Recap: Community Outreach Events

I had the pleasure over the past month to take part in two community outreach events through my internship.  What a rewarding and wonderful experience to bring the joy of the library to kids who otherwise may not be able to either visit the library or have access to books and learning outside the classroom.

The groups of kids we visited were both in the local neighborhood, one was in a community clubhouse and the other a school.  All the kids were about 3rd through 5th grade, although I’m sure there were some younger ones too.  What was amazing is that these kids were as my colleague said, “hungry” for books!   They literally attacked the books when it was time to choose new ones to take home.

Both programs were essentially the same format and highly successful.  Attendance is volunteer, so these kids want to be there! The theme was tied in with the summer reading program and began about 4 weeks ago.  While there were new children in attendance, many had been attending each week and were familiar with the flow of the program. Each program began with an educational session in which we interacted with the children about knights, princesses, castles and medieval weapons (to go along with the Midsummer Knights Read theme). Many hands went up when questions were asked and they were excited to hear what the topic for today would be which was court jesters!

There were lots of smiles and wide eyes as a story was read and then the children worked hard on a craft.  There were also crossword puzzles and coloring sheets.  The kids loved all the activities.  For an hour long program, it was packed full of fun.

One of the two groups gets to choose books to take home and return ones they’ve read.  It’s done on an honor system and they were all very respectful of returning the books.  It seems to work similar to a bookmobile model where we bring the books to the kids because there is really no feasible way for them to get to the library.  The community these children live in is essentially an immigrant neighborhood, with lower income families, where there is no bus service and it’s a bit of a long walk, especially in the hot Chicago weather.  To be able to bring to them a “mobile” program each week and feed their strong desire for learning and books is what will keep them hopefully interested in learning throughout their childhood.  It also brings them a positive experience of reading and learning that they may not be getting at home or in school.

When I saw these children run for the books, attack the stacks we had, and search for something particular because they liked a series or a subject it was a event I never saw before!  I loved it!  What was disappointing to me and them was when we didn’t have enough of a subject or the next in a series for example because of the limited resources.  Yet, once I knew what they liked, I could find another book in the piles that would probably appeal, and except for one or two instances, they took it home.  I wanted to make sure these kids, who were so incredibly “hungry” for books to not find one they would like!

I can’t think of a more rewarding experience as a librarian then to see these young people RUN for books and learning opportunities!

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Information Needs & Opportunities

As Librarians, we are in constant search of information and we are typically the first to embrace new technologies, ideas and concepts to better our library, serve our patrons and help positively influence the community.  This desire also means we are in constant search of recognizing and understanding the needs of those patrons and communities, and identifying the opportunities to better assist in serving.  These two blog postings best exemplify two opportunities libraries currently face; addressing the needs of the Millennial Generation and making smaller, the Digital Divide plus understanding the need that arises as a result; The Hyperlinked LIbrary.   Links to referenced articles are included.

Blog Posting: Original Date October 24, 2010

In thinking about how libraries can better “reach all users and understanding users,” I am reminded of a conversation I had with my two Millenial generation cousins about Facebook.  They each have hundreds and hundreds of friends, and I asked them if they even knew who all those people were.    They each replied with the same response…”well, yes, I either go to school with them, or play sports with them or met them at a party…it’s just what we do, it’s what everybody does…” and I realized how natural it was for them to just friend people.  I used to be a person who friended everyone I knew or met because it was simply fun, and then upon realizing I was sharing information with people I really didn’t know or cared about, cleaned up my list dramatically.  The difference between our two generations was apparent with this simple idea of Facebook friends.

I had this difference in mind when I read the article titled, “How Millenials Sharing Habits Can Benefit Organizations” in the Harvard Business Review.  I could understand how these differences in generations was also permeating my life at home and at work.  The sharing aspect does appear in more ways than just sharing with Facebook friends and Twitter.  The life of the business world is no longer about personal growth and promotion, although those are still a strong goals, but more about the Team and what is good for the Team and how can I make the Team better.  This sharing aspect of collaborative projects and reviewing drafts while I believe is great for certain types of work, also takes out the individuality of the work.  No longer am I the author of a newsletter article, it’s the marketing department that wrote it because of the team meeting they had to brainstorm about the topic.  I am one of the narcissistic Gen X’rs that likes my name on the byline.

