Last Friday, my friend Kirby McCurtis and I were chatting about program ideas for children and teens. She told me about two programs she was just about to run for her library, the San Diego Public Library.
On Fridays I do a preschool storytime at St. Vincent de Paul which is a transitional living facility here in San Diego. It is not called a homeless shelter because they do not offer short term/drop in housing for people. It is for homeless people and they can stay up to 3 years if they meet a certain number of requirements. At the facility they have childcare and I work with the preschoolers. I really love going there, it challenges me and makes me feel like I am actually serving the community.The teen parent thing: this is what the webinar is about TOMORROW so if you have time you should listen to it just to get a better idea of the program. But in a nutshell, last school year I went to two alternative highschools and one community court school and worked with teen parents (mostly moms but there were a few dads as well) bringing them early literacy enriched storytimes every week. The goal is to help the parents understand the importance of reading and singing to their child and help them make it a regular practice. At this point I am still working with the community court school because they are on a non-traditional school calendar and in the fall I will return to one of the high schools
After she told me about the program, she very boldly typed out in caps “LIBRARIANS NEED TO GET IN THE COMMUNITY” and it stuck with me this whole weekend. It made me think back to just how important community collaboration is for libraries today. Getting out of our buildings is one of the most important things we can do. It is foolish for us to wait for people to come to us. Instead, we should be going to the people.
I understand though that it’s not that easy to change the way we’ve always done things. Ned Potter’s blog post Bravery based librarianship is the (only) future will give you a clue as to what I’m thinking:
So many great ideas get bottlenecked by trying not to upset people. We are at a time when we need to inspire people, not protect their delicate sensibilities. Merely not failing is no longer enough. We have to succeed in such a way that the odd failure happens too – otherwise we’re not speculating enough to accumulate sufficiently. And I’m not talking about whole libraries, I’m talking about the ideas which drive them. Can we get ourselves into a collective mindset where we don’t fear chaos?
The idea of a library being a building where items are stored and unique experiences occur has to, and forgive me for being so frank, die. The library needs to transform from being a building to an idea that spreads and weaves itself throughout the community. Take it from here, Ra’s a Ghul…
If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can’t stop you,
you become something else entirely – a legend, Mister Wayne.