A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Serving Those Who Serve

by on March 16, 2013

My community has several military facilities, both for the Army and the Air Force, with many service men and women stationed here. With this population come special needs, as well as opportunities for the library to serve them.

One of the first things we do is try to give information to new arrivals.  Staff go to a monthly outreach event at the local Army base and present information on library services. All attendees are given a monthly newsletter and library location flyers. We have also found that many of our deployed soldiers utilize our downloadable materials since they are easily accessible no matter where they are in the world. Ensuring that information regarding these resources is passed along is incredibly important.

Other specialized outreach opportunities also exist in our area, like the annual military spouse appreciation event. Aside from going out to speak with the soldiers, we try to participate in groups that work with the military. For example, a staff person attends one local meeting, Peak Military Care Network.

Making life easier for the members of the military is also an important goal. One thing we found we could do was offer Common Access Card (CAC) readers.  The CAC is the identification that all military personnel have and it enables them to authenticate themselves and access information they need. Many times, service men and women may not have easy access to a computer. Being able to use a computer at the library and access their military information is an important service we provide. We check-out the readers for two hours of in-house use. They were so popular at our test location, that we have deployed them in almost all of our locations. Establishing these CAC readers did take a bit of time and work. Our IT department had to install software on any of the computers we wanted to have work with the readers.

Another service we put together deals with our recommended websites.  We have numerous categories of websites, including one for military. In conjunction with our career resources, we also have information specifically for veterans who are looking for civilian jobs. This section of our website includes a pathfinder with everything we have that could help servicemen or women who are leaving active duty move into civilian life.

At times, we have also been able to work with other groups in town to put on programs that appeal especially to members of the community connected to the military.  One such program, Veterans Remember Community-Military Dialogues, allowed for discussion between representatives from one of the local military facilities, veterans, active military, families, and others.

With ongoing deployments, serving our acting military is important, but many families are left behind without one of their members. For children, this separation can be especially difficult. Many wonderful books and resources exist that can help children to understand what is happening. One library staff member created a special pull-out collection of books for children that contain information on the military.  In locations that are heavily used by soldiers and their families, they may be on display.  In other locations, they may simply be distinguished by a sticker.

Many great opportunities exist for unique services and outreach when you have a large military population in your area. As is the case in our city, it is a large group, and we are pleased to help them while they are serving, as well as when they retire or are discharged.