Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Booknote: Librarians as Community Partners: An Outreach Handbook

Consider this a brief intermission from my series of posts on my ACRL 2013 conference notes. I just finished this book, and I wanted to share it with my four readers right away.

Smallwood, Carol, ed., Librarians as Community Partners: An Outreach Handbook. Chicago: American Library Association, 2010.

ISBN: 978-0-8389-1006-1

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library Science, Outreach

I think this is a book that every outreach librarian, or any librarian planning to do outreach (or had outreach dumped on his/her lap) needs to have. It is not perfect, but it is pretty close. The editor brings together 37 librarians from a diverse range of libraries and settings (such as archives) to write about their best techniques and activities for library outreach. The only reason I say the book is not perfect is because the entries do vary: some are more practical in terms of telling you how things are done (what I am really interested in to be honest) and others are a bit more "how we did good, let's all be warm and fuzzy" entries. That aside, this is a very good book full of ideas that should inspire other librarians out there. One of the things I really liked were the various essays on collaborations between schools and local libraries, be they public or academic. Working in this kind of situation is something that interests me, and that at times I have tried to accomplish back when I was doing outreach (as it was my job title and what I did), but was never able to get around to it (it was low priority compared to other more pressing things). I still think such collaborations are crucial, and for me, maybe something to explore later. So, that definitely gave me some hope.

The book answers questions such as:
  • how can I better promote library services? 
  • how can I work with specific constituencies? 
  • learn more about partnerships, be they on campus or in your community. 
  • and more. 
To be honest, I wish I had this book back when I was working as an outreach librarian. I had to learn and figure out a lot of things on my own, often with very minimal support, and seeing what others have done, and more importantly, how they did it, would have been helpful. So, if you are an outreach librarian, whether because that is your job title or by default (because no one else wants to do it), do yourself a favor and read this book. My current workplace owns it, which is how I read it. But I would say this is one I would add to my own professional book shelf. It provides both advice and inspiration, and librarians can always use both.

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