Good afternoon and welcome to “From Your Library- an outreach program designed to reach underserved children and their families.” Our presentation today is based on our experiences with successful LSTA grants and developing a coordinated outreach approach to underserved families in North Idaho. We’ll share with you how we created an outreach services mission, the need for and importance of collaboration, and our successes and challenges. You’ll learn about developing a collaborative approach to library outreach to under-served families, forming new library initiatives and ways to market library services to under served communities. We want to share our story because it demonstrates that big projects can succeed even when the original plan does not come together perfectly - Throughout this presentation you’ll hear about outcomes that weren’t always what we expected – but were always better then what was happening before the “From Your Library” initiative .
In the summer of 2005 I was working with Johnna Goodale, a 3rd grade teacher in the Coeur d’Alene School District. Johnna took on the task of summer school- finding teachers to lead the classes, funding for the materials and partners, such as the Hayden Library. I wrote grants to provide free books to the students and for each day they attended summer school they would receive a book, so that by the end of the summer session they had at least 20 new books to start the school year. In addition to the free books, we provided a short program geared toward the age group of that day. One day a young man with a very large chip on his shoulder decided that was the day he was going to show me who was boss. I will be the first to admit that I was a bit intimidated by his presence- he was easily my height, with a heavy build and eyes that had seen too much in his 11 years. When it was his turn to select his book he proudly announced that “books are stupid” and “reading sucks”. To which I replied “well what kind of books do you like to read?” Not missing a beat he said “bloody, books with as much violence as possible.” Ok so not many of my Scholastic books fit that description but it gave me an insight into this young man. Come to find out he was homeless. He bounced from place to place, but had no place to call his own. He was not a popular kid and felt isolated from his classmates. His grades were average to below average; school was a struggle. I decided I had to do something, anything in my short time with this young man. I explained that most of my books were not what he typically read, but I had some horror books (and I really do not like horror) he may enjoy. Then I asked him if he would read them for me and let me know if they were worthy of being called horror. To my surprise, his face lit up and he agreed. I gave him 6 books to read, knowing that options are important. One week later he had read 5 of those books. He came up to me, with a smile on his face, bursting at the seams to tell me about these books; he spoke honestly about the books and told me I had nothing to worry about, they really weren’t that scary. He then asked me what else I had for him. This boy is the reason we are here today.
It is my pleasure today to introduce to you Twylla Rehder. Twylla is the head of the Outreach Department, including the bookmobile and senior services, for Kootenai-Shoshone Area Libraries. She has 24 years of experience bringing library services to diverse communities in North Idaho. She has served on local and state committees related to outreach services and programming, and was recently selected as a fellow in the Institute of Museum and Library Services Western Regional Fellowship: Transforming Life after 50. Twylla received her Masters in Library Science from the University of Washington. Karen Yother is the head of the Youth Services Department for Kootenai-Shoshone Area Libraries. She has extensive experience with all levels of library programs including large scale events such as Smithsonian exhibits. She serves on the Daring Dreamers Summer Reading Committee for the Idaho Commission for Libraries, national planning committees and boards targeting summer reading, literacy, humanities, and is the Idaho Representative and Chair of the Vendor Committee for the Collaborative Summer Library Program. She was recently elected to the executive board for the Collaborative Summer Library Program. Karen received her Masters in Library and Information Science with an emphasis on the Needs of Youth from Drexel University.
The Kootenai Shoshone Area Library District (or K.S.A.L) is an 8-branch library system in North Idaho. As of October 1st of this year we consolidated with a nearby library and became the Community Library Network. Although for this presentation we’ll continue to refer to ourselves as KSAL or KSA libraries. This story starts in 2005 when our library district was facing major demographic changes. These changes resulted in plans to expand all 7 branches and significant impact to how outreach services were delivered. In 2007, while all 7 current branches were under construction, we received two LSTA grants to fund an outreach program called “From Your Library”. This presentation will discuss how that process impacted our library district from 2007 to the present. We were motivated to find new ways to deliver outreach because… In the last 15 years the population in our library district, which serves Kootenai and Western Shoshone counties, had increased by nearly 80%.In 2005 Outreach at KSAL was piecemeal and disconnected. We didn’t know exactly how much outreach was being done throughout the district or how we wanted to define outreach services.In 2005, we passed a bond to remodel and expand all seven branch libraries and purchase a new bookmobile. That same year the KSAL board of trustees moved outreach services to one of the top priorities on the long range plan. Library staff was feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands for services; they were strongly expressing the desire for more help and support.
