Since October, 2011 the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) has been working closely with Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) sites, Angeleno nonprofits, and city of L.A. Family Source Centers to increase user rates for Live Homework Help, a free online tutoring interface for patrons of the Los Angeles Public Library. Staff members involved in the outreach effort have also made great strides publicizing the L.A.P.L.’s other remote resources, like our myriad databases, college-prep seminars (Student Smart), and free, practice college-entry exams (PSAT, SAT, and ACT.).
In one year, we managed to increase user-rates by at least 40% throughout the city of Los Angeles; in certain under-served zip codes we were able to increase user-rates by at least 20%, despite the fact that the Digital Divide is a very prescient phenomenon in many of Los Angeles’ under-resourced neighborhoods. We tailored our Live Homework Help outreach efforts so that presentations and demonstrations could be shared in English or Spanish. We also translated all related literature and materials (pamphlets, PPTs, press releases) ensuring that they were just as available in Spanish as in English.
The biggest key to our success has been an unwavering enthusiasm among the outreach staff to get the word out and spread the gospel of the public library. We have helmed tables at enormously popular literacy events like Adelante Mujer Latina Conference at Pasadena City College and La Feria at California State University/Dominguez Hills (CSU); we have traversed the city of Los Angeles, from Pacoima to Koreatown to Watts, in a single day; we have spoken directly with parents about the seminal importance of their involvement in the educational process, at the school level, and in the home. We marketed our program heavily to parents because we felt they might understand and appreciate the value of the free online tutoring and free college preparatory classes that are available as part of Live Homework Help.
The majority of literacy fairs and family fairs take place on Saturday, so having a person that can commit to Saturdays is a must. In addition, we resoundingly said “yes” to every commitment and presentation that was requested, regardless of how many people were going to show up. In other words, if you hope to achieve success with your outreach efforts, and you are about as energetic as a sloth, you will find yourself (and your message) easily forgotten.
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