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Outreach in Libraries: Reaching Our Audiences

Outreach in Libraries: Reaching Our Audiences

Reaching our audiences is a critical part of librarian’s jobs.  The many different types of librarianship engage their audiences as a part of their mission and to that end, different types of librarians work with different methods of outreach.

Outreach is one of my favorite parts of working with a community. I find it greatly satisfying to reach an audience, run successful workshops, and try creative projects. In order to learn more about the various styles of outreach happening in the library field, I myself reached out to current professionals.

“Its so much cooler than anything else I could be doing in library land.”

Public Libraries: A pop-up technique

To learn more about outreach in public libraries, I spoke with recent iSchool grad Jennifer Tolley at Northern Onondaga Public Library (NOPL).  Tolley started in spring of 2017 and works with all ages in this three-branch system. Her position title is “Outreach Services Librarian” and her enthusiasm is contagious. But again, why not if you get to drive a pop-up library truck around?

“It’s so much cooler than anything else I could be doing in library land,” Tolley declares.

Indeed, Outreach Services at NOPL libraries recently re-vamped with a range of established services.  But also the exciting new pop-up truck that Tolley drives all over her service area.  This only slightly bigger than average pick-up truck is stocked with around 300 books.  It also offers library card registration, and digital service demonstration and instruction.  The whole system started with the goal of bringing the library services to the location of the people. Although new, the program is already achieving great success.

When asked about how having the pop-up truck system improves her outreach services, Tolley explains, ” It is really useful and really fun.”  Some of the programs she told me about include weekly trips to popular local playgrounds. She met community members who had not been using the library.  There were also the more unusual opportunities, like goat storytelling, parking at fireworks shows, and driving the truck inside the Drivers Village car showroom complex. This is to bring the library to local businesses.

So with this unusual flair, the outreach Tolley does day-to-day to reach her community members is very much in the form of bringing the public library’s services to the constituents. Tolley describes it as, “…very rewarding, and cool to drive this great truck around!”

“Sometimes, outreach feels like consulting and you may learn new skills and offer targeted services as needed.”

Academic Libraries: Researching Networks

In an academic library, outreach services are equally critical to achieving program success. Emily Hart, Science & Engineering Librarian for Syracuse University Libraries, ponders her role in outreach, describing as a multi-faceted and strategic style.

“Sometimes, outreach feels like consulting and you may learn new skills and offer targeted services as needed,” Hart explains.

In her role as a subject liaison librarian, Hart works with a team of other subject liaison librarians. Each is with well-delineated target groups in the Syracuse University community.  Hart’s subject areas are biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy, all kinds of engineering, forensic science and communication sciences and disorders– phew!  Her target audience is also varied in age and background. This includes everything from high school students in summer programs at SU, to full-time students and staff.

For any given project, Hart may find herself helping with comprehensive literature searching, citation managing, facilitating publishing or discussing research reputation. These are the services she wants to present to her patrons.  She is consistently trying to connect with people in the place where the research is happening.

“That could be undergraduates in their class, faculty in a reference appointment. Or going to grad student lab groups,” she says. To be successful at her outreach, Hart emphasizes that it is important to be positive, approachable, and strategically aware of how to reach the right audience, with the right resources, at the right time. This balance also includes knowing the trajectory of the department. Also, knowing how to be responsive and approachable but also knowing how to find a balance and allocate her energy appropriately.

Outreach Takeaways

From these conversations, I learned many valuable aspects of the hugely varied outreach services a librarian could embark on in his/her career. I will be saving School Libraries Outreach and Special Libraries Outreach for a post soon to come. In the meantime, the takeaways I have from these two incredibly varied and successful programs.  As Hart says, “Outreach is finding different ways to connect with different constituents.”

Adrienne Canino

Adrienne Canino

Adrienne Canino is a second-year student at the MSLIS program at the iSchool. She has a B.S. and M.S. in Environmental Studies, and currently works in a non-profit that focuses on youth development through environmental conservation work in Syracuse. She enjoys joining her love of science education and outreach with her zeal for information literacy.

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