To get a better idea on what was going on we held staff focus groups, studied community scans, and gathered information. We learned that KSA libraries were doing a fair amount of basic outreach to children, such as story times and library card sign-up campaigns at schools. Library staff district-wide was clearly working at capacity and didn’t have the time or energy to tackle more outreach projects.
On of the factors that brought about discussions about changing outreach started with our plans to purchase a new bookmobile. Trying to design a bookmobile that was perfectly suited to the needs our populations, caused us to think about the needs of underserved populations in general and helped us to realize that we were only focusing on a very select part of the population - by no means the whole library district. We started asking more questions, talking to branch library staff about what was going on in their local towns and communities. These discussions led to plans that did away with old outreach guidelines and boundaries, while significantly expanding the scope of the Outreach department. These new plans eventually included two LSTA grants for outreach to underserved families with children titled “From Your Library” (FYL). The grant that Karen wrote funded the purchase of give-away books for underserved children, deposit collections for childcare sites, and a new part-time Youth Services position, and I wrote the marketing grant for “From Your Library”. From the launch of From Your Library in the spring of 2007 to 2009, the number of children attending programs increased by 23%, (with the most dramatic increases during the grant cycle).
One of things we learned when looking at the big picture was that a good way to better understand “underserved” populations is to talk with staff at agencies and organizations like Early Head Start and transitional housing facilities. Talking with service organizations helped us understand that there is significant poverty in our relatively affluent county. We were surprised to learn that….
As we came to understand more about the lives of “underserved” people it became easier to understand why they were not visiting the public library.We came to understand that people in this demographic had no precedent or successful relationships with organizations like libraries. From their perspective trips to the library were a wasteful draw on their limited resources. Looking at big picture outreach needs for our communities helped us to think about outreach in broader terms – not just what our library has to share but how can we adapt to the specific needs of our communities? Clearly lots of people weren’t using the library, many of them children, and it was this underserved segment of our communities that we especially wanted to reach. For the FYL grant we considered “underserved families” to be families who are classified by the US Census as “Families and People whose income in the past 12 months is below the poverty line”, and families (who may be single mothers) and children who are unable to regularly use a walk-in library facility.
We can think of lots of stories that are good examples of what it looks like to build relationships with underserved individuals and what library equity might look like to them. Most of the stories come down to the fact that making library services, staff, or materials accessible means that the library will naturally become a source of information and entertainment that they can depend on. When we talk about the library as a constant in someone’s life I always think of customers like Micalyla who had very little in her life that she could depend on. We first met Micayla when she was three years old, a tiny little girl waiting all alone for the bookmobile on the swings at the low income apartments where she spent her days with her grandmother. A year later she’d moved with no forwarding address and a number of library books. A couple years after that she showed up a school and happily recovered her missing books so she could use the bookmobile. A year and a half latter she was gone again. The last time I saw Micalya was at an outreach stop near the women’s shelter where she was staying with her mom. She was so excited to see familiar faces and borrow her favorite book of cat poetry. Micayla is by no means an isolated example of someone who depends on the library through all the stages of their lives. The important difference for Micayla is that the library was there to meet her wherever she happened to be.
One of our first steps was to make contact, and build on positive library experiences with our target audience and partners. Making contact meant going to the places where underserved families or their children already were, such as Early Head Start, daycares, afterschool programs, events like school carnivals, and community events like county fairs. We considered other agencies such as WIC but found it too difficult to reach people there – for this program it was more efficient to partner with organization where people tend gather in groups. The overall idea was to build equity with underserved people, to give them reasons to connect with and believe in the public library. To properly do that we needed specialized tools - especially more staff hours.
