Outreach librarians meet community partners all of the time. We build connections. Especially as the Kansas City Public Library was busy with Back to School events, I didn’t just distribute information and Books-to-Give (books bought with library funds for children in our urban community to keep). I also visited the tables for other non-profit organizations in our area and gave the people working them my business card.
Recently, I tabled at Mayor Sly James’s Rock the Block event. It was huge. People there saw me and recognized me from Genesis Promise Academy, the WIC Clinic, Pathways Academy, Crossroads Academy, and Kansas City Parks and Recreation. They told me this, unsolicited, while smiling. So, I’ve fostered a positive connection between these people and the Library by getting out in the community and having a reputation for dependability and friendliness.
Now that I am officially the Education Librarian instead of the Outreach Education Librarian, I have been able to give most of those contacts to our Outreach Manager. With some, I have provided the organization with contact information for the library branch in its neighborhood and have nurtured the birth of that tie.
However, with schools and educational programs, I have remained our contact person. Even when branch librarians serve the schools, I lead professional in-services and database trainings. I also point them to our website for educators. It lists other ways we can assist. I know of no better way to demonstrate for educators that we are there for them.
Outreach provides the opportunity to prove our worth as an information resource for people in our community with a wide range of other interests. For example, when tabling at the Lakeside Nature Center, I picked books-to-give that were about different types of animals and protecting the environment. A city program called Safety Street holds workshops that teach students how to protect themselves in a variety of situations, like during fires, when meeting unknown animals or when riding bicycles. I made annotated bibliographies for them so that people can learn more safety hints from library books.
When I interviewed for this job, I talked about how much I hate reinventing the wheel because it sucks up the energy we need for new innovations. I still stand by that. We are lucky to have colleagues who work to better our communities, so we do not need to know everything. We need to be experts about what we have and how our materials and services can meet patron needs. That applies outside our walls as much as it does in them.
Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences degree from the University of North Texas and has worked for a decade in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri. Since community begins at home, her number one partner is her seven-year-old daughter (even though her dog was there first).