Ed. note: This is the second in a series of guest columns on an aspect of youth services.
Some of the most important library work I do is outside the library's walls. Outreach--traveling offsite to bring service to potential users--is essential to serving my community and especially its children. Outreach allows librarians to put a friendly face on library services and to meet our patrons where they are (which is all the more important when you're serving chil-dren who don't have their own means of transportation to the library). Just as the community belongs in the library, the library belongs in the community.
It didn't happen overnight, but I'm happy to say that, since 2008, he New Albany--Floyd County (Ind.) Public Library has more than doubled the number of outreach programs we offer. Start by finding the right contact person for a potential partner and having some program outlines in mind. Believe it or not, many community organizations may have no idea how the library can serve them.
One of our most successful partner-ships has been providing storytimes to our local YMCA Afterschool program We visit nine public schools monthly, bringing books to read and a simple craft. The YMCA staff appreciates our visits because it provides something to occupy the kids, and we've increased participation in school-age library programs by over 500% by concentrating our efforts on meeting students where they are.
Each month, I pack a bag that my staff and I take around to each of the sites. I include a selection of books to choose from and a craft, eliminating the need for each of my staff members to plan separate programs forthe visits. As we'veeach gotten to know the kids at the sites we visit, we're able to home in on what books will work for a particular group. Since we're working with fairly large groups (20--60 kids at each site), the best crafts are simple ones that don't require a lot of instruction and allow …