Outreach Programming in Urban Libraries


An important aspect of every librarian’s job is outreach.  Engaging with our neighborhood daycares, preschools, and schools is a wonderful way to share the joy of reading, engage our youth, model early literacy to teachers, and promote our libraries.  My library branch reaches over 300 students a month through outreach, which ranges from the traditional story time to curriculum based programs selected by teachers.

Our traditional story time outreach is similar to other libraries and includes books, songs, story boards, movements and finger plays.  An additional part of our outreach that’s received positive feedback is the accompanying craft.  Every story time outreach includes a craft and the materials needed to make the craft.  Included with the craft materials is an activity sheet (one per child) with a picture of the completed craft and step by step instructions on how to complete the craft.  The activity sheets also includes the story time book titles, an early literacy tip, and an early literacy activity for the parent/caregiver and child to complete at home.  The library’s website, address and telephone number are also included on the activity sheet should the parent require additional information or want to contact the library.

Our story time outreach also includes a sticker that each child receives before the librarian leaves.  The sticker, designed by staff, included the library’s contact information and has a cute graphic of a bookworm with the saying: “I Learned a “Book”load at Storytime Today.”  The sticker works as a PR item for the library so parents know we are engaging with their child’s daycare or preschool.

Besides story time to daycares and preschools, my library also works with our neighborhood’s public, charter and parochial schools.  Often times with our school age outreach, teachers will ask us to develop an outreach program that relates to their monthly curriculum.  We read a topical book, present an activity, and provide a book sheet with suggested readings.  If we are able to do so, we also provide crafts for our school age outreaches as well.

With some of our schools, we will host a book selection evening where the staff creates special curriculum based displays that parents and students can browse and check out.  During these events, we also have an activity available for the parents and students to do together.

As of now, I am not sure what the impact of COVID-19 will be on our outreach efforts.  I am trying to stay optimistic that we can still provide these services on some scale in the future.

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies: V. Outreach and Advocacy

Today’s blog post was written by Tracie Forfia, Children’s and Youth Services Librarian for the Cleveland Public Library in Cleveland, Ohio on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at tracie.forfia@cpl.org

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