“What’s an Outreach Librarian do anyway?” is often the first question I get when asked my title. “I stand in front of the library and hug patrons,” is my first response. Then I ask them how they feel about libraries. Most people respond favorably to an institution that allows them (mostly) free access to vast amounts of information and materials…and free internet usage. When I dig deeper and start talking about how most people FEEL about using libraries, about their ability to use a library and about the fears 70-85% of people have about using libraries (depending on the study cited), my job suddenly starts to make more sense. I get nods. Sometimes I see looks of relief that they aren’t the only one afraid to look stupid by asking how to use something most of us grew up around. Then, usually, I hear: “well, isn’t everything online nowadays?” That question alone addresses WHY libraries need to do outreach.
Welcome to my world.
So, why this blog? I’ve started sharing some of the outreach activities I’ve been doing (and want to do) with other librarians on listservs. I’ve been surprised by the requests for more information (phone meeting on using prize wheels!). And I’ve been frustrated by the lack of forums to discuss outreach on an informal, practical level. So, here it is: a place to exchange ideas on a fairly new concept in librarianship: concentrated, institutionalized outreach.
What makes my position so unique is that I am charged with serving both the academic community at the college at which I work and the surrounding community. I work with students, faculty, kids of all ages, parents and caregivers, local organizations and local public libraries. Every Friday night I run a free, drop-in community event called Family Fun Night (which I’ll address in future posts.) I also partner with our education department to put on free workshops for caregivers. And I do so much more.
Welcome. I aim to make this a place where librarians can come to get practical tips, find inspiration and share what they’re doing as outreach librarians. One hug at a time.