Library outreach allows us to bring services and programs to children outside of library walls and to reach patrons in new settings. Children’s outreach can have an even greater impact in the summer months when school is out and energies can be focused on new learning activities. Summer outreach opportunities can also provide unique possibilities in terms of establishing new partnerships as you work with community organizations to bring summer library programming directly to their audiences. Whether they are summer camp sites, nonprofit organizations, neighborhood recreational centers, and more; there are a variety of community partnerships to forge in the summer to help expand the scope of the library and provide programming for youth. However, these opportunities can also bring about challenges in working with new community partners. Here are a few tips that may help you make the most of establishing new outreach partnerships over the coming months.
Good communication is the foundation of any productive partnership. This includes setting goals and establishing a game plan with your community outreach collaborators. This will not only assist in effective program planning but will also allow for community partners to feel comfortable engaging in an honest dialogue. Start by discussing some goals, not only for their work with the library but in general for the youth that they serve and what they hope to achieve in the summer. After that is established, think about how the services and programs of the library can support these goals. Additionally, don’t forget to set expectations for sites where you will be performing library outreach and be open to them setting expectations for you as well.
This is obvious but with so many transitions happening for libraries over the summer months, it’s necessary to get a jump start on any outreach planning as soon as possible. Whatever methods work for you (making a to-do list, adding action items to your calendar, regular progress check-ins with community partners, etc.) planning well in advance will help you be more prepared for outreach.
Do the thing! This is the easy part, right? My primary mantra for conducting any outreach program is to be flexible. As we all know, taking programs to an unfamiliar location can open the doors to some snafus, but hopefully the planning that you’ve done with your community partners thus far will keep these to a minimum.
4. Don’t Wait to Evaluate
Don’t wait until next summer to evaluate a partnership and whether this is something that you would like to revisit next year. By evaluating in a timely manner you allow yourself the ability to provide feedback and talk over results with the community partner while things are fresh in your minds.
Veronica Leigh Milliner is an Outreach Librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and a member of the ALSC’s Managing Children’s Services Committee.