2 June 2020

Anyone seeing the shortages of yeast, flour, and eggs could tell there was a whole lot of stress baking going on during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. To document this historically significant time, the Rock Island Public Library cooked up The Quad City Quarantine Cookbook project.

After seeing a post about the Evanston Public Library’s Coronavirus Cookbook, Rock Island Reference Librarian Rachel Ippolito was inspired by the opportunity to document a historically significant time in the making. As people cooked and baked together in quarantine, many rediscovered old favorites, experimented with new recipes, and (perhaps) found creative ways to use items already in the pantry. “Our community consists of avid home chefs and bakers, so the collaborative cookbook lens gives us a chance to connect through our shared experiences in our home kitchens,” she said.

Ippolito then invited participation from other libraries of the Quad City area of Iowa and Illinois through the QC Adult Programming Librarians (QCAPL) group. The group meets monthly (lately, via ZOOM) to share ideas, program successes, and library news, and also hosts a private Facebook page to help members connect.

The Quad Cities is a blended community stretching many miles on the Illinois and Iowa border, separated only by the Mississippi River. Patrons on the Illinois side are connected through PrairieCat, and many habitually use more than one library. “By including other libraries in this project, we can widen our contributions, and become even closer as a community,” said Ippolito.

The submission process is simple: Contributors email a recipe, where they’re from, their name (optional,) and an optional paragraph about how their family spent time together during the pandemic. The invitation extended a welcome to all recipes – “snacks, appetizers, desserts, and main dishes. From family recipes, to easy “dump” dinners, any recipe you love will be accepted.” The library plans to cite sources for recipes that were adapted or borrowed.

Libraries looking to start similar projects in their community should dedicate one person to collect the recipes from the community, and set guidelines for submissions and end dates. Involving partners and reaching out to all channels – social media, email, and word of mouth – are also good strategies. With the submission date currently set to the end of June, Rock Island is continuing to promote the Quad City Quarantine Cookbook on Facebook and Instagram with short posts, email blast mentions, and a news release. Participating libraries have also created their own branded posts, which is also widening submissions.

All submissions are going through the library’s Reference email. Other participating area libraries are collecting their own submissions, and forwarding them on. Once collected, the library plans to make the cookbook available digitally.

"It feels important to document this time. We are excited to see what recipes will be submitted and archived for future generations, "said Ippolito. “We are hoping for a diverse and collaborative cookbook filled with examples of how we spent our time at home during the Covid-19 quarantine.”

Our guest bloggers today are Lisa Lockheart and Rachel Ippolito. Lisa is the Publicity and Outreach Librarian and Rachel is the Reference Librarian at Rock Island Public Library.