OLOS Columns ALA's Office for Literacy and Outreach Services


Introducing the Ardmore Literacy Initiative

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Exclusive OLOS Columns Series

In 2013, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation (DGLF) approached ALA and ProLiteracy with an idea to improve access to literacy services and resources in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Since its founding in 1993, DGLF has awarded more than $97 million to libraries, schools, and organizations to advance literacy and basic education. They found that Ardmore, the location of one of Dollar General's regional distribution centers, had something special - a community united and dedicated to addressing the need for literacy across the lifespan.

Located between Oklahoma City and Dallas, Ardmore is an economic hub for Southern Oklahoma. The region is home to several large employers, including a plant for Michelin North America, Mercy Medical Center, as well as large distribution centers for Dollar General and Best Buy. This economic activity has attracted many people to the region, and as a result, demand for programs addressing lifelong literacy has grown along with it - from family literacy to  adult basic education and GED, and English as a second language. Ardmore's civic spirit and longstanding community-wide dedication to meeting the population's literacy needs emerged out of the 1980s, as the Ardmore Public Library teamed up with organizations and institutions to deliver services including Adult Basic Education and ESL instruction.

Noticing this strong local commitment towards strengthening literacy, DGLF brought together national partners, including the ALA, The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce, Jobs for the Future, The National Center for Families Learning, and ProLiteracy to build upon Ardmore's efforts. With this support in place, the Ardmore Literacy Initiative took shape. All partners are now working with community leaders and the local schools to promote literacy services to all, with the goal of establishing an replicable model to build coalitions to enhance literacy access in similar communities across the country.

With this infusion of support from these national partners, the Ardmore Public Library teamed up with the Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps, Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, The Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma, New Dimension Literacy Council, St. Mary Catholic Church, and Ardmore City Schools to form Ardmore Literacy Leadership (ALL) to provide all Ardmore citizens with access to learn the skills vital to success.

The ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, under The American Dream Starts @ your library(r) grant program funded by DGLF, provided the resources and support for the Ardmore Public Library to hire a full-time literacy coordinator and build and open a computer lab to serve as a hub for ALL's activities in the community.



Builders and Books: A Collaboration between Ericson Public Library and Habitat for Humanity

Submitted by Zach Stier, MSLIS, M.SEd.
Children's Librarian, Ericson Public Library, Boone, Iowa

Ericson Public Library, Boone, IA

The Ericson Public Library has always had a role to unify its community by forming partnerships. The Children’s Department current partnerships focus on early literacy and school readiness by visiting preschools and daycares on a monthly basis. Currently, the department provides twenty-four outreach programs for children in addition to regular library programming monthly. These outreach visits allows for additional children within the community the opportunity to experience and be engaged in library programming.  The goal is to enhance their learning through the power of storytelling. In addition, the department attends local family events in the community to make adults and parents aware of all library services and to encourage them to use the library.

Our partnerships are being enhanced by connecting with local organizations that may not have a literacy focus but have family engagement as a foundation to their cause. Our newest partner is Habitat for Humanity for Boone and Greene Counties.  This is a short story on how we began this exciting and valuable partnership.

Fall 2013: The Partnership Forms

Just before Thanksgiving of 2013, I drove around the Boone community looking for my next community partnership. In my mind, I was looking for a place where we could provide a family a set of books to begin their reading journey together. Understanding community makeup is an important assessment tool that assists me in locating a partner.

As I drove down “Story Street” I noticed the Habitat for Humanity office. At that moment, I knew that they would be our next partnership venture. The next day, I contacted the Director to setup a
meeting to go over the logistics of the partnership. By the end of the meeting, we agreed that the family would be provided a bookcase from Habitat and the library would supply the family books. In addition, we also decided that we would host an event at the library for the family and invite the entire community.

Spring 2014: Builders and Books

We entitled our partnership, Builders and Books to encompass Habitat’s role in building a home for a family and the library’s role to enhance literacy. On March 29th, the library hosted an event for the family. This event included a storytime craft, and a construction zone. The construction zone was coordinated by Habitat and included the following activities: an area to learn how to sand using bird houses, an area to learn about different tools, a drawing area to learn about housing plans, an area to sign a 2X4 that is added to the house being built, and an area to learn about plumbing. On March 30th the family had their groundbreaking.

We will continue to connect with the family as the house is being built and in October we will provide them books to add to their bookcase.



ABOS Conference in San Diego to explore innovation beyond library walls, doing more with less

Submitted by: Marianne Thompson, Fountaindale Public Library, Bolingbrook, Ill.; Board Member, Association for Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS)

ABOS logoThere is still time to join us in sunny San Diego, CA for the annual ABOS conference! Each year, the conference brings together library staff from across the country to meet and collaborate on how we provide Outreach library service to our library patrons. The programs are awesome and informative! Networking opportunities with colleagues are the best of any conference!

