Northeast Ohio Regional Library System

Dynamic Dialogue: Understanding Socio-economic Diversity and Uplifting Underserved Communities
9:30 AM - 4:00 PM Eastern
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Communication, and Patron Awareness
Event Description
2024 Dynamic Dialogue: Understanding Socio-economic Diversity and Uplifting Underserved Communities, is an event aimed at helping libraries better serve diverse socio-economic and marginalized groups. Attendees will explore practical strategies to promote inclusivity and social equity within their library services. The day-long format of the conference will include a poverty simulation in the morning, breakout sessions in the afternoon, and will conclude with a Q&A.  Breakout sessions will be scheduled so that every attendee may attend two different sessions. 

Morning Session:  Poverty Simulation
Join us for a thought-provoking morning session featuring a poverty simulation. Through this immersive experience, gain invaluable insights into the daily challenges faced by individuals living in poverty. It's an opportunity to cultivate empathy and gain understanding, both of which are crucial for effective community engagement. The Poverty Simulation, presented by the Lakeland Nonprofit and Public Service Center, is an interactive program that helps to promote poverty awareness. Participants assume the roles of family members who are at different levels of poverty. Volunteers take the parts of different community members during the simulation.


Amy Sabath serves as the Executive Director for the Non-Profit & Public Service Center and Director for Government Affairs, at Lakeland Community College located in Kirtland, Ohio.  She has been with Lakeland since February of 2017.  Prior to joining Lakeland, Amy was President of Sabath Consulting for nearly twenty years focusing on political fundraising, strategy, campaign management and nonprofit fundraising and consulting.

Amy is a graduate of Kent State University, Leadership Lake County and the JoAnn Davidson Leadership Institute. Throughout her career, Amy has always found time to share her knowledge and experience by instructing and lecturing at regional campaign schools, community organizations and classes.  She serves on the Non-Profit Board of Directors of the Lake County Visitors Bureau (Board President), the Salvation Army (Painesville Citadel Board President), Lake/Geauga Habitat for Humanity, and the Advisory Board of Birthright Lake, Inc.  Amy is also a Willoughby Rotarian and a member of the Western Reserve Junior Service League.
While Amy enjoys work and public service, her world revolves around her seven-year-old daughter, Stella, who is the light of her life.

Afternoon Breakouts:

Serving the Incarcerated and Beyond: A Panel Discussion

Unlocking Potential: The Transformative Impact of Adult Education in Correctional Settings
For individuals, the absence of a high school diploma restricts access to higher education, training, and employment opportunities. Yet, for formerly incarcerated individuals, these educational deficiencies are compounded by numerous barriers and the enduring stigma they confront upon reintegration into their communities and the workforce. Returning citizens with limited education often encounter financial constraints and lack social support systems upon release, increasing their susceptibility to recidivism rather than successful community reintegration. Education plays a pivotal role in empowering individuals, expanding opportunities, and restoring self-esteem and social competency. Through strategic partnerships with nonprofit and governmental entities, the Cuyahoga County Public Library has been uniquely positioned to offer such programs within correctional facilities and community settings. This presentation will showcase the transformative impact of adult education initiatives within correctional institutions across Cuyahoga County.
Jami Lee Harris is the Adult Education Services Corrections Specialist for Aspire Greater Cleveland, a department within the Cuyahoga County Public Library, where she coordinates all educational programing for five corrections and reentry facilities. Jami is responsible for teaching classes, scheduling instructors, and managing a variety of grants and reporting requirements.
Before starting her position at Aspire, Jami spent four years building and expanding the Corrections Education program at Project Learn, Greater Cleveland's oldest community-based youth and adult basic education program. After a successful merger of Project Learn and the Cuyahoga County Public Library, Jami was able to continue her work in corrections education on a much larger scale.
When she’s not teaching, Jami enjoys reading fantasy novels, tabletop gaming, and attending weekend-long music and cultural festivals.
Serving the Incarcerated and Their Families
Serving every patron in a rural community, including the incarcerated and their families, can be both a challenge and a reward!  Join the team from the Conneaut Public Library as they describe their organizational relationship and share tips on how to provide library resources to not only those living in correctional institutions, but also to the families affected. 

Kathy Zappitello, Executive Director at Conneaut Public Library
In addition to her role as Executive Director, Kathy is a past president of ARSL, the Association for Rural & Small Libraries. With over 20 years of experience, she has displayed courageous commitment to leadership paired with a genuine passion for empowering others, all within the framework of rural library service.


IIA (International Institute of Akron) 101 and Inclusion in the Library
Join us for an informative presentation by the International Institute of Akron as they delve into their comprehensive array of services designed to support immigrants and refugees, from facilitating housing, education, and workforce training, to providing social services and legal assistance. Gain insights into different immigration statuses and understand the journey refugees and asylees undertake to reach Akron. Additionally, discover strategies for fostering inclusivity in libraries to create welcoming environments for refugees and immigrants.

Liv Randall is the Communications and Development Specialist at the International Institute of Akron. Her roles include external communications, such as updating IIA’s social media, blog, and newsletters, as well as applying for grant funding on behalf of IIA and community outreach. Prior to joining IIA, Liv worked at a refugee resettlement agency in Cleveland for multiple years, giving her experience with resettlement services in Northeast Ohio as a whole. Liv graduated from the Ohio State University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Middle East Studies.


