Communities Aren’t Cookie-Cutter, So Our Services Shouldn’t Be Either

The monthly blog post from our feature writer Anna Francesca Garcia examines her work history and how the community one serves should guide services.

lvLas Vegas, NV:

West Charleston Branch= On Community College campus with adult area focusing on health

Clark County Branch= Highly Hispanic area (often 1st generation) with many low-income apartment complexes

Whitney Branch= Many blue-collar workers, people studying for the GED, and snowbird community (people who live in Las Vegas only during months that are cold in the other place where they live)

kcKansas City, MO area:

Liberty, MO= Small town undergoing period of growth.  College educated middle-upper class families with churches central in their lives.  Many stay-at-home parents, usually moms.  Mostly Caucasian.

Lee’s Summit, MO= Expanding city with upwardly mobile community members.  Family-oriented but with more children in daycare than in Liberty.

Kansas City, MO= Urban area with many financially struggling families.  Better bus system than in other Missouri libraries where I have worked.  Mostly Black and Hispanic patrons.  Some branches have aging populations. Strong church presence in promoting social well-being.  Some branches have an increasing focus on the arts and on renovation of historic buildings.  There are a few locations that have families that struggle less, often with upwardly mobile singles or with more-settled families.

These are very general overviews of the populations where I have worked.  Of course there are patrons who do not fit these profiles.   These summaries are based on my observations.  I did use the Demographics Now database—Mosaic Assessment when looking at the Kansas City, MO service area, though.  This is because I work here now.  In Outreach, I serve an area covered by ten branches. What we do MUST be based on who we serve.  Who I serve is not who you serve.  So, any suggestions I make have to be tailored to your own situation.

  • Are you in a rural area?
  • Do you have large populations with special needs?
  • Is your primary focus academia (a.k.a. college students)?

Barn and SiloIf so, you probably know much more about how to help your particular populations with their needs than I do.  Please, comment on what you’ve done to help your communities.  Heck, post your own blog here.  I bet Lizz would love it!

For me, it has helped immensely to know what the people who I serve need.  For examples, I learn focus on our databases that pertain to K-12 students.  I am the Outreach Education Librarian, after all.  Also, I’m working on learning Spanish.. I have met with church and community leaders who care about our area.  While I am of a different faith than almost everyone in my service area, I respect other religions and believe in learning about their belief systems.

Methods to understand who you serve:

  • Read the newspaper
  • Check out websites of local organizations
  • Listen to patrons

No two areas are the same.  Therefore, no two approaches are identical.  We take the framework, tinker until it fits our community’s needs, and go from there.

 Anna Francesca Garcia is the Kansas City Public Library’s Outreach Education Librarian. Anna is  the liaison between the Library and schools.  Her job is to make educators aware of what the public library has to offer and to facilitate their use of KCPL’s resources.

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