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Serving special population children in the library…how do we get started?

We all have special populations that we serve in our libraries, whether we’re fully aware of it or not.  Some special population children are fairly noticible and easy to pick out of a crowd while others may blend in, and we may never know their situation or particular library needs.  So how do we find these special population children and their caregivers and determine what we can do for them in the library?  Here are a few ideas.

1. Ask your local schools – As we all know our schools are possibly our best connection to our children.  Talk to administrators, counselors, and teachers at your local schools to find out if there are groups of special population children in their school that you might be unaware of.  For instance, is there a class for teenage mothers at the local high school, or perhaps a large number of ELL students among their student body?

 2. Reach out to local organizations – Local specialty organizations can provide a great partnership for serving special population children.  Do some research in your area to find out what organizations are actively engaged in the community, and talk to them about partnering on library programs and/or services.  Check with your local LGBT organization, battered women’s shelters, juvenile detention centers, community groups that provide services to disabled children, etc.

3. Survey your patrons – As mentioned previously, some special population children will be easily identified while others may be using our libraries without our knowledge.  A short survey of the parents who regularly utilize your children’s services can let you know what kind of unique services and/or programs would be beneficial to your patrons.

Of course there are other ways to identify the special population children in our community, and determine their library needs…these are just a few ideas.  Have you had luck collaborating with another organization to serve a special population?  Have you established a program at your library geared toward a special population?  Share your thoughts and stories with us!

Amy Johnson is the Head of the Curriculum Materials Library at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.   http://www.library.unlv.edu/cml/

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  1. Pingback: But I’m a Newbie! What Can I Do?: Services to Special Population Children and Their Caregivers for Novice Librarians | ALSC Blog

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