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Smart Start Community Outreach

by on May 20, 2015

Recently I attended an American Libraries webinar on The Future of Libraries. Among the many topics that were discussed was the idea that libraries need to get out of the stacks and into the community. Many libraries already support organizations within the community, whether it’s through hosting events or posting informational pamphlets about these local organizations. However this idea explores how the library can leave the building and help the community.

Salt Lake City Public Library is trying to do just that. Since 2011, they have been fighting the battle against illiteracy in early childhood with great results. “The library system’s Smart Start program, a community outreach project that serves more than 1,000 children each month, aims to cultivate children’s love of reading while giving parents and teachers necessary literacy-building tools.” (Oligschlaeger 2015)

Smart Start is active in seventy low-income classrooms throughout Salt Lake City. There are currently twelve librarians on staff who participate in the program. Basically they take breaks from their daily library jobs to travel to schools and programs, inviting the kids to participate in a full story-time and a selection of picture books. The classrooms range from pre-K to Head Start. “Smart Start’s reach also stretches beyond the classroom. Librarians regularly bring story-time presentations to children staying at The Road Home, the YWCA women’s shelter, and Odyssey House, a rehabilitation center with residential family programs.” (Oligschlaeger 2015)

One of the librarians who participates has said that he hopes the program will spur a ripple effect in other outreach areas, and I agree. Every library has its own niche with which to help the community. I work at an art reference library, and would love to create an outreach program that will help bring art into schools that may not have the funds for art education. I’d love to hear more about library outreach programs. Where does your library go in the community? Share your stories in the comments.

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