ALA Annual 2010

Taking Libraries into the Community: Beyond Brick Borders

I’m back home after a whirlwind of a long weekend in D.C. and it’s strange indeed to be wearing a sweater against the cool and overcast weather here in Venice, CA after that astonishing and record-breaking D.C. heat.

Here’s a report on the first ALSC program I attended this weekend.  Please find handouts and more information under the program name on this page.

Taking Libraries into the Community: Beyond Brick Borders:

Presented by Shawn Brommers of South Central Library System in Madison, Wisconsin; Mary Fellows of the Upper Hudson Library System, and Evelyn Walkowicz of the Henderson District Public Libraries in Las Vegas, NV.

Ms. Brommers discusses a variety of community programming, including:

  • Motheread/Fatheread – literacy program using children’s books to teach adult (parent) literacy; for example, working with incarcerated dads.
  • Reach Out and Read – bringing books and early literacy info, through pediatricians and clinics, to new parents
  • Think Outside the Book – book discussion and civil participation
  • Book vs. the Movie – teens read a book, then as a group, watch the movie and discuss the differences
  • Reel to Real – librarians trained to facilitate discussions and go out to senior citizen centers to watch certain public television shows and then discuss them.  The public television station provides guides, etc.

Ms. Fellows told us about the “Community Relations Challenge” she issued to the library systems under her jurisdiction, during which they were required to fulfill such tasks as:

  • Contact two community organizations and explore informal partnership possibilities
  • Get one organization to advertise the Summer Reading Club on its website, and vice versa
  • Get five prizes from local businesses (give businesses feedback – photos, etc – to show how their gift was received; ask for specific things; develop script detailing what the SRC is and what this will do for business, ie how many kids will be reached, etc)
  • Encourage social media – Facebook page, blog, etc

The result was that these library systems made strong and hopefully lasting ties with organizations and businesses in their communities, gaining both added donations and added visibility.

And  Ms Walkowicz told us of HDPL’s efforts to revamp its early literacy services, beginning by asking the crucial questions:

  • What do we do? Why do we do it? Who are we doing it for? Are we doing it well? Could we do anything better?
  • Henderson determined that while their storytimes were successful, they could do better at modeling and promoting early literacy techniques; storytimes needed to be evaluated more rigorously; and the library needed to reach out more to the underserved.
  • As a result of this close self-evaluation, “Bright Beginnings” became a focused and highly effective early literacy program that reaches out to more families than ever before.

The programs were all inspiring and seemed in most cases to be the sort that could be replicated, to a greater or lesser extent, in most libraries.

What did I take away?  It’s crucial to take a good, close look at one’s mission statement, goals, and objectives before one embarks on a new program, large or small.  And don’t forget to assess those programs and services you already provide — there’s got to be a better reason for their existence than “we’ve always done it that way” or “the patrons like it”!  Finally, always include plans for both partnering with one or more organizations and measuring the outcomes of your program.

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