The Everyday Advocacy Challenge roared into Week 3 on September 15 with this Take Action Tuesday prompt:
Send an e-mail to a new or existing contact at a local school or community-based organization.
Here’s what members of our inaugural cohort had to say about the Week 3 challenge in six words or less:
- “Eliciting collaboration is an exciting venture!”
- “Stepping up to meet the challenge.”
- “Networking takes us to unexpected places.”
- “Successful three times, left messages twice.”
- “Emailed. She’s back on Monday.”
- “Checking in is valuable.”
- “Re-establishing shaky relationships is worthwhile.”
- “Finally establishing a relationship!”
For Samantha Cote, the Week 3 challenge helped her take the next step in an already strong outreach plan.
For Ashley Burkett, the Week 3 challenge was a chance to reflect on what goes into creating long-lasting relationships with community stakeholders.
I feel like I’m lucky that I got my start in libraries with a strong focus on outreach. For me, as I’ve switched from library to library, it’s always been a question of how soon can I get started? Where are the local preschools I can visit? Fortunately, each new library I’ve worked at has also been supportive of me going out into the community.
This week, I had a few lucky coincidences that meshed with this challenge: I finalized visiting my local elementary school’s fourth and fifth grade during their school library time to promote the Maine Student Book Award, and the elementary school’s early kindergarten program called me about bussing their students over to the library for storytime.
This week’s challenge prompted me to evaluate whom I’ve collaborated with in the past and if there are any new organizations I should think about pairing up with. It prompted me to call three different people: the new principal at the local Catholic school, a local college president, and our local community action program.
I was able to meet in person with the principal, and I used one of my elevator speeches from last week in our quick talk. We have a reading therapy dog that visits once a month, and I was able to tell her that the library hosts a reading therapy dog so that children who are nervous about reading can get practice reading out loud to a nonjudgmental listener and thus become more confident readers. She seemed very excited about this program. Outreach is one of my favorite aspects of my job, but it was a good reminder to go beyond what I already normally do.
Our challenge last week was writing an elevator speech, an exercise that’s greatly needed. However, a one-time memorized speech will only take you so far. It will not cultivate a strong, lasting relationship with people. It will be ear catching and reel in your audience, but how will you keep them interested in you and what you do? How will you keep them involved long term?
This week I wrote to a school in our local community that I knew would benefit from resources the library has to offer. It is as simple as letting people know you care and you are still available. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Pay attention to who comes in to your library.
- Thank patrons or businesses for their continued support.
- Make a list of people you never see come into the library and then reach out, possibly by using that invaluable elevator speech.
- Remind patrons what else your library offers.
I also find it useful to evaluate yourself and your library often. Evaluate what your community needs and then see if your library offers resources in that particular area. If you do not offer them, you can come up with a program or obtain resources to best help important needs.
Most importantly, work with these school and businesses that you’re writing to because in the long run you are all trying to better the same community and the people in it.
Samantha Cote is a librarian at Winslow (Maine) Public Library; Ashley Burkett is a library assistant at Birmingham (Ala.) Public Library. Samantha and Ashley are members of the inaugural Everyday Advocacy Challenge cohort, an 18-member volunteer group convening from September 1-October 20, 2015.