At this point we had identified 3 important facts about the FYL program.1. We weren't reaching a large percentage of the children in our library district, and that the ones who used the library often didn’t fit the definition of “underserved”. In fact in June of 2006, KSAL provided Summer Reading programming for 3,011 children, which was a 100% increase over the same month in 2005. This sounds pretty impressive until you look at the big picture which showed us that 3,011 children was only 1% of the all of the children under 18 living in our service area. “ In June 2006, KSAL provided Summer Reading programming for 3011 children, a 100 % increase over the same month last year. While this increase is impressive it is less than 1% of the children in our service area, of 31,523 children under the age of 18 living in Kootenai and Western Shoshone County.” *FLY Grant Narrative 2. We knew that branch library staff didn’t have the time or tools to meet the demands from their communities for outreach services. 3. We knew that we needed to find new approaches to how outreach was delivered. From Your Library allowed us to test new ways of approaching outreach. We learned that small and non-traditional programs can have big impacts. When testing new initiatives be aware of the resources, staff talents, and current partnerships that your library already has. Consider targeting one new organization and letting it spread from there. Most importantly don’t be afraid to try something new and making mistakes. We think that the opportunity to test something new was one of the most valuable parts of this experience. You’ll never know for sure if it will work until you try it. We originally asked each branch library community to identify one or two outreach locations (like child care facilities) in their communities with the intention of planning and presenting all of the children's outreach programs for KSAL; which turned out to not be the best use of library resource. In theory this was a great idea, but in practice it did not work out. The Spirit Lake Library is 45 minutes away from Hayden, where the Outreach Department is located. In addition, the daycare site that had been identified by the Spirit Lake staff had 6 children. We could not justify sending a staff person out for almost 3 hours for 6 children. What became evident to us was that having the library staff conducting the programs in their community was critical. The new question became “How do we make this happen? And what other types of support could “From Your Library” provide for library staff?” The FYL project just got a bit more complicated.
At this same time, as we were preparing to meet the increasing demand for outreach. KSAL had just passed a bond and was in the process of remodeling 7 branch libraries and purchasing a new bookmobile, so money was very tight. When we learned that the Idaho Commission for Libraries (previously the Idaho State Library) had grant money available, we were excited by this opportunity but if you’ve written a grant you know it’s not always that easy.
We wrote at least three versions of the grant before one was accepted for submittal. With each grant re-write our plans and the requested funding grew - the first one asked for $30,000, the next grant was a long complicated plan that included children, families, seniors and everyone in between. After this grant was submitted and rejected we got wise and revamped the entire narrative into simpler, easier to understand concepts. Senior outreach was eliminated, although seniors still benefited significantly from the library’s overall plan. At the suggestion of the Idaho Commission for Libraries we simplified it even more and split the grant into two parts, “outreach to underserved families with children” and “marketing”. We were eventually awarded an LSTA grant totaling 108,385.00 (KSAL match of 25%) and the From Your Library program was born. But it wasn’t easy money - we worked really hard to get it. Karen (as a statewide respected children’s librarian) wrote the winning version of the final grant. I mention the fact that Karen is respected because I think that’s one of the reasons the final version of the grant succeeded –grant reviewer trusted her authority - another good reason to an active visible part of your community. Karen’s grant asked for $83,385.00, with a library match of $40,263, and I wrote the marketing grant asking for $25,000, with a match of $20,088.00. Our match funds purchased a Sprinter van to deliver FYL services. We tried to spend the match funds on things that the library had already budgeted for, or on things that grant money can’t be used for like the Sprinter van. It was much easier to propose the purchase of a Sprinter to our budget conscious administers – with significant grant funds and a solid plan attached. The district now had $108,385 to spend in one year on a project that was designed to completely revamp how outreach services were delivered, at the same time that all of our libraries were undergoing major renovations. This was the crazy chaos that “From Your Library” was born into.
FYL’s main objective was to reach underserved populations, birth to 18 years old. With a primary target audience of pre-school and elementary age children. The grant stated that From Your Library set out to test innovative delivery of public library service to hard-to-reach customers in a direct, effective, and simple way. To do this we promised to….•Foster partnerships•Include neighboring communitiesThis is an important (and somewhat controversial) concept that has always been part of KSAL ‘s outreach philosophy. Part of fostering partnerships meant that KSAL would include nearby community that do not belong to our library district. We wanted this project to be as inclusive as possible and bringing FYL programs to nearby communities was one of the ways we did that. •Share grant outcomes with Library communities •Serve as an outreach modelFor KSAL and other libraries struggling to address increasing demands for outreach services created by growing and changing communities•Provide services from a central location to surrounding communitieswith the idea that this would be a good way to provide support to overworked staff at outlying libraries.
