13 June 2022
Band members with instrument standing in front of a table

A story of how our library went from a list of resources and literature on our website, to host a 2-week humanitarian drive, a cultural program with 140 attendees, a display, and more. All for Ukraine. 

Libraries are about community and when it comes to helping others, they stand out even more. Libraries across the world play an important role in sharing information and providing services and resources for people. As most of us know already this has been a devastating year for Ukraine. Libraries coming together with resources and ideas to support this cause have been no exception. 

As the world watched the events in Ukraine unfold, library staff at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library (AHML) compiled a list of credible organizations that people can donate to, a reliable list of news media sources, and non-fiction, novels, and films that give insight to the current political situation in Ukraine and its people. Even though this is a great starting point and way to advocate for assistance, with the intention to connect the library to its community and strengthen those relationships as well as the perception of the library as a hub to support each other, AHML partnered with UCARE, Inc. (Ukrainian Children's Aid and Relief Effort)  

UCARE is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose focus is the children of Ukraine, primarily those living in orphanages. With this new war its mission shifted towards obvious priorities, and this became helping all the children impacted by the war. Children from Eastern Ukraine are arriving in the West with only the clothes they have on.  UCARE is sending funds to purchase food, clothing, and bare necessities as well as organizing different collection drives to ship these items.   

Our incredible partnership not only brought hundreds of collected essential items (baby food, first aid kits, clothes, shoes, over-the-counter medicine, etc.) that were donated by our generous community, but we were also able to coordinate the logistics and put together a cultural program. On a Sunday afternoon, we welcomed 140 people who came to share and learn about Ukraine’s beautiful culture, dances, music, and art. Our celebration of Ukrainian culture had live music by the ODUM Bandurists, a dance performance by the Haydamaky Dance Group, a pysanka egg demonstration and a display of cultural items. The ODUM School of Bandura features student musicians, with the goal of establishing a connection to Ukrainian music. The Haydamaky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of the St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Bloomingdale's goal is to preserve Ukrainian culture through dance, featuring authentic costumes and unique choreography.  

People walked the Hendrickson Room, our largest event room, to observe an exhibit of cultural items, a demonstration of the elaborate detail of pysanka eggs, as well as interacting directly with volunteers, families, and members of the Ukrainian community in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. Their pride and beauty filled every corner of our room; while it also had a very moving moment as the show started with the School of Bandurist playing Ukraine’s National anthem and everyone stood out of respect. 

As the event ended, the feedback received by organizers and customers was of immense gratitude for what was experienced in that room, to which we responded, “this is what libraries are for and this is what we are here to do.” 

Never underestimate the powerful things libraries can do. From one little thing to another. We are proud we were able to do more than just a list, and that together with our community, we made such a positive impact to this cause and its ongoing efforts for relief and recovery. As for us, our intentions don’t end there, we are hosting a book drive in August 2022 in partnership with a local youth organization Mission Math Minds https://www.missionmathminds.org/ukraine who are shipping these to Libraries without Borders in France. Stay tuned on this one!  

This new book drive is part of our efforts to foster and increase community connections as it also aligns with our library's mission and values of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility - IDEAS. Just as our previous drive and cultural event did, this will provide the Arlington Heights community an opportunity to contribute hands-on help during this humanitarian crisis and for AHML to support a worldwide cause. 

Our guest blog post today is by Catalina Shin, Community Engagement Liaison at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library