'Love is the outreach of self...

by tosca on Wednesday, August 17, 2011

...toward completion.'
~ Ralph W. Sockman

In which Tosca has more questions about NZ public libraries. It's Wednesday which means that for once this week I am actually on track for writing a library related post (even though I've done it twice already). However, then I stuff it up slightly by not writing a reflective post at all, so much as asking questions about outreach - what we do, how we do it and whether or not it's still relevant or in need of revision. I guess what I really want to know is: Do NZ public libraries still do outreach?

It's something I've been thinking over quite a bit, on and off, for the last few years. It all came to a head yesterday when I read Sally Pewhairangi's post - Showcase: The Anatomy of Libraries - on her website Finding Heroes. In it Sally states that, "We need to be memorable. We need to be worth talking about. We need to be visible." I absolutely agree.

Some part of me can't help remembering that when I first started in public libraries (a paltry eight years ago which is barely a sneeze in the time some of our staff have worked here), we took outreach seriously. Our children and teen librarians were out and about in the community. They were visiting daycares, primary schools, intermediates, high schools and local businesses. They were reminding people that we could help them, they were ensuring that we were visible and relevant. School children and parents knew our names. I don't get that same feeling anymore. I'm not sure that we're all still doing it. Some of us could be and I just don't get to hear about it or see it, and if that's the case YAY. I only know that somewhere around four years ago it seemed like we had stopped doing it so much. Maybe it had even been edged out by the general day-to-day business of running a library, i.e. rosters, admin (egad there seems to be so much paperwork - is this what I signed on for?), desk shifts, taking staff for performance reviews, learn.net room shifts, etc. I don't think it was deliberate. I don't know that it wasn't.

I'm not saying that this is the only way in which we can be memorable or visible or worth talking about. But it's a start. Isn't it? If we're not reaching out to the community in something as simple as teens or kids services, if we're not in their faces about our services...just how *do* we expect them to find us? Luck only gets us so far and, really, that's not all that far. I can prove it. I worked in City Centre Library for four and a half years. Every day that I worked there someone would walk through the doors and say to us, 'I didn't know you were here!' Huh. So I'd like to know:

  • Is outreach still relevant?
  • Why? Or why not?
  • Does your library still do outreach?
  • If not, why not?
  • If so, who goes out? Librarians? Library assistants?
  • How often do they go out?

  • Like I said, I have lots of questions about libraries and I'm more than willing to hear how others are doing it, have it done it or want to do it.


    As you know, I've only been in my YA role a grand total of... *counts*... 23 days - but already I'm hoping to make outreach something that I really do. I want to go into 'my' schools and not just show the teens (and their teachers) what we can offer them, but also find out what they want from me, and discuss how we can work together. I'd definitely like to see more overlap and collaboration between our schools and our public libraries.
    The only thing is, I don't quite know how I'll find the time to actually do all this in the hour and a half a day that I have away from the desk, returns and floor... guess this will be what my days off are for ;)

    by Katie on August 17, 2011 at 7:25 PM. #

    It won't happen because they'd rather have library assistants locked up dealing with processing books. God forbid we ever leave the library like the ~real libarians~.

    Haha, my rage is showing again. I swear I'm actually happier than I was a month ago lololol.

    by minarosenrot on August 18, 2011 at 1:31 AM. #

    Here in CHB we still do a large amount of outreach services. Very regularly to private homes and to care homes. Also to hospital. During reading programmes we saturate the schools with visits and then try to visit a few times a term just to keep interest up. A librarian will normally go out to schools with a library assistant. Our student library helpers love going out. For private home and care homes we have a rotation of volunteers then librarian. Our local high school does not get visited anymore as most of our services with them are via social media which they prefer. In smaller communities like ours - Outreach services are vital

    by CHB District Libraries on August 18, 2011 at 10:56 AM. #

    Having just put in a paper relating to promoting our eResources that includes outreach in terms of identifying community groups as audiences, I have to say heck yeah we should be doing it.

    As a children's librarian I often felt that I was receiving the disapproval of my branch colleague because I found outreach activities to be very important. My goal when attending a school or preschool was to make sure the kids linked me with the library (and I was regularly framed as "the nice guy who reads stories") so that they'd go home and ask to go to the library as soon as possible.

    I'm not seeing a deemphasis on children's outreach personally, although I think that battle to place outreach on the priority ladder I mention is frequent if not universal. I'm interested to find out how outreach to adult groups goes.

    by banjosinthestacks on August 18, 2011 at 3:30 PM. #

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