The marketing objectives for FYL were pretty straightforward. We intended to … Increase awareness of outreach projects to improve access to library programs and services.Normally and realistically new projects are marketed early on – even before they start. But marketing the traditional way would have required a long lead in, perhaps months in advance to research, write, and implement the marketing plan. Our time-line didn’t allow for that instead FYL’s marketing plan was completed as the grant year ended. Which meant that we did everything backwards- delivering services first, and used our experiences to inform the marketing plan. This turned out to be a rare and interesting opportunity to learn about marketing from the inside out. We learned first hand about the connection between services delivered, and building relationships with customers, and community partners. I don’t think we would have learned nearly so much if the marketing plan had been delivered to us up front. Everything we did and consequently all of the marketing components reflected this perspective. As a result we ended up with individual marketing products that are easy to put directly in our customers’ hands. The resulting market plan was strong on individual relationships building – things like informational bookmarks, stickers, book bags, and FYL countertop brochure holders. At the end of the grant year we had a solid marketing plan to use as From Your Library and Outreach services continued to grow.
Despite our backwards approach to marketing – traditional marketing tools and research were used. One of the tools our marketing agency used during a focus group with library staff was a SWOT analysis. How many of you are familiar with S.W.O.T.? Okay, briefly….According to Marketing Teacher .com at http://marketingteacher.com/lesson-store/lesson-swot.htmlA SWOT analysis is a tool for auditing an organization and its environment. It is the first stage of planning and helps marketers to focus on key issues. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors. Opportunities and threats are external factors. For example:
A strength could be:Your new library initiatives and the excitement and drive associated with it. The quality of the services you deliver – for instance the fact that Outreach comes directly to patrons is about as convenient, direct, and personal as service gets. The trusted reputation of libraries Weaknesses might be: Lack of staff timeStaff attitudes toward change, tolerance of risk, and fear of making mistakesLean budgets
What current trends are related to this population that you can take advantage of? For instance we like to be present at events like Early Head Start Family Night because even families who have to hire taxies for transportation are there. Which makes this a good opportunity for us to make contacts and build relationshipsHard economic times mean that organizations are eager for partners offering free services to their clients. The bookmobile’s partnership with St Vincent De Pauls Transitional Housing facility means that their clients have access to job search information and other data bases. What kinds of programming gaps exist in your community? We’ve noticed that very elderly patrons rarely get out to museums or library programs. So even small programs with volunteer presenters are very well received at retirement homes.
What factors are negatively impacting your ability to serve this population?Difficult economy Fear of social institutions, like schools and libraries.Competition for attention - people have busy chaotic lives, and limited resources. The negative image of libraries – fines – scary librarians.
Research shows how important it is to get books into the hands of children, a major component of FYL was free books for kids. My goal was to find every opportunity to get books into the hands of kids throughout our communities. It is amazing how many books $48,000.00 can buy; 16,614 to be exact. Then imagine the space required to store that many books at a time when we had NO space, we didn’t even have office space let alone storage space. Calling on one of our longtime partners, School PLUS, we borrowed a classroom for the summer until we were able to move back into our gutted library to store all of our supplies and books, where they stayed until they found a new home with children throughout our communities.
All of the major components needed to succeed were beginning to fall into place. Staffing was critical to the success of FYL. We used grant funds to hire a permanent part-time youth services outreach person, and were lucky enough to hire a newly retired elementary school teacher with strong ties to the education community, a big bonus when developing partnerships with the school district. Kathy was enthusiastic, energetic, believed in the FYL program and wanted to make a difference for our target population. She understood our goal to reach 900 children per month and was optimistic that we could attain that, if not more. We purchased a Sprinter van, an essential tool for the FYL program. We renovated the van with shelving and a lift to make it easier for staff to get book trucks on and off for programs. Carts were loaded with collections specific to partner site and program. Libraries don’t operate in a vacuum. Relationships with organizations and individuals are essential to the successes of all library initiatives and programs…..