Community ESL Classes at Public Libraries: The Why and How
We know that libraries are safe spaces that welcome all people. Places that can be particularly helpful for refugees and new Americans to come for resources and support. Public libraries, in particular, are at a unique advantage in reaching underserved adult ESL learners. It's already happening. Libraries are hosting ESL conversation groups, citizenship classes, and language tutoring. But how do we best increase our effectiveness and reach? In this session, we will discuss how ESL language programming can enrich a library’s relationship with our immigrant neighbors and increase equitable access to resources through addressing the language barrier.  Join us to learn about a new community ESL class curriculum developed by Ohio ESL professionals for public libraries which is editable to be city-specific and built on information that newcomers need.  This student-centered curriculum can fit a variety of English proficiency levels and focuses on community building and life skills.  In this session you will learn more about the different ways public libraries can adapt to fulfill the needs of English language learners in our growing communities.

Dr. Gabriela Pickett is the Newest American Specialist for the Dayton Metro Library. Gabriela is an immigrant and English leaner. She provides support to immigrants by promoting equity and access to resources including teaching English as a second language. She also empowers people by facilitating cultural celebrations that will allow them to experience their own culture. One of her responsibilities is to multiply the potential of the community through engagement. “My job is evidence that the libraries of today go beyond having just books. We pay attention to the ever-changing needs of our newest community, and we try to meet them.” Gabriela created a Dayton-centric-content based ELL curriculum to help people learn English and connect them to the resources they need.  The program is in its second year and has demonstrated ongoing success.

Social Work in Libraries: A Panel Discussion

Bridging the Gap: Social Work in Libraries 
Meeting people where they are is a significant yet unwritten social work rule.  An increase in community needs coupled with the evolution of libraries and their varying clientele, there is no better place for Social Workers to be.  This workshop is designed to provide insight into community-based needs, identify ways in which staff and patrons benefit from social service expertise, and dispel the myth that libraries have a future without the incorporation of Social Work Principles & Practices. 


Bryanta L. Spencer is a licensed independent Social Worker and founder of Fortitude Wellness and Consultations LLC where she provides psychotherapy and professional development training.  She holds certifications as a Clinical Trauma Professional and Mental Health First Aider.  To compliment her passion for helping others and rooting for the underdog, she completed her undergraduate studies at The Ohio State University earning dual degrees in Social Work and Communications with a minor in Criminology.  She also holds a Master of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University.  Currently, she is serving as the Social Work Manager of Cuyahoga County Public library.  Social services being provided in libraries is a growing trend and she is the first Social Worker in Cuyahoga County to be employed by a library system.   

Social Worker in Residence Program at Heights Libraries
The Social Worker in Residence program at Heights Libraries is a partnership between the Library and the Centers for Families and Children / Heights Suburban Collaborative. Started in the spring of 2023, the program is offered once a week at the Library’s Lee Road branch and provides clients, and anyone from the community, help with:
  • Adoption, Foster, and Kinship Support
  • Aged-Out Youth Support
  • Basic Emergency Needs
  • Linkages to Resources
  • Referrals to partner organizations
  • Cuyahoga County Job & Family Services
  • Early Learning Centers
  • Health & Wellness Agencies
  • Workforce Development Programs
The program also offers support and training to Library staff.


Heather Howiler (She, Her, Hers) has worked for Heights Libraries for 27 years. She has been an adult services librarian, staff training and development coordinator, continuing education manager and now adult services manager.

Heather has an MLS from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA in History from The College of Wooster. She is a Library Leadership Ohio Class of 2016 alumna and a certified Ohio Public Librarian. She also has certifications in Mental Health First Aid and Design Thinking. Outside of work, she enjoys gardening and spending time with family.

Freedges, Little Libraries, and Other Innovative Approaches to Outreach
Staff from the Lorain Public Library System will discuss outreach efforts to underserved communities post Covid, including the "Freedge" a free refrigerator accessible 24 hours per day that is regularly stocked with surplus goods from local businesses, farmers markets, and generous donors. 

Hilton Garden Inn
8971 Wilcox Dr
Twinsburg, OH 44087

click here for Google Maps
Contact Person
Who should attend: Anyone interested in learning more about Understanding, Socio-economic Diversity and Uplifting Underserved Communities

Competency: Patron Awareness, Customer Service, and Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

Non-Member Cost:    $50.00
NEO-RLS Bronze Member Cost:  $37.50
NEO-RLS Silver Member Cost:   $25.00
NEO-RLS Gold Member Cost:      FREE
NEO-RLS Individual Member Cost:  $25.00
There is an additional $35 surcharge for facility use and amenities.
We encourage you to register a minimum of three (3) days in advance for this event in order to ensure that we can accommodate your full participation in terms of seating, hand-outs, food, etc.
It’s never too late to save your library money. NEO Memberships are pro-rated! Call us today to join.

Thanks to a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), awarded by the State Library of Ohio.
Click on the icon next to the date(s) to add to your calendar:

return to Northeast Ohio Regional Library System

print version