Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services


Sorority-backed bookmobile brought literacy to millions in Jim Crow era South

Submitted by: Monica White, Ed.D, President, Denise Glaudé, Heritage and Archives, Chair and Marquis Taylor, Research Assistant/Junior Scholar, New York Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc

The Delta Sigma Theta Bookmobile

The Delta Sigma Theta Bookmobile

The American Library Association recently celebrated its fifth national Bookmobile Day during National Library Week 2016. This celebration caught the attention of the New York Alumnae Chapter (NYAC) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (DST).

Deltas were major champions for books to be accessible to children and adults—especially in the south. The sorority was founded at Howard University in 1913 on a desire to serve the community and advocate less fortunate. Alpha Beta Chapter (later renamed Alpha Sigma and now named NYAC), its first graduate chapter, was chartered in 1921.

For many African Americans, reading led to achievement; educational advancement, improved employment opportunities and better quality lives.  DST identified the need for a “traveling library” to address the lack of access to public libraries and quality books due to segregation in the south.

In 1937, DST launched its Library Committee to provide books for people in rural southern communities. Members of New York City’s Alpha Sigma Chapter (now NYAC) announced the project at a press conference encouraging financial support from members of the Sorority and the general public. Despite many obstacles, including wartime needs, lack of funding, staffing shortages, even delays in book orders, the public service project continued for more than a decade.

("Deltas Bookmobile To Serve Two Million" (PDF) )

By the mid-1940s, momentum and money increased as each chapter contributed $2.50 toward the purchase of 10 books.  The name of the contributing chapter appeared in the donated books.  The administrative “traveling library” needs were organized and met by local and regional librarians.

Later, the Ford bookmobile was purchased, equipped with books and celebrated in New York before leaving to serve people in rural areas of Georgia . Maude Watkins, a New York librarian and member of NYAC, served as Acting Director.  The mobile library in Carrollton County gained a tremendous amount of interest by the community.

("Deltas Launch Bookmobile with TV, Luncheon, Tea," New York Amsterdam News (1943-1961); Jun 17, 1950 (PDF))

In 1951, ALA presented its Letter Award to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., for its Bookmobile program in the South.  Maude Watkins, who was also NYAC past president, received the award on behalf of the sorority.

("Deltas Win American Library Award," The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967); Jul 21, 1951 (PDF))

The sorority’s last bookmobile project was implemented in South Carolina 1954, after which, the Sorority disbanded the National Library Committee. DST has continued to promote literacy activities throughout the decades, responding to relevant community needs. The sorority’s activities are guided by its Five-Point Programmatic Thrust, which includes Educational Development.

Delta’s advocacy for educational equity continues even today, where use of electronic devices offer plenty reading options, African Americans who still face a digital divide, lagging behind in technology access and use. Today, NYAC applauds The American Library Association, Outreach Division, for continuing to research and support ways to serve the African American community and bridge this divide.


Do you roll out the rainbow carpet for your LGBTQ patrons?

GLBTRT_logo_CMYKPicture a gay youth entering his local library.  Having managed to find a call number for a book on homosexuality, he’s memorized the shelf he needs. He’s walked by it multiple times, trying not to get caught looking for the ‘gay books’.

Sure, he could look online at the plethora of information across the web, but having been confronted by family members who noticed his surfing over his shoulder, he’s wary of repeating the same experience with strangers. And he certainly doesn’t know if he can trust the librarians to help.

When he finally has the chance to examine the books, there are two, and only one even attempts to provide a balanced view on current stances around gay issues.

Does this sound like it could happen at your library? Maybe something similar? Is your library prepared to support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer or Questioning patrons in your communities? On your campuses? In your school hallways?

Check out the following 5 reasons you might want to check out “Rolling out the Rainbow Carpet”

  1. Fantastic engaging keynote speakers

We are excited to have 2 fantastic keynotes joining us to get us energized. Wick Thomas, a 2014 ALA Mover and Shaker will be joining us, as well as Marcus Ewert, author of Stonewall Honor Book, 10,000 dresses.

  1. Ideas and guidance from successful experts on the ground.

Speakers representing academic, school, and public libraries, covering key areas of LGBTQ library service from programming, to collections, to outreach. A little something for everyone!

  1. A chance to network and connect

You’ll be with colleagues across institutions, organizations, geographies and responsibilities who are eager to discuss these issues and work on solutions!

  1. Kick off your San Francisco Pride weekend!

This year ALA annual is taking place at the same time as San Francisco Pride. Come learn with us and then take some time out to check out the local festivities. Maybe you’ll get an idea for your library and the local pride events back home!

  1. Get the chance to make change

What you learn could make the difference between someone experiencing the above scenario and a positive experience and lasting relationship with your library.

So come Join the ALA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) as it hosts its first-ever preconference highlighting library services to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans* and queer/questioning community.  The preconference, entitled “Rolling out the Rainbow Carpet: Serving LGBTQ Communities” will be held Friday, June 26, 2015 from 8:30am-12:00pm during ALA’s Annual Conference in San Francisco.

Registration is $100 for ALA members, $125 for non-members. GLBTRT members, ALA Division members, and students are eligible for a reduced registration fee of $75.