Finding the right partner for your library can be beneficial in ways you cannot even begin to imagine. What begins as a simple partnership can grow into a multi-layered relationship with financial, programmatic and community wide benefits. To find the right partner for your project you’ll need to take a hard look at your community – consider doing a community scan, or a simple SWOT analysis. What’s the need you’d like to address? Are there pockets of poverty? When looking at service agencies consider organizations beside schools – consider food banks, transitional housing facilities, woman’s center, or training centers for disabled adults. Look at the partners of your partners, for instance we found a nice list partner organization at the North Idaho Area Agency on Aging – look at their partner lists to see who you’re missing. Most importantly don’t build from scratch; - sites like the USDA’s food atlas have lots of relevant stats to help with grant writing. Idaho Hunger Atlas (http://maps.ers.usda.gov/FoodAtlas/)A good example of a spin-off partnership developed with Northern Lakes Fire District for the “Read with your hero” program. The Hayden Library received a $5,000 grant to work with 2nd grade students at a local elementary school. Funds were used to purchase books for classroom collections, provide free books for students and offset the costs of busses for classroom tours to the Hayden Library. The firemen volunteered each week to visit the classrooms and read with the students. This was a win-win partnership for the schools, the fire department and the Library. Not only were students increasing their reading skills, they were building positive relationships with community heroes. When the Governor’s office contacted me 4 days before he would be in town to present us with our grant check the community came out to support the program. Leaders including the Fire Chief, Superintendent of Schools, the Mayor, the school principal, members of our Library Board and over 70 children and parents were on hand to show their support. In 2009 our Library District chose to go out into the community to help on a Habitat build. This was a great opportunity to give back to our community in a unique way and have some fun at the same time. Can you tell from this photo which one is the Assistant Director?
New approaches to library services means changing how library staff and board members think about and relate to changes. We found that a good way to build support was to make sure staff and board members got to experience what we were doing first hand. Board presentations are important but it’s fun (and more memorable) to bring events and programs to staff. We also made sure that every branch library community was part of the grant plan. The bookmobile cleared days in summer so it could be present at, at least one event in each community. We invited library board members to ride along on the Sprinter van, – something which that really paid off when the library board got a new member who was skeptical of outreach services. After riding along with us and seeing first hand the kinds of services we provided he become a fan and now defends outreach. Once we leaned to bring partners something real – not just stats – but things that directly impact their service populations outreach was a pretty easy sell, and it wasn’t long before we had waiting lists of organizations that wanted to be part of FYL.
Plan and plan again. Know your community. Pick a target population that matches community need with your library’s strengths and assets. Think long term. It’s okay to start as small as you need to – even one program per year can have a big impact. Dedicate staff hours to outreach. One hour of dedicated time per week can equate to an outreach program once or twice a month in your community. Consider tangible items. Think long-term. Consider what kinds of tools you might need and plan for items like collapsible tables, laptop computers, totes, book trucks, and delivery vans. Funding. Everything comes back to funding. Long-term planning means starting small and using stories and stats from your startup projects to write grants that grow programs. Despite the fact that FYL came about during a time of chaotic change and it often felt like we were operating by the seat of our pants– we’d done our homework. We knew what we wanted to accomplish and what it would take to get there. Partnerships. Once you choose the right partner a cycle will be set in motion and outreach will continue to grow. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Piggyback on community events as often as possible. Organizations talk to each other - you’ll find that your library will be invited to events sponsored by other organizations.
Our partnership cycle begins with the Idaho State Library and teen parents in 1998. In an effort to reach underserved audiences libraries were asked to identify a group in their community they wanted to provide new or improved service to- we selected teen parents. Nancy Woodrey worked with the teen parents in the child care center at Lake City High School and was extremely supportive of her program and our partnership. When the school district ended the child care program Nancy was hired by Mountain States Early Head Start. A major component of the Early Head Start program is literacy. Nancy called me at the Hayden Library. MSEHS is one of our best community partners. We work together on community events such as Kids Day in the Park, Earth Day, Fall Harvest Festival and Dia de Los Ninos (Day of the Child). Through our outreach service to MSEHS we met Dot Clark who worked at St. Vincent Transitional Housing. Dot was eager to work with youth services and the Bookmobile to provide library service to families and residents of the transitional housing facility. While working with Dot she introduced us to MJ from the LCCC Community Food Bank. Kathy worked with Food Bank staff to provide free books to parents and children. Recently MSEHS expanded their services to a neighboring community and the Hayden Library worked with our branch library staff to encourage and foster this new site and partnership. MSEHS began a new program this fall- Men and Kids, targeting the men who are active participants in the lives of the children they serve. Understanding that these men may not want to sit around with 30- and 40-something year old women I suggested our young adult librarian, Nick Madsen, join them monthly for the dinner and literacy program. What began as a simple program nearly 12 years ago has morphed and grown into one of our strongest partnerships.