Conference sessions this year include:

• The Keynote Address by Dr. Derek Attig: “Here Comes the Bookmobile!”
• Featured author is T. Jefferson Parker, author of the “Charlie Hood” series. His latest novel, Full Measure will be published in October.
• (Never stop) Rethinking Service
• Sharing memories: Using Reminiscence Activities with Senior
• Configuring a Great Outreach Vehicle
• Why Don’t We Make It on the Road: Translating Maker Spaces into Library Outreach
• Children’s Program Ideas for Outreach from your Bookmobile

Local area bookmobiles will be on display during the conference. Conference attendees can visit the vehicles and talk with staff about their Outreach service.

Vendors include: Summit Bodyworks, OBS Specialty Vehicles, Farber Specialty Vehicles, LDV, and TriVan Truck Body.

To attend the conference please send an email to Eletha Davis, President of ABOS at: abospresident@gmail.com or Pattie Johnson, Vice President of ABOS at: abosvicepresident@gmail.com.

Cost of the conference is: $200 for a single day registration; $300 for the full conference for ABOS members; $400 for non-members. Hotel accommodations can be made at: Bahai Resort / 998 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109 / 800-916-4339.


Award-winning New Orleans “Book Lady” dreams of a bookmobile


Laurence Copel

Submitted by Laurence Copel, Lower Ninth Ward Street Library, New Orleans, LA

New Orleans has a problem.

Actually one could say it has many: one of the worst high school drop out rate in the nation, the highest level of crime per capita in the U.S., the highest number of people incarcerated in the world and … no bookmobile!

While these things may not seem related, those of us who promote library outreach know better. They know that research shows that children thrive when exposed to play and literacy at an early age, and that parents and caregivers of young children who themselves lack literacy skills feel powerless in giving their children and early start with books.

Which is why Laurence Copel, youth librarian, founder of the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library and the first-ever recipient of the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity, is looking to upgrade her bookmobile.

Ms. Copel moved to New Orleans in 2010 but her career in library outreach began in 2000 in New York City, where she worked for 10 years as a youth outreach librarian for the New York Public Library, and started early childhood literacy and teen outreach programs at the city’s Rikers Island jail.


The book trike

When she arrived in New Orleans, a city still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, she saw a critical need to provide books to the children of her community through library outreach services. She went to the management of the local public library, but was told there was no budget for outreach. So in 2011, while working part time as a school librarian and as a storyteller for the Prime Time Family reading time program, she founded the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library. In 2013 she bought a house, which she converted in part, into a children’s library. She also acquired a front loading tricycle, which is currently the only operating bookmobile in Orleans parish and she held the first annual krewe of Ex Libris book parade.

Since 2011 she has donated close to eight thousand books to the children of New Orleans.

In 2014, Ms. Copel’s efforts were recognized during the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, where she received plaudits from the leaders of America’s oldest and largest library association.

However, there is still much to be done.  The tricycle, while adequate to serve most of the lower Ninth Ward, cannot travel over the bridges spanning the industrial canal.

She is currently looking for a vehicle, customized golf cart, scooter, horse and buggy or even a real motorized bookmobile to go to other parts of town where the need is still greater. Ms. Copel has been blessed with many generous book donations and seek to expand her outreach to other New Orleans neighborhoods that have high levels of poverty and crime, low levels of literacy, and little to no access to library services.

To learn more about the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library, and to donate to help make Ms. Copel’s bookmobile dream a reality, please visit the library’s website at http://www.lower9streetlibrary.org/ or it’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LowerNinthWardStreetLibrary.


On the Road with The American Dream Starts @ your library: Berwyn Pubilc Library

By John Amundsen, OLOS Program Officer

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Exclusive OLOS Columns Series

On Tuesday, Oct. 22,  OLOS visited its second library as part of our On The Road series, this time to Berwyn Public Library in Chicago's West suburbs. Over half of population in the area served by BPL  speaks English as a second language. To meet this need, BPL applied and received funding from The American Dream Starts @ your library initiative, which it in turn used to increase its adult literacy collection, purchase technology including iPads and a smart screen, and provide citizenship courses in the library.

On the day of our visit, BPL hosted a mock citizenship interview with Amy Stern with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for both students and tutors, in order to provide a better idea of what to expect during the interview and how best to prepare.

The newest American Dream libraries join a cohort of 100 previously funded programs in Dollar General communities. These American Dream libraries built easily replicable programs, developed coalition-building strategies and provided annotated lists of proven resources for libraries across the country serving adult English language learners.