In libraries, however, I think this sharing aspect beautifully combines the best of what is needed in order for libraries to succeed.  Libraries are there to serve yes, the individual patron, but also the community of patrons.  The Team is essential in order for the library as a place to thrive because of the purpose it serves; learning, literacy, advocacy are goals that can start with the individual, but will essentially need a team or a group in order to truly be at its best.

Read “How Millenials Sharing Habits Can Benefit Organizations”

Blog Posting: Original Date November 6, 2010

The Hyperlinked Library

Upon reading the article, “The Visitors”, the image that kept sticking with me was the reference desk in the library.  The reference desk has always been the place where I remember the image of the “shhhhhshng” librarian to be, her bun and glasses firmly in place.  In my local public library, they have moved the reference desk to the center of the library, it’s round and has loads of information already available and the librarians are very visible.  I don’t feel so afraid to approach them, and in fact, they appear more professional and helpful than ever.  I find this point from the article extremely beneficial for libraries because it makes me think of all the ways the library is and could be hyperlinked to its patrons: “The potential for the commons/community space in libraries to be many things–fun, playful, engaging, useful. A totally red romance room, games available to all, a chance to view local history and add to it are all part of the space.”

In this article, the “Unquiet Library” discusses the positive effects of being “unquiet” in a library and how it fosters activity.  Activity in a library can mean so many things to different people, and in the library, activity can mean a group of men reading the newspapers, teenagers playing a game in the young adult area or families choosing DVDs to take home.  I find activity in the Rebecca Crown library at Dominican University to be engaging everytime I go inside and I am always looking around to see what people are doing.  The interaction between students and even those patrons looking for books or working on homework is interesting for me to see how the libraries resources are being used.

I am reminded of a blog I subscribe to called, “Designing Better Libraries” which talks about not only the physical design, but also the design of its materials and use. There is a great article about the topic of “Experience Design” that I think you’ll enjoy. Hyperlinked libraries can certainly increase the effectiveness and enjoyment of the library because by the very concept create a unique and fun experience design, full of activity that everyone can utilize and love.

Read “The Visitors” and “Unquiet Library Has High-Schoolers Geeked.”

Philosophy of Service

An important, almost gallant aspect in librarianship, is that of service, to the patrons and to the community it serves.  Below is an example of two outreach programs. These programs not only create access of information to those that may otherwise not have it, but also displays how the librarian embraces a philosophy of service to their community.  It is this philosophy that make such a program useful and helpful, to what is often an underserved patron group.

Program Outline:  Outreach Program to Teens

Theme: Teen Pregnancy, address the needs of pregnant teenagers, their parents, and those who are already teenage parents.

Statement of problem and need

The program is necessary even in the wealthiest communities because every year, an estimated 750,000 adolescents 15-19 years become pregnant according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Washington DC.  According to the Illinois Department of Public Health and Human Services, Teen Parent Services, 4,100 Illinois women younger than 19 draw public assistance every year.  Illinois is also ranked 18th out of all 50 states in teenage birth rates and above the national rate of 56.8 out of 1,000 births at a rank of 60. In addition to such statistics, sex in general, especially sex education, is often a taboo topic.  The library is needed to address teenage pregnancy because the library is a neutral informational facility where parents and teenagers can go together to get information or guidance without judgment and maintain privacy.

Statement of a solution or answer

If there is a program in the library addressing teenage pregnancy, it would promote public awareness, including teenagers, of the increasing situation and provide another educational opportunity other than school, on the consequences of unprotected sex.   The program would also provide education for future pregnant teenagers on their options and also for those young teenage mothers that need parenting advice.

Project Description

The target audience is teenage parents, pregnant teens, and their parents needing information and advice.  In the library, a pathfinder of books relevant to sex education, teenage pregnancy, adoption, abortion, parenting will be available for checkout.  The pathfinder will detail where the books can be found.  Each month, a different counselor or professional whose focus is teen pregnancy will be at each session to facilitate.  Materials will be available from the agencies presenting.  These agencies we partner with will also cooperate in assisting with promotion of the program to their teenagers.

Best Information Resources

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org/

Medline Plus from the US National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

The Illinois Department of Human and Health Services http://www.hfs.illinois.gov/

The Rural Assistance Center’s Guide to Teen Preganancy http://www.raconline.org/info_guides/teenpregnancy/

The American Pregnancy Association http://www.americanpregnancy.org/links/#TeenPregnancy

Positive and negative issues and/or concerns

The biggest issue or concern we have is the controversial nature of the topic and the appropriation of funds to an underserved or challenged group of people.  The library staff would need to be educated on teenage pregnancy, statistics, and the local agencies.  In addition, the staff would need to be able to answer the challenging questions, and especially for those that don’t agree with the program being held.    In choosing materials, we would need to ensure they are as objective as possible and offer a variety to satisfy all options of the teenager in need.  The groups or agencies involved would need to be screened and approved by the head of teen services to again ensure objectivity and privacy of the participants.

