Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WLA Youth Services Exchange Notes

Our guest blogger today is Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, DPI Youth and Special Services Consultant
Thank you to the 40+librarians, directors, and library students who attended the Youth Services Information Exchange at the WLA Annual Conference.  It was an energetic and positive preconference with many ideas, strategies, and dreams shared!

Below are the notes from our four break-out discussions concerning the top issues of the day. 

Bringing in non-users/special needs users: 

·         Dreams:  all would be library users; libraries would have resources to offer them, and could create a welcoming environment; populations would recognize what libraries offer; everyone would feel successful using the library; community agencies would communicate and collaborate with the library to serve these groups

·         Realities:  Budget/staff constraints; the many diverse groups with specific needs [start with one group]; recognize that you will never reach everyone; when working to reach non-users, keep reaching your users [and supporters] as well; need to evaluate programs; remember the specific target groups continue to change; recognize the library can’t be everything to everyone

·         Action:  get everyone excited about the possibilities; develop strategic and long-range plans; make sure plans and programs fit your purpose; be open to new developments with unintended consequences [think ahead]; identify assets in the library [e.g. other staff members who may have connections]; empower staff to act; educate all stakeholders:  staff and trustees, funders and elected officials [invite them!]; go where the non-users are, identify trusted representatives [use the HOLA project materials]; assign measureable goals and outcomes to your plans; develop and memorize the elevator speech – be ready to answer the question, “What are you up to?”

·         Reminder--the state special needs plans are still available and they are being redesigned as an online resource.

School and public library partnerships

·         Dreams:  schools would think of public libraries as partners; librarians would understand the needs and pressures teachers face; schools would see librarians as educators with shared goals; teachers would use the libraries

·         Realities:  not enough staff or time (on both sides); red tape dealing with schools (e.g. requirements for flyers); hard to get out of our/their buildings – limited free time; parents ask librarians for help with kids’ work (then parents do it)

·         Action:  thank people with chocolate (e.g. delivered to the teachers’ lounge); talk to teachers and other school leaders (e.g. at the supermarket); find a key person to pave the way; do things that build good will; systems could develop contact lists and distribute them to members; have a table at the school open house; combine summer recreation signup with SLP signup; use the portal as soon as it is ready

·         See notes from WLA Session “It Takes Two.”


Early literacy

·         Dreams:  partner with agencies who also serve young children; partner with health systems, doctors, prenatal and well baby appointments include recommendations for using the library; partner with day cares (all sizes, family homes and institutions); partner with retail sites to hand out information; partner with school for Pre-K and 4K information; senior citizens encouraged to read to their grandchildren; partner with those who make home visits; create a calendar for parents of newborns with literacy tips; insert early literacy facts inside bills and mailers

·         Realities:  these all take money and time; outreach means less librarian time at libraries; some systems can help with marketing; market to all staff, not just youth staff (some can’t); social media may be effective

·         Action:  recognize differences between urban and rural libraries; start 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program (state could develop logo and materials, to save local libraries’ time?; e.g. the CSLP model); new program from DPI “Growing Wisconsin Readers” – how to read, what to read (share list of “100 books that should be in every library” – and have the authors noted [their other titles, so kids can find author’s work if a specific title is checked out] – maybe YSS could help with this?); find a “Reach Out and Read” program to work with

Youth Services validation and advancement

·         Dreams:  everyone values libraries and funds them; library is the heart of the community (share, gather, grow); organizations would want to partner with libraries

·         Reality:  library often left out of community table; misperception of the “work” of YS work – people only see the fun, not the work

·         Action:  YS advocacy among library staff (“glitter has a purpose”); other library staff advocate for YS; balance programs/action between babies and grandparents (all generations); YS librarian becomes a library director – understands YS; support the director, keep them informed on the YS world; have career days where people shadow the YS staff; go to Library Legislative Day; invite community leaders to attend and participate in YS events; be present on social media

·         Tessa announced the Youth Services Leadership Institute, planned for September 2013 (then every two years); targeted to librarians who are isolated or need help

Thanks to Marcia Sarnowski from Winding Rivers Library System for her careful note-taking. 


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