In 2013, Rochester Public Library, MN launched the Neighbors Read program in the Slatterly Park neighborhood with support from the United Way of Olmsted County. Through the Neighbors Read program the library connects with families of preschool children, bringing them to the library for early literacy activities and then planting a mini-library in their yards. With continued support from the United Way of Olmsted County, Neighbors Read is now in its third year and will continue into 2016. Each year, we make adjustments and improvements to the Neighbors Read program to better meet our goals and connect with the community.
The goals of Neighbors Read are to increase school readiness through early literacy information and programming and to increase access to books in economically diverse neighborhoods. Results have shown that preschoolers in the program have increased early literacy skills and families have increased engagement with the library. Families also reported an increased connection with their neighbors.
Rochesterites using the mini-libraries also have many positive things to say:
“Whenever we visit our friends, my kids drop off and pick up a book. This is great!”
“This is awesome. I love having access to more books and it’s often such a brilliant variety. Thank you!”
- 76% of repeat mini-library users who responded to the postcard survey indicated that they read more in the previous month due to access to a mini-library.
- 75% of mini-library users visit a mini-library once a week or more often.
Many other Rochester community members have purchased or built and installed their own mini-libraries. Through the generosity of the Friends of Rochester Public Library, RPL is able to provide a stock of free books to fill the boxes. Forty-two mini-library users are currently registered with the library and we have distributed over 6,600 books through their libraries. Registrants were surveyed in 2014 and the responses provide more evidence that the libraries not only provide books to community members, but build stronger neighborhoods.
“I’ve found many people love stopping to talk about the books when they see us outside. I’ve been told families will use visiting 3 to 5 libraries as a goal for their evening walks, thus encouraging them to get more exercise with the kids.”
“This is a conversation piece that helps us get to know the neighbors better.”
“Our neighborhood is economically diverse and the library provides books for kids who do not have books in their homes.”
100% of the mini-library hosts who responded to the survey would choose to do it again based on their experience.
Neighbors Read is a powerful and time consuming program; some of the best programs can take the most work! Every minute is worth it for the positive changes that it is bringing to our community.
Because of the success of Neighbors Read, a local leadership group has focused their efforts on a project to bring 40 more mini-libraries to Rochester. We are pleased to partner with them on this wonderful program. It is going to be a busy year once the ground thaws!