On the Road with The American Dream Starts @ your library: Schaumburg Township District Library

by John Amundsen, OLOS Program Officer

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Exclusive OLOS Columns Feature

On Friday, September 20th, the OLOS team had the honor of attending the third Naturalization Ceremony held at the Schaumburg Township District Library in Chicago's Northwest Suburbs.  STDL is a two-time recipient of The American Dream Starts @ your library, a grant initiative from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and ALA geared towards the improvement and promotion of library service to English language learners in areas served by Dollar General stores.  In 2013, ALA selected 44 public libraries in 21 states to receive one-time grants of $5,000 to $15,000 to add or expand literacy services for the adult English language learners in their communities. This funding will help libraries build their print and digital ESL collections, increase computer access and raise the visibility of library services for immigrant populations.

The newest American Dream libraries join a cohort of 100 previously funded programs in Dollar General communities. These American Dream libraries built easily replicable programs, developed coalition-building strategies and provided annotated lists of proven resources for libraries across the country serving adult English language learners.

During our visit, Michelle, Zina, and I saw first hand the amazing things that STDL is doing for English language learners in their communities. Here's a video outlining our visit, as well as an overview of all the ELL services STDL provides, with literacy coordinator Pat Barch.

The American Dream Starts @ your library(r) is made possible through generous funding from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. 



Seek the Unknown @ your library during Teen Read Week 2013!

Join the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) in celebrating Teen Read Week 2013 by becoming an online community member of the official Teen Read Week website www.ala.org/teenread. This year, Teen Read Week takes place Oct. 13- 19 with a theme that encourages teens to ‘Seek the Unknown @ the library’ by reading for the fun of it.

Teen Read Week (TRW) is a time to celebrate reading for fun while encouraging teens to take advantage of reading in all its forms — books, magazines, e-books, audiobooks and more. It is also a great opportunity to encourage teens to become regular library users.

Visitors can now sign up to become members for free and access a variety of resources that will help them encourage teens to celebrate reading. These include:

  • Planning tools: Activity and planning ideas, publicity tools, checklists;
  • 2013 theme logo: Members can download a low-res version of the Seek the Unknown logo;
  • Showcase: Share your TRW events and ideas while also adding your library to the Google map;
  • Products: Find official TRW themed products such as posters, bookmarks, the Teen Read Week manual and more at the ALA Store;
  • Forums: Talk to others and share ideas, plans and resources for Teen Read Week.

Visitors are highly recommended to sign up and become members of the site as it is the best way to utilize all the resources made available for Teen Read Week.

Furthermore, registered members of the Teen Read Week website are offered an array of great opportunities such as participating in a free webinar and winning one of four sets of books, courtesy of our 2013 TRW sponsors.

Teen Read Weekâ„¢ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually during the third week of October. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users.


Affiliate Notes: ABOS president reflects on the value of library outreach

Martha Buckner

Martha A. Buckner, President
Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services

For the past decade I have been actively involved in the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), an affiliate of ALA.  In that time, I have met hundreds of outreach enthusiasts, but I’ve never met two that “do outreach” the same way! 

Bookmobile service in the United States dates back to 1905 when the first horse-drawn library book wagon was introduced in Hagerstown, Maryland. However, library outreach service was already being offered by libraries that placed deposits of books in post offices, schools, and general stores.

Perhaps the most extreme case of mobile library outreach service was the Pack Horse Library Project of 1935.  Women riding horses or mules traveled through remote areas of Eastern Kentucky delivering library materials to homes and schools.  (Makes my modern bookmobile seem positively luxurious in comparison!)

In 21st century America, library outreach can mean serving the disenfranchised, the under-served, the physically and mentally disabled, and the incarcerated.  Libraries offer outreach service to persons physically distanced from the library, persons who lack access to transportation, and persons who are homebound.

Ashland PL's Bookmobile

Some libraries do outreach with modern coach-style bookmobiles.  Other libraries use box trucks or vans.  And some librarians use their own personal vehicle to deliver library service to members of their community who are unable to visit the brick-and-mortar library.  Mobile libraries offer more than just books - they provide:

  • Storytimes for preschool children.
  • A safe place to for kids who may not have any safe spaces in their lives. 
  • An air-conditioned respite on a scorching hot day.
  • A librarian with a sympathetic ear who will listen to the heartache and disappointment voiced by a single parent, raising a grandchild and caring for an elderly parent at the same time.

But outreach can mean much more than the delivery of books and other materials.  Outreach by definition means “the act of extending services, benefits, etc., to a wider section of the population.”  Libraries can reach out to persons who come to the building by providing: 

  • Programs offered in a language other than English.
  • A stop on the transit bus line.
  • A hitching rail for a horse and buggy.
  • A haven for the homeless who must leave shelters during the day.
  • Resume and job-search skills for the newly unemployed.
  • Those who are vulnerable, on the fringes of society and may have few places to turn to. 

