Blogger Building Partnerships committee

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time… a children‘s librarian set out to make the perfect early literacy program.

She made sure the activities would keep the young children engaged while still providing Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) information to parents. The librarian created take home kits so that the learning didn’t stop when they left the program and provided activities for older brothers and sisters to experience independently in a nearby space.

The big day arrives, everything looks perfect. As the clock approaches the program time the librarian eagerly awaits to see the faces of the young children and their parents. Soon the clock ticks 15 minutes past, then 30 minutes past the start time. No participants show up to the event.

Maybe you are one of the lucky few who work in a library system with an active group of parents and can’t relate to the above scenario. Although library systems differ the goal of any library is to provide access and resources to as many people in the community as possible.

It’s time for librarians to evaluate their marketing plan. If you’re marketing consist of announcing programs at story times, placing a flyer at the front counter and relying on the normal library crowd to continue to attend your programs; then you are missing out on a lot of potential library users.

Finding an organization with a similar mission can help give exposure to library programs and services. One organization that is worth building a relationship with is the local Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) office. Participants in WIC must either be pregnant or have a child birth to five to qualify for the program; making WIC a great place to recruit for libraries’ early literacy and family engagement programs.

Creating a partnership with WIC starts by talking directly to the manager of the local WIC office. Explain how the mission of the library is in sync with WIC’s educational component.

It is easy to just ask to post library flyers or to leave a pamphlet on Every Child Ready to Read in their waiting area. However, you can make the partnership active by creating lobby storytime programs that introduce Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) to parents.

It’s important to let the WIC manger know that you are not soliciting, but rather informing parents of library services and providing brief informal educational moments about early literacy. By being present in their waiting area you have a greater opportunity to directly market all the library services to the WIC clientele.

So take a chance and set up a meeting with your local WIC office and increase your audience for early childhood programming at your library.

For more information or to find your local WIC office click on the link below:

Rhonda Pai is currently the Outreach Manager for the Cleveland Public Library (CPL). She was instrumental in starting an early literacy outreach program for CPL and continues to work with the community to help fight the literacy deficit. She loves trying to grow citrus trees and spending time with her family and puppy Cupcake.


  1. Kathia Ibacache

    Hi Rhonda,

    What an honest post. Thank you for the advice. I also think it is a great idea to contact and create community partners that relate with what we do. I am a Youth Services Librarian and our programs are well attended. However, I do remember my previous manager talking to me about a program for caregivers, divided in sessions, in which parents learned about different aspects of the preschool years. We collaborated with Triple P and had not a good response.

  2. Amanda

    I had this happen to me as well… an early literacy-focused program with no attendees. It was disappointing, as I was excited about it and it was the first time we had offered something like that at our library. At some point we may try something like it again, maybe as outreach. I also think the vocabulary can be confusing at times, even when trying to be as accessible as possible. I don’t think a lot of people readily know what we mean by “early literacy” or “every child ready to read,” etc. I can’t remember how I worded my promotional materials, but I tried to avoid any jargon and I had 3 people proof it (and made sure to note that there would be activities for further draw), and I think there was still some confusion. If nothing else, working with the public is certainly an exercise in clarity.

    Thanks for the advice.

  3. Celena Bradley

    What a wonderful idea. I’m always looking for ways to increase our outreach and this is perfect. Our local WIC office is only a mile or so from the Library and providing a story time there will dovetail beautifully with our becoming a Family Place Library. Excellent post, thank you.

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