Each summer I’m faced with the same dilemma: a huge number of community events at which I could do outreach but only one of myself! The problem becomes compounded by the fact that I can’t be both in and out of the library building at the same time. When school is out for the summer, I want to be available to youth and families who come to my branch searching for me.
Summer Festival Outreach
I’ve worked hard to build relationships with those youth, and I want them to feel personally welcomed as much as possible when they come to “their” library. However, as we know from YALSA’s Intended Impact Statement, it is critical that we “reach out to serve ALL teens in the community…whether or not they frequent the library space.”
It’s a micro version of what all libraries face: we recognize that we must provide excellent service and opportunities for learning both in and out of our buildings, but we often don’t have the number of staff needed to provide the same levels of service in and out of the buildings at the same time. The community branch youth services librarian can’t be simultaneously meeting with youth outside the building and working with youth at the branch. Our colleagues do a fantastic job of providing service to youth in our branches while we’re out in the community, but the very nature of working effectively with youth calls for consistency and trust. The YALSA vision calls for quality services like coaching and mentoring as well as tailoring to the community – wonderful and worthy goals that are difficult to achieve if individual youth services staff are in a staffing position where they can’t consistently work to build and maintain relationships with individual youth.
At the core of this dilemma is the bigger philosophical question: is the goal of outreach to get people to come to our library branches and use our services here, or is it to take library services out of the building into the community without the expectation that the patrons we’re reaching in that way will ever enter a library building? From a youth services perspective, if we attend community events to meet teens we’re not seeing at the branches with the end goal of attracting them to the branch, it makes sense that the person they see at the community event should, whenever possible, be the same person they see when they come to the branch. Continue reading
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? Continue reading
How might a Personal Service Priority Plan affect the decisions we make when it comes to our collections? This month I discuss making intentional collection choices tied to a Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) within the limitations of my job scope (a.k.a. doing what I can without stepping on toes!)
I have a somewhat complicated relationship with the collection at my library branch. We have centralized Selection Services librarians who do the huge majority of picking and choosing which materials will be added to the collection. Sometimes I’m sent materials chosen by that department based on system needs and sometimes I choose from a pre-determined list they’ve created. Sure, I decide what stays on the shelf through the weeding process, and our Selection librarians are good about asking for input from branch librarians. But for the most part I don’t have much say in which titles my branch will offer. Except for in one area: uncatalogued paperbacks.
In recognition of the fact that barriers to the traditional materials check-out process exist for many patrons, our branches offer “uncataloged collections” of mostly high-interest paperbacks. These materials are not barcoded or included in our online catalog. They can be taken from our branches by anyone, without using a library card, and are returned on the honor system. Twice a year I get a budget of several hundred dollars to order whatever I think would go over well in my branch. And this is where my Personal Service Priority Plan comes into play. Continue reading
So far I’ve used my Personal Service Priority Plan to identify a new partnership to pursue. However, just as important as knowing when to say “yes” is clearly identifying when to say “no”. This month I discuss how I used the plan to evaluate an offered one-off program and to politely decline.
There’s lots of great advice out there about why we should say no if an existing or potential program doesn’t seem to be meeting the needs of our community (I love the suggestion to “stop doing things” in Maureen Hartman’s post Level Up Your Leadership: Stop Doing Things). So what does this look like in practice?
Last fall I was approached by an author interested in giving a reading from her new book during some evening or weekend at my library. Deciding whether to accept or decline offers from local writers can be tricky for me, because on the surface it seems an obvious choice: the public library promotes literacy and writing, and here’s someone who wants to talk to youth about writing for free – great! However, I still needed to run this through the Priority Plan “rubric”. Continue reading
Last month I introduced a yearly “Personal Service Priority Plan” for making decisions around Outreach, Programming, Strategic Audiences, and Collection. Already, I have had several opportunities to implement this strategy in specific situations. Here is what the flow of this decision-making process looked like regarding a potential community partner:
The “Mission and Core Values” section of The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action suggests, regarding Collaboration, that “Libraries leverage the resources/talents of all library departments as well as non-library institutions and establish community partnerships around teens’ needs and interests.” As I decide which potential organizations with which to form partnerships, I can use that Core value as a basis for action, then use my own Personal Service Priority Plan to cull down the possibilities and choose an action plan based on the needs of my community.
In this case, a literacy nonprofit that works with my local school has asked me to partner with them to support students in their program. Awesome! Great! Now: should I pursue this, and how should I approach it?
According to the Core values set forth in the “Futures” report, I should establish community partnerships around teens’ needs and interests. This organization works directly with youth up to age 14 who are reading below grade level. OK, so yes, I should consider this partnership.
Now, what will our partnership look like? Here are the 2016 “Outreach” priorities I have set for myself:
- Potential partner is clearly defined
- We are aiming to serve/reach a similar or overlapping audience
- Collaboration has measurable outcomes
- Whenever I (or library staff) attend an event there are dedicated times to interact directly with youth/parents/families
- Appropriate staff attends events based on needs of anticipated audience (determined through discussion with supervisors and regional resource sharing)
I love mission statements. I really do! I get excited when I’m researching a new organization and I can find clearly stated strategic priorities or service areas. It allows me to immediately identify which organizations have similar or overlapping goals with my library and which organizations have a very different focus or scope.
So I’m not sure why it took me so long to think of creating a personal statement of service priorities for my own job.
To clarify: I’m not talking about a career objective document or a performance evaluation, and I don’t intend to re-invent the wheel. Rather, I’ve discovered that creating an intentional document highlighting my areas of focus during a set time frame makes it easier to quickly identify where I should be spending my time and energy.
As library staff we have an abundance of resources from which to draw when deciding where to aim our focus. Just a few examples include the The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action, the mission statement and stated service priorities of our own libraries, and community information like reports from the Housing Authority, local organizations who work with insecurely housed youth, and community demographic statistics. It can be overwhelming to take all of these sources into account for every decision we make.
This year I decided to try an experiment. I spent a week in December pouring over the resources I listed above as well as looking back over notes from staff meetings and notable information from local neighborhood blogs, and I developed a plan. I created a one page checklist which I titled my “Personal Service Priority Plan”. This document will be the foundation for every decision I make in 2016. It is tailored to the needs I see in the community surrounding my specific library. It will serve as a rubric to quickly evaluate what I will pursue in terms of Outreach, Programming, Strategic Audiences, and Collection.