ABOS Conference – An overview

Last month, I attended the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) conference in San Diego, CA. The theme this year was “Doing More With Less”, a concept that all of us can relate to! Not only was it a celebration of bookmobiles, but it encouraged what we all want, librarians who speak up and connect with others about their work and ideas. Even if you don’t have a bookmobile at your library, you can enjoy some of the wondrous takeaways for reaching diverse children’s audiences. I even got a chance to share some of the cheap and easy ways my library collaborates with local partnerships.

Some highlights from programs I attended:

Children’s Program Ideas for Outreach & From Your Bookmobile by Marianne Thompson (Bolingbrook, IL)

Marianne thought outside the bookmobile for her idea to engage children during the summer months, literally right outside her bookmobile door. She used a small space where the handicap access was to create a stage for a summer puppet show. Starting with simple sock puppets and some creative children’s librarians, they recreate classic children’s stories to delight huge audiences. And even with the addition of professional puppets, the socks ones are still some of the favorites!

Medina R.O.C.K.S by Ann Plazek (Medina, Ohio)

Ann’s presentation showcased her version of R.O.C.K.S. as Reading Opportunities Create Kindergarten Success. A partnership with United Way enabled her library to become empowered investors with parents. And with that partnership, they could facilitate the education of the literacy concepts needed to enter kindergarten for local families. To create that growth, they offer three 2 hour sessions in the summer for families to learn together using ECRR concepts. From this program, they can add on additional skills as needed, like computer literacy for children who will have to take standardized tests on computers and have never used one before.

Sweet Reads by Colleen Hall (St. Louis, MO)

What could be better than hearing the ice cream truck music on a hot summer day? What if instead of ice cream, you got to pick out free books to take home? That basic idea is what has transformed the “summer slide” in some of St. Louis county’s most impoverished areas. With a collection based on donated, deleted, and surplus items, the community can “check out” books on a honor system. Her program provided access to books that children had not previously had due to circulation issues or trouble getting to the physical library. It’s been a sweet success to encourage reading over the summer!

Little Early Literacy Community Connections by Amy Steinbauer (Beaumont, CA)

My bookmobile is focused on children’s literacy from birth to age 5, so the concepts of ECRR are fundamental in the work that I do. One of the “littlest” ways that I connect with the community is through “Play and Learn Kits” that are deposited in local businesses. The kits are comprised of shoe box sized tupperware that is filled with a few donated or discarded children’s books, donated Legos or similar toys, scrap paper, pencils, and advocacy information about the library and our programs. Once a month, the kits are cleaned, and exchanged for new ones. This is a quick and easy way to connect the library to local organizations, and allow an opportunity for parents to interact with their children as they wait at the auto shop, nail salon, or for a haircut.


Take aways:

Small conferences are great to build connections with other librarians and share ideas! Even though we focus on outreach, many of the presentations were done by children’s librarians! We all have the same goal of providing access to children’s materials for all, and many of the ideas presented could work at the library or beyond it!


Today’s guest blogger is Amy Steinbauer. Amy has her MLIS from University of Hawaii, and is the Early Childhood Outreach Librarian at Beaumont Library in California. She drives a bookmobile, has a best friend that is a puppet (Bobby), and advocates for children’s literacy for all! Follow her on twitter @merbrarian.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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