Friday, July 9, 2010

Outreach visit: new library cards, comics and a few juicy readers' advisory questions!

This morning I did something I have had on my to-do list for far too long: I visited a local women's centre (the centre provides services to homeless and disadvantaged women and their children in the city).

Actually, truth be told, my to-do list includes a dozen similar places I want to visit for outreach. I have been in touch with four or five so far, including a short-term refugee centre (they are visiting for a tour in 2 weeks) and an Aboriginal centre.

We (myself and the centre staff) weren't sure how much interest there would be from the women about library programs and services, but I am thrilled to report the visit was a great success. I tried to keep it super low-key. When I arrived, the women and their families were finishing breakfast and doing chores, and the staff invited me to grab a cup of coffee. As you all probably well know, I have never met a cup of coffee I didn't like, so I grabbed away. Just the simple act of sitting down with the women was really nice for me, and I hope for them. Coffee is a great ice-breaker.

Eventually I graduated to nabbing my own table, and I spread out my wares. I have a checklist of things I bring on outreach (to schools, daycares, or community groups like this) and it usually includes most of the following:
  • Rideau Branch program brochures (I make these in-house: this time, I brought our Summer programs for kids bookmarks)
  • Copies of Preview / En primeur, our library magazine with programs at every branch. Someone asked me about programs for their teen daughter at other branches, so that was useful.
  • Membership kits (Two women filled them out on the spot and I am going to drop off their new library cards next week. One has a daughter who's into Dear Dumb Diary, so I included some free books that are read-alikes for that series in my envelope to her; another just started reading again and likes Readers' Digest, so I found some old issues and tucked those in her envelope. Two other women asked about fines on their cards, so I will work with our supervisor of circulation to try to work out a deal for the women).
  • Literacy tips for families - always popular!
  • Bibliographies - I kind of threw these in thinking, hey, you never know. And just to prove my point, I had a good 20-minute conversation with a woman who is a big mystery lover. She enjoys the not-so-gory ones, and is a PD James fan, so I pulled out my list of British mysteries (based in part on Nancy's kickass list here) and we chatted about Inspector Morse, Brother Cadfael, and their buddies. She asked about good Canadian mysteries - I recommended Louise Penny and Inger Ash Wolfe.
  • Usually I bring Every Child Ready to Read material, but this time I didn't. Since it was my first visit, I didn't want to focus too specifically on one thing, and I wasn't sure how many younger kids would be there. I am going back next week with the cards for the two women above, and I will then bring some SRC kits to sign up the kids I saw - most are school-age.
  • Business cards - the main point of this whole visit was to make a personal connection with the women and the staff, so they know one person at the library and feel comfortable asking me for help if they need it. I told them to call me with any questions about the library, programs, borrowing, fines, school projects, and so on.
I also brought an OPL metal water bottle (ha. A propos in this heat!) to raffle off, and tons of free books for all ages (culled from donations to the library, and carefully selected by me to be in mint condition and at various reading levels - I found a happy home with a young boy for a Wolverine comic) All the free stuff created some interest and drew the families in to my space so I had a chance to talk to them.

Then I went back to work, made more coffee, and spent a busy afternoon on the Info desk (fun questions of the day: what's that mystery series with a US president and his wife as a crime-solving team? Answer: My gal Sunday by Mary Higgins Clark; the movies of Louis de Fun├Ęs).

All in all, a pretty rewarding day. It was really lovely to just be with the women at the centre, hear about their lives a bit, and spend some time with them.


  1. on days like that, it is pretty damn awesome...