Getting out into the community

3 08 2007

I’ve had two ideas burning a hole in my pocket for a few days now and I want to bounce them off y’all for a little feedback.

Libraries and Community Events

In every community, there are ongoing annual or semi-annual events. These may be science fairs, cook-offs, bratwurst fetsivals, city-wide garage sales, sporting events… the list goes on and on. What if libraries got in on that existing community spirit? Instead of trying to come up with new events hosted by the library, why not capitalize on events already taking place? Take the library to the people! Got a city-wide garage sale coming up? Gather up a nice selection of reference books on antiques, plus a few novels and non-fiction books in the same vein, toss them in the bookmobile, and have a librarian and a volunteer or two set up a tent… a specialized mobile library. If it’s a bratwurst festival, don’t forget to include a few polka CDs, and books on related subjects like German heritage. Take some books on gardening, natural pest control, seasonal cooking, and sustainability down to your local farmer’s market. There will probably be far too many existing community events for you to be able to afford the expense of going to all of them, but why not go to a few? Figure out which events are best represented in your collection and plan a trip to those (and on a related note, figure out why you don’t have books on the other events your community has an interest in). I admit to not knowing the logistics of something like this. I imagine you’d have to arrange the following:

  • A tent and tables for the event
  • Flyers promoting the event beforehand
  • Booth fees for registering for the event (might be waived)
  • Librarian’s time for selecting appropriate materials and researching events
  • Clerk, page, and volunteer time pulling, loading, unloading, reloading, and reshelving the books for the event.
  • How to sign people up for library cards remotely (someone might actually want to check something out!)
  • What to do if ill-weather or insects foils the event
  • Arranging the tables so there’s only one entrance/exit (so you can be watchful for anyone with sticky fingers… gosh it bugs me to even have to mention that!)
  • Anything else?

I don’t think this idea is just for Public libraries, either… Academic libraries have a need for public exposure, and specialized collections might bring in more courtesy borrowers. Like the Fine Arts Library where I work… it would be great to do some community building with the artist, musician, dance, and theatre folks in Austin (“Live Music Capital of the World”). We’ve got great resources for them to use, and maybe they’ll remember us when they’re finding a home for their artistic collections, or with monetary donations following financial success.

Libraries and Community Nonprofits

Maybe more of this goes on than I know about, but it seems like libraries could be doing more to reach out to local nonprofits (heck, even for-profits) in the community to figure out what the needs of the populations they serve are, and helping cater directly to those individuals. We have a little refugee shelter in my city for people primarily from Mexico and South America… why not send a librarian to them to help them meet their goals as an organization? I know they’re hurting for money, so books on grantwriting or seeking funding would be helpful… the people staying there have information needs too…why not get them signed up for library cards? Or have a storytime in Spanish or English for the children at the shelter? By helping these nonprofits meet the needs of their own segments of the community, you are better serving the community as a whole.

So…what do you think? Are there any glaring omissions that would make these ideas impossible to carry out? Can we do things like this? I’m asking because as a not-quite-yet-Librarian, I’ve never really worked on this side of a library before. Is this possible? I hope so…

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3 responses

3 08 2007
T Scott

These are not only good ideas, they represent the kind of thinking that is essential for librarians (of all types) to succeed.

3 08 2007
librarynation

Thanks so much! I’d actually thought of “saving” these ideas for the launch of my marketing toolbox, but I was just so anxious for them to get out there and sprout some wings that I had to share.

It means a great deal to me that you think the ideas would do some good…

I’m really anxious to hear how it goes for anyone who uses these!

27 08 2007
Karin Dalziel

I don’t know how I missed your blog before- I think I’ve caught posts here and there, but it didn’t get in my reader until now. Silly me!. I’ve had a lot of the same thoughts about libraries getting out into public events. It’s definitely a good thing we’re working together on the aLA marketing thing.

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