No matter the size of the library or the population it serves, all public libraries are working toward a common goal—providing relevant and impactful services in areas most important to patrons. As we strive to be a data-driven organization at Sno-Isle Libraries in Snohomish and Island Counties, WA, it is our job to make sure our programs are allocating the right amount of resources to our highest priority services and addressing the needs and interests of our communities. And we need the data to show it.
What exactly does the term “outreach” mean in the library eld? Outreach represents different services libraries might offer— programming, homebound deliveries, bookmobiles, volunteering, community events—as well as collaboration with schools, Spanish speakers, the homeless, the LGBT community, hospitals, senior facilities, and correctional facilities. When I accepted the position of outreach services librarian at the St. Charles (IL) Public Library District (SCPLD) in February 2015, I did not grasp what outreach fully meant or truly appreciate what an exciting field of librarianship I was entering. Not all libraries have dedicated outreach librarians or departments. So why should libraries become more aware of outreach services?
They come up to the desk and, for the most part, they do not look particularly sad. Most of them look tired–very tired. I look over or approach and ask if I can help them, and as they edge closer to the desk, sometimes dropping their voices at the same time, they ask: “Do you have books for when somebody has died?”
For the past three years, the Queens (NY) Library has embarked on a project to radically improve the way library customers discover and access digital content and information resources (which from this point will be referred to as “digital information”). Queens Library invests with a variety of providers to license a rich array of digital information for our customers, but like most libraries, has been forced to rely on a complex set of proprietary interfaces to navigate and deliver them. Only the savviest customers are able to keep track of a large number of separate usernames, passwords, and website URLs. Even when this barrier is crossed, accessing this digital information (or even finding out what is available) requires them to follow links out of the library’s system and over to the digital in- formation provider’s system.
With great book groups comes great responsibility—to be open to tough conversations. Since the 2016 presidential election, many of Kansas City (MO) Public Library’s book clubs have been asking for reading that exposes them to different viewpoints. They want fiction that humanizes the news accounts they read; they want nonfiction that helps explain the issues.
I’d like to reveal an important lesson that all librarians need to understand by telling a story that opened my eyes to the power of libraries and of librarians. There are a number of lessons to be learned from this story, but most important may be the realization that we can’t keep underestimating our community’s respect and love for what we provide them.