For more information, and to register, please visit www.alaannual.org. Registration code: GLB1

Featured Speakers

Marcus Ewert

MarcusEwertMarcus is a jack of all trades writer extraordinaire. Raised in a blue bubble of Atlanta, Marcus was always attracted to all things creative. This attraction led to a colorful collection of film appearances and literary debuts, and even relationships with Burroughs and Ginsberg! His journey has eventually led him to his current home in San Francisco.

You may know him as author of Stonewall Honor Book, 10 000 Dresses, or you may be eagerly anticipating his next bibliographic work of magic in MUMMY CAT (illustrated by Lisa Brown and due out July 2015), but regardless we’re happy to have him joining us to share his insights!

Wick Thomas

WickThomasWick Thomas is the Teen Services Librarian for the Plaza Library in Kansas City, MO. Wick is a prominent activist in Kansas City and has mentored dozens of young activists through EQUAL’s Phoenix Leadership Program. Wick works inside and outside of the library to help young people feel powerful and has received awards from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, The National LGBTQ Task Force, and the City of Kansas City, MO for their tireless intersectional justice work. Wick has recently been spearheading the Save MO Libraries campaign to restore funding to Missouri Libraries.

Donna Braquet

DonnaBraquetDonna Braquet is Associate Professor and Biology Librarian at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Since joining the faculty in 2004, Braquet has been instrumental in making progress for LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff on campus.  She was one of the founding members of the first advisory committee on campus in 2007--The Chancellor's Commission for LGBT People.   She also was the founding director of the OUTreach: LGBT & Ally Resource Center in 2010, which she continues to direct to this day.  In 2013 Braquet was offered a dual position appointment between the University Libraries and The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and works as the Vice Chancellor's special assistant.  In addition to these roles, Braquet also served on the Faculty Senate's Benefits and Professional Development Committee in which she lead the body to pass several resolutions calling for equal benefits for same-sex partners and spouses.  Braquet is excited to expand her career path into what she coins 'the higher ed trifecta'—part librarian, part faculty member, and part student affairs professional.

Tami Albin

TamiAlbinTami Albin is an Associate Librarian at the University of Kansas in the Center for Faculty/Staff Initiatives and Engagement. She is also the Director of “Under the Rainbow: Oral Histories of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People in Kansas.” She received her M.L.I.S. from the University of Western Ontario and her B.A.H. in Sociology and Women Studies from Trent University. She is presently working on a manuscript based on her oral history project, “Under the Rainbow.” Other areas of interest include cryptozoology, parapsychology, dinosaurs, and talking about her cats non-stop. Basically, she is a six year old boy.


Jessica Zaker

JessicaZakerJessica Zaker is the Central branch manager for the Sacramento Public Library and head coach of the Sac City Rollers roller derby league. She has been offering queer programming in Sacramento for the last 5 years and loves David Levithan so fervently, she has a word her gave her tattooed behind her ear.



Karen Sundheim

KarenSundheimKaren Sundheim has been the Program Manager for the James C. Hormel LGBT Center of San Francisco Public Library since early 2008. She is responsible for developing book, movie and archival collections on LGBT history and culture. She also creates programs and exhibitions to provide education on LGBT culture to the community. From 1999 – 2008 she was the manager of the Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library of San Francisco Public Library.



Bleue Benton

BleueBentonBleue Benton, Oak Park Public Library's collection manager for ten years, created the Transgender Resource Collection in 2007. Now semi-retired, she continues to curate this collection and keeps working to become a better trans ally.




Martin Garnar

MartinGarnarMartin Garnar is the head of reference and instruction for the Dayton Memorial Library at Regis University (Denver, CO), where he holds the rank of Professor of Library Science.  Since 2005, he has taught professional principles and ethical issues for the University of Denver's LIS program, where he also teaches library instruction.  Martin is both the co-chair of and the GLBTRT liaison to the ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.  At Regis, he has served as the faculty advisor to the Gender & Sexuality Alliance student group and co-teaches an acting class in the diversity core.  A frequent speaker at state, regional, and national events, Martin's presentations combine expertise, practical advice, and a healthy dash of humor.

Robert B. Ridinger

RobertBRidingerRobert B. Ridinger is a full professor in the University Libraries at Northern Illinois University and has been engaged in collecting, preserving and writing about the histories of the LGBT community and their primary sources since the 1980s. His publications range from The ADVOCATE Index, 1967-1982 and the anthology Speaking for Our Lives: Historic Speeches and Rhetoric for Gay and Lesbian Rights, 1892-2000 ( Haworth )  to the 2014 article Tracking the Rainbow: Recent Trends in LGBT Reference and Collection Development in Reference Reviews.  At NIU, he serves on the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Joy Millam

JoyMillamAs a Teacher Librarian at Valencia (CA) High School, Joy’s primary purpose is to support her students and staff; which means making sure that every student can find books and resources in her library with characters that they can relate to and connect. The library is truly a sanctuary for all kids and it is one of the main tenets of her mission to make sure that her library is a place where all students feel welcome and safe. Joy has served in many YALSA capacities, including Quick Picks, and the Printz and Nonfiction Award committees.


The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association is committed to serving the information needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender professional library community and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender information and access needs of individuals at large. GLBTRT is committed to encouraging and supporting the free and necessary access to all information, as reflected by the missions of the American Library Association and democratic institutions.  The GLBTRT was founded in 1970 and is the world’s oldest professional organization for GLBT people.



Introducing the Ardmore Literacy Initiative

The American Dream Starts @ your library blog header

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.