Outreach?

Recently Jamie LaRue spoke at my library’s staff development day. He was very interesting and had many good ideas. I enjoyed his presentation very much and am happy that he was able to come and speak to our staff.

During his presentation he mentioned a few things that have been bouncing around my head for a few months. He was able to explain them very well and I’m very happy that our administration was there to listen to him.

Something he discussed that I really like is the idea of having reference librarians out in the community. Call it outreach, roving reference or whatever but the idea is that the library can do some really positive things if we get the librarians out of the building and helping in the community. The example he gave was of one of his librarians helping a local downtown revitalization group. The librarian was originally humored and thought of as not needed. But by listening to the group’s discussions then demonstrating the library’s ability to help in a real way she is now an integral part of the group.

This type of reference service is something I’ve been thinking about recently. After reading this post from In The Library With the Lead Pipe and listening to a few presentations by R. David Lankes the idea of getting librarians out of the building and helping community organizations has really struck me as something we should be doing more of.

One of the places I think my library can begin this type of service is by assigning a librarian to the Deputy County Managers. The county has 5 of them and they coordinate all the departments in the county. By assisting these 5 people we will be able to get a good idea of what is going on in the county; what the trends are, who the “important” people are, and get a bird’s eye view at the issues affecting our community. From here we should be able to contact leaders outside of county government and begin assisting them with the issues their organizations face. It will take a long time and a lot of work but I think the benefit to the community and the library will be great.

  • The library will be seen as more than just books and story time.
  • Librarians will be able to showcase their skills as information specialists and use that knowledge and those skills more.
  • Community leaders will receive specialized service from an information professional and will have more time to focus on their organization.

This is really just an idea for me right now. Details will have to be thought through and I’m not sure how to get it started but will begin working on it soon. We have some smart people in administration who should see some value in this idea. I should probably stop writing and get on the phone.

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4 thoughts on “Outreach?

  1. As the branch manager, I spend a lot of time working with the Chamber of Commerce, schools, Arts Associations, etc. It is incredibly valuable and I believe that everyone should do it.

    For one thing, people associate *me* with the library and I am able to spend a lot of my time talking up the library and our programs. It also shows that the library is part of the community, as well.

    I was speaking with the Dean of the community college and she commented that she needs to talk up the college as much as I talk up the library.

    • George, I’m glad you’re out there doing these things. I hope you continue to get out of the branch and work in the community. I’m sure you are seeing dividends of your work.

      I could probably take some lessons from you in talking up the library.

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