Outreach-Based Programs

At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives for the better.  IT’s an enormous force for good.”  (Barack Obama)[1]

The three age-based outcomes identified by California librarians for the state’s summer reading initiative are good reminders of the benefits that this program can bring to people who participate.  Both anecdotal evidence and research studies have shown that summer reading participants tend to be regular library users and/or children and teens who are already capable readers who are motivated to read.[2]  Therefore, California librarians challenge themselves to identify target groups of underserved children, teens, adults, or families who have not traditionally participated in the library’s summer reading programs, and to devise strategies for bringing them into the library – or for bringing the library to them.

We believe that by bringing more underserved people into the library as regular users of our services, we will contribute to building better communities.  We know that children who read during the summer are less likely to lose their reading skills during the vacation months. We understand the importance for families to be able to draw on a web of community supports in order to engage in the increasingly challenging task of raising healthy kids. Summer reading programs have the potential to draw people of all ages into that web so they can be nurtured by it and enabled to nurture others as well.

We also believe that by being upfront and proactive about proclaiming the library’s important role in community building, we will build political capital at the same time that we are serving our patrons. Because we believe that this is such an important part of our mission, we are deeply committed to reaching out to those members of our community who have not yet found their way to us. Our Summer @ Your Library Outreach Initiative is intended to institutionalize our ongoing efforts to open our hearts and minds and doors to every man, woman, and child in our service areas.

While we know that positive outcomes will result for these new library users, we do not ask libraries to evaluate them separately from the outcomes for other users.  Instead, we ask them to be accountable by setting a target number of new users and then monitoring whether or not they achieve their goal.

[1] From a speech given by Barack Obama at the conference of the American Library Association in 2005.  Available at http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/resources/selectedarticles/obama05.cfm

[2] See, for example, Laura M. Justice, Shayne B. Piasta, Janet L. Capps, Stephanie R. Levitt, and Columbus Metropolitan University (2013).  “Library-Based Summer Reading Clubs: Who Participates and Why?  Library Quarterly, 83:4, 321-340