The importance of library outreach to children and teens in the community cannot be underestimated. In an era where budget issues threaten libraries, it’s important for library staff to consistently, and effectively market our services to the public. Outreach activities may include:
- Visiting daycares/pre-schools and K-12 schools and providing onsite story times, library cards, information literacy instruction (possibly in partnership with the school library staff), booktalks, and more! When I was a teen services librarian, I collaborated with middle school teachers and high school librarians on information literacy sessions; teens learned how to search the OPAC, conduct Boolean searches in databases, and how to properly evaluate information sources.
- Setting up information booths at community-sponsored events such as health fairs and school festivals. Our children’s library staff recently attended the local YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day event and shared information about our story times, summer reading program, and homework databases. Children also participated in a bookmark craft, and played games to win prizes. Over 300 people stopped by the booth!
- Reach out to special and/or underserved populations, including those who have physical and learning disabilities , nontraditional families (foster children and teens, incarcerated youth, teen parents, homeless children and teens, and children in gay and lesbian families), or speak English as a second language.
Forming partnerships with local community organizations and businesses is critical to outreach efforts. City and county governments usually have a youth services committee or group (with representatives from each agency/department) that meets on a regular basis; these meetings give libraries a wider reach, in terms of spreading information about youth services and programs.
Here are some helpful resources to get you going with outreach at your library:
ALA Office for Literary and Outreach Services
ALSC Outreach Blogs
ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way” Grant
YALSA Outreach to Young Adults With Special Needs Committee
Write to Read