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  • Writer's pictureMonique Gaddy

National Library Outreach Day!

Updated: Jan 3

graphic with an image of a bookmobile and the words "National Library Outreach Day"

Library Outreach Services During a Pandemic

As Caldwell Public Library's Outreach Librarian, providing library services during this last year has been such a challenge. My calendar for events went from being fully booked and in demand, to nothing but cancellations or postponements. The library team was disappointed in how the pandemic was changing our services and our reach to our population, and it took some time to reassess how we were going to proceed. Once we realized that the closures were going to last longer than a few months, we decided to focus on our community's immediate needs and then go from there.

Internet Services

As we struggled with going in and out of being open and closed and adjusting our services to the community that needed us, we used our Mobile Makerspace to help us deliver internet services in the Summer. Setting up and tearing down the equipment every day was tiring and a lot of work but it was so worth it. Even though providing internet services outside had its own unique set of complications, the entire staff pulled together to make sure that we were able to assist people with printing, job applications, school work, and other important personal business and career needs.

While our library staff has always known that our patrons rely on our computer services, it was a real eye-opening experience for many residents, and our services became essential farther than providing a safe space for children and families and checking out books. While we still did curbside checkouts and assisted patrons the best we could over the phone and virtually, figuring out how to create a workable computer space outside was crucial. Thank goodness we had our Mobile Makerspace to assist us during those difficult times!

Summer Reading Prizes

Our amazing Youth Services team came up with a brilliant plan on making sure that we could safely get our Summer Reading sign-ups and prizes to our community. By utilizing our Mobile Makerspace we were able to create to-go bags with our patrons prize picks. Our Youth Services team created a way for our patrons to pick out their summer reading prize books by utilizing the app Library Thing. It made it really easy for staff and patrons to explore our collection while still keeping everything clean and safe. Even though our Summer Reading was a lot smaller than we are used to and we couldn't group up for events like we normally love to do, we were still able to assist so many patrons by using our Outreach vehicle as a safe and effective outdoor service point.

Green image with the words "Because a library's reach is beyond it's walls," from the American Library Association

Why Outreach is Important

Outreach sometimes seems counter-intuitive for a library. We have everything a community would need, right in the building, right? Why would we have to leave the library to be able to serve our community? While outreach is important to all libraries, it is essential to ours in particular. With the way that our city has expanded, the limitations of our public transit system, and the reality that not all residents have reliable transportation, it is easy for us to not be able to reach all of our community members. Some of those community members really need our services. This is why library outreach services are so essential for Caldwell. We make the best effort that we can to meet community members where they are so that we can ensure that we are doing our very best to reach everyone. While outreach cannot take the place of another branch location (or two), it allows us to do better than we could than if we were to never leave our building.

A purple image with the words "Because libraries go where you are" from the American Library Association

Homebound and Delivery Services

Some of the people that I visit regularly as an Outreach Services Librarian are our homebound patrons. These patrons have signed up to receive their items at their houses on a bi-weekly rotation. The library selects materials based on their preferences and bags them up, drops them off, and picks up their items that they have finished! I don't have as many patrons as I used to have using this service, but I am always taking more homebound applications! Utilizing CDA guidelines for borrowing materials and a strict cleaning and sanitizing approach while on the road, I made sure that our library patrons were still able to get their materials during the closures.

We have also introduced delivery services for our vulnerable population recently. Trying to again find the right ways to meet our patrons needs and utilizing the best methods we can find to provide services with a small staff and budget, we have options for patrons who just can't make it into the library. If you believe that you qualify for delivery services, go ahead and fill out our delivery application and you can have your library books dropped off and picked up at your door. Feel free to ask anyone at the library for more information on these services!

Thank You for Supporting Your Library!

We have been fortunate to have such amazing support of our library and our efforts as we have had to adjust our services for the safety of staff and patrons and we appreciate everything that people have done for us. Even just some supportive words and appreciation has gone a long way, our staff has worked hard to morph services and troubleshoot through all of the change and our library regulars who rely on our internet and our other computer services have been so patient and understanding.

We would not be able to do what we do without a community who feels invested in what libraries provide for all its residents, no matter if they are fortunate enough to have their very own home library and entertainment systems or if they use the library for every single service that we offer. If you are interested in supporting your local library, check out our Gala and virtual action event coming up soon!

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