service includes computer use by reservation, study room use, browsing and limited seating to accommodate reading and Wi-Fi usage and copy/fax/scan use.
Seating will be spaced to one chair per table. Computers are limited to two (2) sessions of one-hour each per day.
Masks covering the nose and mouth are required for all Metro Library staff inside any Metro Library location and strongly also required for all customers.
“We invite guests to continue to come in and use the library with more services available in this stage,” Larry White, MLS Executive Director said. “With school out for most of the summer, we are glad to have more reading areas available for both students and non-students to use.”
Online services available include LearningExpress and HelpNow for students, “Book-A-Librarian” for general library help, genealogy help one-on-one, Hoopla and Kanopy streaming movies and tv, JobNow for job and career help and more.