Blogger Building Partnerships committee

Pack in the fun with Nature Backpacks

The heady months of summer are winding down, yet you still may be experiencing an influx of young people in the library. While this is a fun time to see so many new faces in the library, the nice weather creates an opportunity to partner with your local forest service or park service departments to encourage families to explore the outdoors into the upcoming autumn.  For the past two years, the Vancouver Community Library has partnered with our local branch of the United States Forest Service to checkout nature backpacks to patrons. nature backpackThese backpacks come equipped with a compass, whistle, magnifying glass, binoculars, hands-on ideas for kids, field guides, maps and a first aid kit.  They also contain a journal for families to keep and document their outdoor adventures. The backpacks were created to encourage people to explore local parks and trails; to build outdoor confidence; to meet new friends; to get exercise; to spend quality time together outdoors and to relax and most importantly to have fun!

 Born out of a larger collaboration of organizations called Vancouver Summer Adventure, the backpacks are provided by the Forest Service and other sponsors with the library serving as a convenient location for people to pick up the packs. Gala Miller, a Community Engagement Specialist with the forest service department, said that the library was well suited to be a pickup location because of high foot traffic and because people are trained to checkout and–perhaps more importantly–return items. It also represents an opportunity for cross marketing and collaboration.  Miller said that forest service departments in dozens of states have similar programs and if they don’t they may be willing to partner with their local library to create a program like this. She said her department is excited to partner with libraries in any way they can.

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Some other ideas for collaboration and taking the library outdoors:

  •  Storywalk: Use a parks or forest location for a storywalk
  • Booklists: Create a booklist of outdoor exploration titles to encourage patrons to get outside. Create a booklist of titles to checkout that are sold at your local monuments.

  • Joint programming: Hold programming at their site and allow their staff to come promote or provide their programming at your library.

  • Summer Reading Programs: Hold events at area outdoor locations. Connect Summer reading to the outdoors and experiential based learning.

  • Checkout passes: Many libraries offer weekly passes or discounted passes to parks, beaches and other outdoor locales.

Arwen Ungar is a member of the Liaison with National Organizations Committee, and the Early Learning Librarian at the Vancouver Community Library in Vancouver, Washington.

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