By Vanessa Craig
Kate Dwyer, Education Outreach Librarian at Josephine Community Libraries, is used to hearing, “I had no idea!” She works diligently to reach out to members in her community that have no clue what modern day libraries offer.
A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that, “…forty-six percent [of those polled] say that they know some of what their libraries offer and thirty-one percent said they know not much or nothing at all of what their libraries offer.”
Kate faces this unfamiliarity when she is presenting what their library offers to various community groups. Most attendees thought they knew exactly what the library offers, but after her presentation on all the databases, services, programs, and books their libraries offer, her participants often exclaim, “I had no idea!”
Kate’s role is an important one at the library. The Josephine Community Library System is a now donor supported library system, after the county stopped funding them and closed all branches in 2007. Since then, the community restored the branches, but the libraries are still fighting for recognition and after their bid for a library district failed this fall.
It’s Kate’s goal to increase information literacy in areas of education, entrepreneurship, and employability; she is also in charge of spreading the word of what the library has to offer to the community.
She reaches out to everyone and tries to get a foot in the door. All that is needed is a few minutes to open one’s mind to what a library can provide.
She mentioned that knowing the policy makers is key and “knowing who’s who, and who knows whom, is my super power.” One of Kate’s tips is to find stakeholders and make them ambassadors to the library.
Kate reached out to numerous shareholders and groups, some of which may seem atypical of traditional library outreach. She presented to rotary clubs, philanthropic groups, doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, medical groups, women’s groups, early education groups, specific condition health support groups, professional development groups, HR departments, the local job council, and schools.
One specific group that Kate targeted was a breast cancer support group. Kate demonstrated Health Reference Center Academic. The group was astounded that their library offered tools they could use to research their conditions outside of a doctor’s office. To serve this group better the library opened its doors to them before opening hours (making the best of the library’s shortened hours) and allowed the women to search in a closed and private environment which they couldn’t get anywhere else.
Kate continues to strive to make as many people aware of the countless great services Josephine Community Libraries offers to the community. Even with the set back of the recent loss at the polls, a small budget, and some non-believing community members, Kate continues to strive to get the library’s word out there and wants to let the community know how the library is relevant to them.
I work with Kate to help her with presenting her Gale products to the community. When she had specific questions about how to search or utilize certain products, I showed her the training tools we have available and brainstormed ways to use in sessions with patrons.
Customer Care also offers great tools for community outreach. We can provide promotional and training materials, such as scavenger hunts and web ads. Plus, we’re happy to share best practices of what has worked well for other libraries.
With the advent of the Internet, libraries need to remain vigilant in promotion and outreach. Some people who have not stepped foot in a library for years think they know exactly what libraries offer, but it is not until someone approaches them and shows them what is available that they will step back to into the library.
About the Author
Vanessa is a Customer Care Consultant for public libraries at Gale. She has experience working in public and academic libraries which lead to her receiving her MLIS in 2012. Vanessa is a confessed chocoholic, avid baker, Harry Potter fanatic, and passionate world traveler.
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