More on Community Outreach…

For additional information on community outreach in LIS, please consider visiting a few of the following resources:

B Malczewski. (2013, May 1). Why Social Media Isn’t Working for Your Library. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from

Bashaw, D. (2010). On the Road Again: A Look at Bookmobiles, Then and Now. Children and Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service in Children, 8(1), 32-35.

Diane Bashawn’s article, “On the Road Again: A Look at Bookmobiles, Then and Now,” is also a good short summary of the past, present and future of bookmobiles.

CLP-Pop Up/Allentown Learning & Engagement Center. Urban Libraries Council. Retrieved from—engagement-center-innovation-926.php?page_id=275.

This is a great example of community outreach in urban populations. Check out the rest of the site for more examples and valuable information about urban libraries.

Communities Aren’t Cookie-Cutter, So Our Services Shouldn’t Be Either. (2013, October 30). The Outreach Librarian. Retrieved from

The Outreach Librarian is a great blog to browse if you are looking for first hand experiences with community outreach in libraries (all types). This post in particular highlights the differences between libraries and the importance of outreach and understanding that different communities require different services.

D Singer, D Agosto. (2014, January 8). Reaching Senior Patrons in the Digitized Library. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from

Levin, D. S. (2008). A Special Program and a Special Partnership: Serving a Developmentally Disabled Adult Population. Colorado Libraries, 34(3), 36-38.

Miller, R. & Girmscheid, L. (2012, May 1). It Takes Two: The Need for Tighter Collaboration Between School and Public Librarians. School Library Journal. Retrieved from

This article talks about funding issues with public libraries and how they can work closely with school libraries to make sure they have materials geared towards the curriculum. Collaboration between public and school librarians is important to make sure both libraries have materials that meet students’ needs.

Murvosh, M. (2013, January 1). Partners in Success: When school and public librarians join forces, kids win. School Library Journal. Retrieved from

This article explains the importance of collaboration between public and school librarians. The article highlights outreach programs in many different areas around the United States and how they make an impact on students.

National Bookmobile Day 2015 – Bookmobiles at a Glance. (2015). American Library Association, Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS). Retrieved from

For a very concise and informative look at much of the salient information on bookmobiles, I highly recommend the “Bookmobiles at a Glance” paper prepared by OLOS for National Bookmobile Day 2015. Includes a chart breakdown of the number of bookmobiles per state from the years 2006-2011, which is an interesting look at the wide variation in bookmobile popularity across the different states.

Patrick, L. (2014, June 26). Nashville Public Library Reinvents Its Summer Reading Model, Sees Early Success. School Library Journal. Retrieved from

This article focuses on a summer reading program in Nashville. All of the public libraries participate in this program to reach all of the children in the area. They have students participate in different activities throughout the summer where they can earn prizes, encouraging more participation in the program.

Sensory Storytime for Special Needs Adults. Urban Libraries Council. Retrieved from


Community Outreach in Urban Populations: How & When?

When I began looking into the topic of community outreach for libraries, I thought that there must be some type of guidelines out there for librarians to go by. What I found was that community outreach involves a lot of components and that this may be a much larger topic than I think my team and I had bargained for. I’ve come to see that outreach involves one-on-one interactions, venturing outside of the library’s walls, being sensitive to life situations that you may not have direct experience with, and a willingness to learn and learn…and learn. The state of Oregon has some guidelines in place in terms of reaching out to immigrant and language-minority populations and those guidelines can be applied to any area of outreach (Oregon State Library). These guidelines include: getting out and asking the people of the community about the services that they require, building community support, creating a library image that appeals to the target audience, building institutional support, and purchasing materials that the target audience can directly relate to (Oregon State Library).

Community outreach can begin at any time. Beginning to build a relationship with the surrounding community from the very start by participating in activities outside of the library can let potential patrons know that the library is a place where they can feel safe and accepted, trust and respect are the cornerstones of a successful community outreach program (Oregon State Library). On the note of creating a safe and accepting atmosphere, a large part of outreach should include educating staff – one of the biggest barriers facing urban communities (especially the homeless) are the attitudes of library staff – and implementing sensitivity training as well as specialized reference services that cater to the homeless (Mars, 2013). Outreach librarians often will find the need to get creative in finding places to interact with members of the community: “by entering community spaces outside the confines of the library, librarians can connect with members of the public who do not feel comfortable entering libraries” (Williment, 2013).