Like other library services, library outreach has its challenges of budget restraints and the escalating cost of resources.  Outreach is also challenged with getting the word out to the very people they want to reach. 

Those of us working in outreach do have a few things in common.  We all work tirelessly to find new people to reach, new ways to reach them, and new services to offer them when we do! 

Join us on April 17 as we celebrate outreach services and the men and women who provide them every day on National Bookmobile Day! 



Martha Buckner is the Supervisor for Bookmobile and Outreach at the Ashland Public Library in Ashland, Ohio. 



New 2013 National Bookmobile Day Resources Available!

By John L. Amundsen, ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services

The fourth annual celebration of National Bookmobile Day is just around the corner, on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 – prompting libraries nationwide to begin their preparations!

ALA’s Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) and the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL) collaborate every year to assemble free downloadable and customizable resources to aid libraries as they plan their National Bookmobile Day activities and events.

We’d like to share with you some ways that you can make the most out of the free National Bookmobile Day resources available at www.ala.org/bookmobiles. This post will be the first in a weekly series that explains all of these resources and highlights notable examples of how they’ve been used in the past. This week, we’ll focus on the press release, proclamation, and letter-to-the-editor templates.

Marketing your NBD Events

As mentioned above, we've developed templates for libraries to issue a press release, letter-to-the-editor, and proclamation. All three of these documents are ready-made, meaning all you need to do is to add information about designated contact, library name, quote from local dignitary/library representative/etc., and any additional information you wish to include.

Before you move forward, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your library have a PR department or designated publicity staffer?
  • Does your library have an established procedure for approving news items?
  • Do you have a designated spokesperson who can answer questions about the event, the bookmobile, and the library?
  • What local media outlets do you want to target?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move forward and develop an outreach plan which will outline deadlines and tactics.

Press Release Template – A press release is one of the basic tools you can use to reach out to local media and communicate news from your library. Once completed, the National Bookmobile Day release template is ready to be disseminated to local media outlets as news items.
In the event that your library system already has a PR department or designated publicity staffer, you can submit your release with them and take advantage of any pre-existing relationships that the department or staffer already has with the local media. Be sure that the department or staffer and spokesperson have talking points and information about the event – which can be downloaded at www.ala.org/bookmobiles.

Here are some examples of placed press release templates from previous NBD celebrations:

If your library lacks a PR department or designated staffer, you can do a quick scan of what outlets are there in your community. Once you’ve identified your local news outlets, look up the contact information for either the city or news desks and call the editor(s) and call them, introducing yourself as a representative of the library, apprising them of your library, your bookmobile, and the upcoming National Bookmobile Day festivities in your town. Building such relationships with local media can prove to be very valuable down the road.

Letter-to-the-Editor Template -  We’ve prepared a National Bookmobile Day Op-ed template for libraries to submit on behalf of a library or community leader that speaks to the occasion. Much like the press release template, the Op-ed template only needs designated contact information, an author to attribute it to, and any other information that you wish to include.

The procedures for placing an op-ed vary from outlet to outlet; you can either consult with your PR department or staffer if you have one, or contact the outlet directly – either through the city or news desk – and ask for information on submitting an op-ed article.

Proclamation Template - Want to make your National Bookmobile Day celebrations truly official? Consider approaching your local government officials and request that they proclaim National Bookmobile Day! We’ve developed a proclamation template which is ready to download at www.ala.org/bookmboiles.

Here are some examples of proclamations from past NBD events:

Additional Publicity Resources

Advocacy University


Advocacy Clearinghouse – Media & Messaging


Library Advocate’s Handbook


ALA Communications Handbook for Libraries


Share your Story!
Be sure to share your National Bookmobile Day stories, including programming ideas, media placements, and anything else of interest – either on the ABOS list, through the National Bookmobile Day Facebook fan page, Twitter (@bookmobileday, hashtag: #NBD2013), and the National Bookmobile Day Wiki on www.ala.org/bookmobiles.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? For assistance, please contact the ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4294 between 9:00am and 5:00pm Central Time, or email olos@ala.org.


(CANCELLED) EMIERT launches quarterly webinar series: 2/28 session to focus on library services for refugees


The ALA Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) will be launching its new quarterly webinar series this Thursday, Feb. 28 from 1-2pm CT with an hour-long session focusing on library service to refugee populations. This special group of immigrants encounters many challenges as they adjust to their new life in the United States. Join Homa Naficy, Hartford Public Library, Director of Multicultural Services, and Sanja Bebic, Center for Applied Linguistics, Director, Cultural Orientation Resource Center as they lead a discussion on how libraries can help ease the transition of refugees and become a home away from home for new arrivals in your community.

Registration: $20 for ALA Members, $25 for non-members, and $120 for groups.

Click here to register.