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


C’mon, let’s talk!

Submitted by Cindy Welsh, Outreach Coordinator
High Plains Library District, Greeley, Colorado

“What I really want is for you to talk with each other” wrote Dale Lipschultz in her recent OLOS Columns posting.   A directive for those of us participating in the American Dream Starts @ your library project, Dale’s comment bears repeating—it is indeed important for us to be talking to each other.  Why?  I’ll explain that in a bit, but let me do an introduction first so that you’ll understand why Dale’s wish makes sense to me.   

 My name is Cindy and I’m the Outreach Librarian for the High Plains Library District  (HPLD) based in Greeley, Colorado.  Due to the need for adult literacy resources among our service population (particularly English language acquisition materials), we applied for and received an American Dream Starts @ your library grant in 2008.  HPLD used the funding to donate $300.00 worth of GED, ELA and citizenship materials to each of the eleven Head Start centers in our service area, which is just less than 4000 square miles.   Head Start, in addition to housing the new literacy collections placed in specially-marked plastic tubs (purchased at Dollar General), was to provide a designated computer in every center for adult learners to use while their children attended classes.  The remaining funds were to be used to host a series of open houses at library facilities and/or Head Start centers to promote usage of the literacy tubs, demonstrate online library resources, and issue library cards to Head Start families and staff.   

For the most part, things went as planned.  We selected, purchased and distributed the physical materials to the centers and were able to train Head Start staff on the online resources at a staff training day.  Presentations at parent nights elicited oohs and ahhs from parents and an eagerness to use the literacy tubs.   All the same, every project—no matter how well planned—runs into complications and ours was no exception.  Our biggest obstacle involved a new filter on Head Start’s computer network (at that time operated by the county) that prevented access to the library’s entire website.  Were there other hindrances?  Yes.  Were they insurmountable?  By all means, no.  It helped that I was able to glean ideas from other American Dream librarians for work-arounds.

So, why do we need to be communicating with one another via this blog, e-mails, at conferences or something old-fashioned like the telephone?  

Creativity. True, we American Dream librarians are a creative bunch (need I site our grant proposals as examples?), but sometimes we need to be even more creative and reading about someone else’s efforts might give us an “AHA moment!”

Assistance. As we all know (too well?), these are hard times in library world. We all have to work smarter with reduced resources—even when those are supplemented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation.  Why waste time re-inventing the wheel when another American Dream library may have a solution for you? Yet another reason to make good use of all the resources found in the American Dream Toolkit as well as this blog.

Sustenance.  Just as every caregiver needs some respite, every librarian needs a support system--particularly when you are providing pathbreaking services for your community. We’ll have your back when someone questions why you are doing this important work.  

Time.  Do any of us have too much of it?  It’s the old “a stitch in time saves nine” thing; taking a few minutes to learn about/from someone else’s experience may save you more than you can imagine. 

C(reativity), A(ssistance), S(ustenance), T(ime) = CAST.  We need to talk to because we are the cast in this production.  Dollar General Literacy Foundation is our producer.  Dale, Vivian, John and the rest of the ALA crew are our directors.  Our patrons are our audience and we are the cast.  If we are to wow our audience (and we know they need us to do just that), please our producer, heed our directors and support one another we have to converse.   I’ve just finished my “monologue,” who’s up next?

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