Overview of budget

  • AV equipment already held by the library
  • 1 staff member present for the hour program, greeting before and closing after
  • $150 per speaker each month includes all their costs and handouts
  • $30 each month for pizza, pop and paper goods
  • No charge to attend, but registration will be required

Overview of timeline

The program will be promoted through in the library through the website, social networking tools, newsletter, and through flyers and signs in the teen department.  The program will also be promoted through signs and flyers at the speakers’ agencies and at hospitals and other health facilities such as free clinics and doctor’s offices.  We will also reach out to local high school nurses and health educators for librarians to speak to classrooms announcing the program and encouraging attendance.  A press release to announce the program to the larger public will also be distributed to local newspapers for inclusion in their community events or calendar.

Promotion through these outlets will be on an ongoing basis once the program is approved to move forward.

Evaluation will be done by providing quick surveys after each session to attendees.  A once-a-year survey will be done for those that attended several or all sessions.

One example of some demonstrable aspect of the program

The librarian will close the program with a book talk of a useful book offered in the library, which each of us will demonstrate.


Program Outline:  Outreach Program to Older Children

Theme: “Choose Your Own Display”; Bringing creativity outlets to kids.  The theme of the book display is chosen by the children and voted on through a form from the library.

Target Audience: Children ages 9-12, approximate grades 4th, 5th and 6th.  If used in a public library setting, these children will ideally have some interest in art whether it is through painting, drawing, photography, scrapbooking, etc.   If used in a classroom setting, the children would then be part of a specific class or as an after-school club activity.

Program Basics and Format:

The children will be given the opportunity to decorate and create a book display, and choose the books in the display.  The book display will be in the juvenile section of the library and overseen by the youth services department.

The program while ultimately ending in the public library, can also be executed at the local community center, park district facility or as an after school activity by involving the local school librarian.  If used in a school setting, more thematic approaches or specific types of artistic methods could also be used to correspond with the class curriculum of either art class or language arts/reading class or a combination of the two.

The logistical format of the program will be kept simple to allow for the arts and crafts to take center stage.  Voting sheets will be available at the youth services and circulation desks for children to circle their favorite theme from a variety of topics.  The form will also have write-in spots for favorite authors, series books or other topic not listed.  The theme with the most results after the deadline noted will then be the display theme that month!  The display will run for 1 month, with the voting and actual arts and crafts creation to be done in the previous month.  The first display will require a longer timeframe so as to setup the schedule with voting to take place for 1 month and the arts and crafts to commence the second month.

Rationale, Goals and Objectives:

The purpose of the program is to provide a venue for those children interested in art living or going to school in an area that does not support an art program.  It also offers a free venue for children who cannot afford art classes through the park district while still contributing their community.  The ultimate goal of the program is to provide young artists a place to grow in their artistic talents, exhibit their work, and have fun!  The program would serve different displays each month giving multiple children the opportunity to contribute regularly.

Materials used:

These will change each month, but a set budget should be in place to determine the amount and types of materials.  Basics would include crayons, markers, construction paper, poster board, glue and enhancements such as glitter and ribbon.  Materials would also be needed to create promotional flyers and posters in the library and/or school classroom.  Flickr would be used to provide initial ideas of displays until actual photos of the library’s own displays could be used.

Promotion Plan:

The program will be promoted in the library through the website, newsletter and its own “arts & crafts” display.  The program will also be promoted at the local community centers and park district art classes through flyers and posters. Further promotion can happen at local bookstores, arts & crafts or ‘pottery painting’ stores where children and adults may go together.   The public librarian and the local elementary school librarians and art teachers will also work together to tell students about the program and encourage participation, perhaps even adding it to one or two class’s curriculum.  The display will be photographed and promoted each month through the library website and newsletters to show children and parents how creative and fun the program is to encourage more participation.

Evaluation:

Do the children participate?  Do more children participate each month?

Are there enough votes gathered each month to facilitate different displays?

Do the children comment on the new displays or ask how they can get involved?