Every once in awhile the stars align and outreach opportunities present themselves with little effort on your part! But how does one create an intentional plan in a short amount of time when something like this comes up? This month I use my Personal Service Priority Plan to determine what types of outreach to pursue with the many Homeschooling families in my community.
By this point it’s (hopefully) clear that seeking to reach all youth in the community, regardless of how often they come into the physical library branch, is a priority for library staff. YALSA’s new Intended Impact Statement charges libraries to serve ALL teens in the community, and the YALSA Futures report encourages new ways of thinking about Outreach activities. What might Outreach look like if the group you want to reach doesn’t fit into neat definitions or similar socioeconomic situations?
For several months, my branch colleagues and I had been noticing more and more patrons asking for information for families who home school. Through a few conversations with several of the students, we learned that our community was home to a wide array of families who chose to home school for a diverse variety of reasons. Some students were in military families or in families with parents who moved around with a high enough frequency that they decided homeschooling would give them the best continuity. Some families homeschooled for social or religious beliefs. Other students chose home school because they had physical conditions that made attending traditional school quite difficult.
After speaking to several of these families we started brainstorming ideas for reaching out and offering resources, space, and service learning opportunities to these students. We ran into a big problem: we couldn’t identify a common place or communication channel that would reach all or most of these families at once! We did identify a home school group that was meeting once a month or so at a Community Center near our branch, and we did try to introduce ourselves to the listed contact person; but we heard nothing back. Then, seemingly out of the blue, a different local home school group contacted us looking for ideas for how their students might better use the public library.
It was time for my big question: would this fit into my Personal Service Priority Plan? The relevant points here are:
The group of students in question included “Tweens (youth ages 8-13)”, who are one of my two main priorities for 2016. So Yes, I should work with this group.
- The students were asking for help navigating library resources. So yes, there is a “clear tie to literacy/information”.
- In this case, the “experts” on the subject are literally we library staff! So yes, this project would “connect people to an expert”.
- This is very clearly a response to community interest!
- The partner is clearly defined as the home school students and their families
- This collaboration has measurable outcomes: for example, “students increase their knowledge of library resources as a result of participating in this event”.
- This event would allow us to interact directly with youth and with parents/families
- We could dedicate the time of two youth services librarians for this project, so appropriate staff is allocated.
Another relevant consideration about Outreach in the context of this project: Outreach doesn’t have to result in physical visits to the library, but in this case, a visit explaining available resources, both physical and digital, best fit the ability for us to fulfill another of YALSA’s Intended Impacts:
“Teens co-create, co-evaluate, and co-evolve library programs and activities with library staff and skilled volunteers (including mentors and coaches) based on their passions and interests. These programs and activities are connected to teens’ personal, work, or academic interests across multiple literacies; generate measurable outcomes for teens’ skills and knowledge; and are tailored to the unique circumstances of the community.”
These families had contacted us and asked us to introduce our physical and digital spaces to them through a library tour and some workshops that would walk them through some of our services that best suited their needs. We were not approaching a group with a set menu of options, but rather working together to create a series of events that addressed their academic and personal interests to be presented in a way that was meaningful to them. After considering these priorities, we were able to move forward with the home school families to create a series of workshops that so far have been well attended and appreciated.