I would propose that libraries that serve urban communities head out into the area and get in touch with community centers like food banks, after-school programs, shelters, even Department of Health Services offices to find out how they can partner in order to bring library resources directly to this group of people. In my work with a non-profit organization, I have found that organizations such as United Way are enthusiastic about offering assistance with outreach. Often, if a program starts with offering services to the youth of a community, adults will follow suite. Library outreach programs that target children will inevitably be able to pull in the caretakers of those children. Libraries also have an advantage in that many of them already offer on-site programs that assist people with resume building and job searching. In partnering with a program that has its own facilities, libraries could potentially bring those services to the community, rather than waiting for members of the community to come to the library.

There are many venues for community outreach in urban areas – as Flynn (2014) suggests in her blog post about partnering with a summer meals program, libraries can get partner with schools to create programs that offer a needed service, such as food, with another service such as education and literacy. With programs such as this, libraries are able to bring a taste of the programs that they offer to people who would otherwise not necessarily know what the library could offer them. From Flynn’s experiences, it seems as though the summer meals program began with attracting more people to the program and then stemmed out to bring those same people into the library once the meal program ended after the summer. In order to increase accessibility for many urban patrons, some libraries have started allowing the addresses of shelters to serve as sufficient information to obtain a library card and bookmobiles and delivery programs have been implemented in order to bring books to those who are unable to travel to the library on their own (Mars, 2013).

Bringing library services to urban populations in an effort to draw them into the actual, physical library can prove to be a difficult endeavor. Librarians must educate themselves on and learn from first hand experience the struggles that people living in urban communities deal with on a daily basis. Learning and application are the basis of any great library outreach program and there it is never too early (or too late!) to begin making a difference.


A Mars. (2013, April 26). Library Service to the Homeless. Retrieved from

J Flynn. (2014, November 12). Outside Library Walls: Partnering with a Summer Meals Program. Retrieved from

K Williment. (2013, April 26). It Takes a Community to Build a Library. Retrieved from

Oregon State Library. Best Practices for LTSA-Funded Outreach to Immigrants and Language-Minority Populations. Retrieved from


Community Outreach in Urban Populations: Why?

I currently work in Detroit, near the Wayne State University campus, in Hutzel Hospital. It’s a very different atmosphere compared to what you may find in a library – hectic, loud at times, and fast-paced. Yet, I’ve become increasingly aware of the people that rotate in and out of the doors of the hospital – this urban population is made up of so many different types of people and the hospital finds ways to serve all of them and to reach out to them in ways they can relate to and appreciate. Why not the same for libraries?

Community outreach in urban populations is especially important because there are often groups of people living in those areas with literacy and access issues. In cases such as these, it is important for librarians to get involved with social events in the community and interact with potential patrons in a way that is inviting and relatable. Low literacy levels is a continuing issue in urban areas. As Kong describes, “nearly a quarter of California’s adult population lacks prose literacy skills” (2013). Library outreach in the form of literacy programs have an opportunity to take action and increase literacy levels in urban populations. From my research on this topic, I’ve learned that without harboring a collection that the library’s target population can relate to, there is very little chance that the library will be able to bring in and continue to properly serve that population. In Garcia’s (2014) blog post, Mirrors and Windows, she indicates that building diverse collections is difficult: although nearly half of the U.S. population is comprised of people of color, in 2013, “less than one third of one percent of children’s books published in the United States were about people of color.” With statistics such as these, libraries must delve deep into their collections to highlight literature that can be relatable and they must also work to build their collections to include more titles that can be both universally relatable but also highlight the minorities that are often found in urban populations.

Equity of access is a major issue for urban populations, specifically the poor and homeless population (American Library Association). Some of the major issues that this group faces in terms of library use are: policies that require a permanent address for a library card, fines or fees that give the perception that the use of library services costs money, staff who are not trained to be sensitive to or hold prejudices against the poor and homeless, limited access to the library facility by lack of transportation or unaccommodating hours of service, lack of programs or resources that address people’s current situations, and limited promotion at community centers that serve the poor and homeless (American Library Association). Fortunately, many of these issues can be solved with intensified efforts in community outreach and an increase in staff education.


A Garcia. (2014, August 7). Mirrors and Windows: Diversity in Outreach. Retrieved from

American Library Association. Outreach Resources for Services to Poor and Homeless People. Retrieved from

L Kong. (2013, March 19). Failing to Read Well: The Role of Public Libraries in Adult Literacy, Immigrant Community Building, and Free Access to Learning. Retrieved from