The stories and statistics gathered from FYL have helped to build other programs.
Probably the most enduring result of FYL has been the partnerships and relationships built.
Where are we now??
When building the FYL program we never expected an outcome to be families coming to our physical libraries. We addressed this each time we talked with partners, library staff and our Board. The goal of FYL was to reach children and their families where they were- parks, community food banks, homeless shelters; we wanted to relieve the pressure on families to participate in library activities at the physical library. If families mention a need or express interest in additional library programs we offer them information on programs at all local libraries. In the 2 years since ending the grant cycle, families we have served through FYL are beginning to come to our libraries.
Last fall I met a mom and her infant son at an Every Child Ready to Red workshop at MSEHS. At the time she was quiet, timid, rarely made eye contact and did not say two words to me. This summer I was surprised to see her and her now 18 month old son playing with a puzzle in my library. What surprised me even more was that she came up to me and opened up about her life. Talking with her that day made me realize that we can never underestimate the power we have to enhance the lives of those we serve.
Damon was 6 years old, living in a homeless shelter when Twylla and I met him. Damon lived with his parents and 3 siblings in a room the size of a small hotel room. One day, while selecting his free book he said to me, “Want to know what I am doing with these books?” I told him of course I wanted to know. With all sincerity he said, “I am putting them on a shelf in our apartment so I can start my very own library.” With that he selected his book and skipped back to his apartment.
Damon, Mikayla, and all the other children and their families are the reason we are here today and what makes the FYL program such a tremendous success.
Thank you for attending our presentation today. Please feel free to contact Twylla or me anytime.
Outreach Librarians Denver 2010
An Outreach Program designed to
reach underserved children and
• Planning - Why FYL?
• What was our motivation?
• What were the obstacles to success?
• How would we fund this project?
• Positive Outcomes
– Formed new library initiatives
– Strengthened community partnerships
• The demand for services at the Women’s
Center in Kootenai County increased by 300%
from 2000 to 2006.
• According to US Census 2005 data under the
“percentage of families and people whose
income in the past 12 months is below the
poverty level,” 18.3% of “all families” with
children under five years of age live in poverty
in Kootenai County, and 48.5% of “families
with female householders” with children
under 5 live in poverty.
• What we knew when we
• Where will your efforts
make the most impact?
•Include neighboring communities
•Share grant outcomes with Library community
•FYL will serve as an outreach model
•FYL will provide services from a central location to
•Improve access to library programs and services
• Increase awareness
• Improve access to library programs and
• “Marketing From Your Library is critical to its
success because reaching new demographics
and building relationships between
underserved communities and library
outreach staff requires innovative
SWOT: Marketing Teacher.com at
• What current trends
are happening in your
• Partners-who are they
and how can you build
on current relationships
or garner new ones.
• What kinds of
programming gaps exist
in your community?
• Difficult economy
• Fear of social institutions, like schools and
• Competition for attention - people have busy
chaotic lives, and limited resources.
• The negative image of libraries – fines – scary
Importance of Partnerships
Northern Lakes Fire Department
Habitat for Humanity
Library staff and families
• A collaborative approach to outreach –
• The cycle of outreach
• Gathering support
• Tools needed
Five Steps to Get Started With
New Outreach Initiatives
• Plan and plan again. Think long term.
• Dedicate staff hours
• Consider tangible items
• Funding- short term, long term and budget
Lake City Community Church
St. Vincent DePaul
Former teen parent with LCHS
Mountain States Early Head Start
Men and Kids
Lake City High School
Idaho Commission for Libraries
Kootenai Shoshone Area Libraries