Joining together is necessary. Why? When I talked with Mary Olive Thompson, Kansas City Public Library’s Director of Library Outreach and Community Engagement, she told me that, when library systems are looking to appropriate reduced funding, outreach is one of the first services to go. For example, when Philadelphia’s Free Library system had its budget cut outreach was severely limited. Outreach was among the services slashed when less money was allotted for Yuba County Libraries in California in 2010, too.
People are better advocates for outreach services and the patrons they serve when they pool their ideas and energy. Mary Olive and a small but growing group of colleagues from Kansas and Missouri recently met at The Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library. I saw the group as they toured our building. In addition to Mary Olive, the group consisted of
- Carolyn Cain, Daniel Boone Regional Library Outreach
- Colleen Hall, Outreach Manager at St. Louis County Library
- Pattie Johnston, Outreach Coordinator for Lawrence Public Library and Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) Conference Planning Committee Chair and Long Range Planning Committee Co-Chair
They had a phone interview that day with Nancy Kishpaugh, who is in charge of Genealogy/Senior Services at Independence [KS] Public Library. These five women have submitted a proposal to the joint Kansas Library Association/ Missouri Library Association to lead a breakout session. Instead of it being instructional, they would like to instead foster a discussion. What works for people? How can they be more efficient in serving patrons? What challenges do they face, and how are they overcoming them?
It is important that many types of libraries have a say. There are differences between small rural libraries, large urban systems, suburban libraries. There are similarities, too. Identifying these is key to advocating on behalf of needs to provide outreach to a variety of communities. For example, Daniel Boone Regional Library has both a bookmobile and a junior bookmobile (for kids’ materials). How does this work for them? Is it feasible to implement something similar in other libraries or library systems? Which grant opportunities will most likely support this kind of initiative? Who do you reach out to when connecting with your peers and colleagues?
None of these answers are easy. However, by working together, when library budgets undergo treatment by figurative micro-goggles and laser scalpels, outreach will be seen as an essential element of service to our communities.
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. Her daughter, who will be eight later this month, will attest that her mom’s driving skills make it clear that no one should ever entrust her with a bookmobile.
 Ransom, Jan. “Libraries face harder times with Pa. cuts.” Philadelphia Daily News, The (PA) 08 Mar. 2012: Newspaper Source. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.
 der Meer, Ben van. “Yuba County library relying on more volunteers.” Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA) 03 Dec. 2010: Newspaper Source. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.