Josephine Community Libraries: Providing Real Community Value

P1280371By Kate Dwyer 

Josephine Community Libraries (JCL) increased its Gale database usage by 230% over previous years. By using public presentations with a ‘how to’ delivery style, JCL’s librarians are able to meet people where they are on topics they care about.

Under the umbrella of The Expanding Opportunities Program, funded by A Library Services and Technology Act, the mission of the program is to increase information literacy in Josephine County, Oregon, in the areas of employability, education, and entrepreneurship. The grant provides a full-time staff member to educate community members about the modern library available at their fingertips.

Click to watch JCL’s video.

“I had no idea!” – Diane Hoover of Josephine County Public Health, after a presentation on Health Reference Center Academic.

The key to successful outreach is to frame the demonstrations in ways that are relevant to each group. Everyone needs health information, so it’s easy to show live searches that locate material people value. They begin to listen carefully; presenters know people are hooked when they say “Walk me through logging on again? And how exactly do I get a library card?’” Open doors are hard to find at first. Testimonials from each group are used to get invited elsewhere.

“Our library partnership has real value for job seekers.”– Donna D’Inzillo of The Job Council, regarding JCL’s Introduction to Digital Literacy workshop.

Going to agencies serving job seekers increases awareness of library functions, like free Internet access, and leads people to become library patrons. Teaching people to locate factual information on library databases helps them become self-directed learners, able to expand their horizons and increase their prospects.

“I love my public library. I just didn’t know there was so much more of it to love!” – Doranne Long, author and entrepreneur, after discovering JCL’s Gale business databases.

Click to watch JCL’s video.

JCL’s Outreach Education Librarian meets one on one with owners of small businesses to train them how to use Gale resources to target their marketing and stay informed about their industry. These efforts dispel myths about the obsolescence of libraries while helping local entrepreneurs compete effectively.

“Your presentation changed my life!” – Julie Gulden, teacher, after a demonstration of Student Resources in Context.

Many local school teachers were unaware of Gale resources. When shown, they were amazed, and immediately engaged. Library staff presented to the staff of six schools in the district this year, with repeated direct instruction to students at three. It’s extremely convenient for this program that JCL and local schools share the same Gale products.

Click to watch JCL’s video.

“I love that they came to us.– Daniel Dalegowski, Cave Junction City Council

Of course not every library can fund dedicated outreach staff. Libraries wanting to make a big impact with smaller programs might start with local policy makers and elected officials, so they understand the modern online library. Presentations at Rotary clubs, school district offices, and health provider organizations can be fruitful. JCL looks for the groups with the greatest impact on the community, and the power to influence others. Then they spread the word. The proof is in the clicks.

JCL was the inspiration for the cover illustration of the Spring/Summer edition of IMPACT, a magazine for, and by public librarians. Request a copy today! 

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