Outreach doesn’t have to be difficult, stressful, and complicated. Outreach can be as simple and fun as riding a bookmobile around the community or participating in a parade. One popular method of outreach, that gets books to community members who may not be able to get to the library building, is bookmobile service! Bookmobiles come in many formats, from large vans, trucks, bikes, or even small carts of books. Bookmobiles and direct-delivery outreach has been a popular method for over 100 years. The first bookmobile was pioneered by Mary Titcomb and consisted of a horse drawn wagon that sent boxes of books to nearby stores and post offices (PBS). Bookmobile outreach is such a popular and celebrated method of outreach that ALA helps to coordinate National Bookmobile Day. This year National Bookmobile Day was on April 15th. Depending on the library institution that hosts the bookmobile, the vehicle, bike, or cart can be stocked with items for checkout, items to purchase, or donated items that patrons can keep. Librarians can also stock informational fliers about their other collections, services, and programs in their bookmobiles to hand out to patrons who may not be aware of all that libraries can offer. This type of outreach allows for patrons who may not be aware of the library, or who may be homebound, to have access to books, resources, and the knowledge of a librarian. This direct service outreach also allows for homebound patrons to develop relationships with library staff that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Along with bookmobiles, there are other ways for libraries to engage directly with their communities. One such method for libraries to interact with the community and bring books and knowledge of library resources is for libraries to engage in community events. Libraries can build floats to be part of local parades and set up booths at community events like festivals and farmer’s markets. I have personally represented my public library in at least a half a dozen parades and it is one of the greatest feelings to hear the kids calling out your name and the library’s name. Building a presence in the community, outside of the physical library building, allows for the community to see that the library is a committed and important resource.
Librarians can also host outreach storytimes at local daycares. Not only will the children at the local daycares be entertained and benefit from the early literacy skills that storytimes develop, but the librarian will be able to explain to the daycare workers and children all of the resources and programs that are age appropriate and available to them at the library. Abby Johnson explains that, “librarians know why people should use the library. Everyone else (and this includes teachers, parents, and kids) has to be convinced that we have something for them. If you want to promote the library, a face-to-face connection is worth a thousand press releases.” This statement demonstrates how important it is for libraries to engage in outreach and storytimes at local daycares and schools. Outreach is a great way to show community members exactly what the library has to offer them!
Written by Rachael Terry, 7/12/15.