This is a guest blog by Christina Grove.
Each year, National Library Outreach Day (formerly National Bookmobile Day) is celebrated on the Wednesday of National Library Week. This year, we celebrate National Library Outreach Day on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. National Library Outreach Day celebrates library outreach and the dedicated library staff who are meeting their members where they are. Whether it's a mobile library stop, services to jails, or outreach at a community event (which we hope to be able to return to in the future!), these services are essential to the community and extend our reach beyond the brick and mortar library branches.
At Alameda County Library, we are celebrating by reflecting on the history of outreach at AC Library as well as all that we’ve done in the past year in the name of outreach. And what a different year it has been!
A Brief History of Outreach at AC Library
While we look forward to the future, it is also nice to look to the past and at our long and rich history of bringing library services outside the library buildings.
AC Library has been bringing the library to the people as far back as 1910. Deposit collections were small collections dispersed at various community places, in order to reach more people. Library services to Jails started in 1911 in Alameda County. In 1921, outreach to the Standard Oil Company was done to provide study materials for workers, and in 1925-26 a temporary library collection was built for workers near the site where they were building a dam. We are proud of the fact that Alameda County Library has had a bookmobile department for over 70 years. In the 1970s and 80s, AC Library’s bookmobile brought programming such as puppet and magic shows, in addition to books, out to the community.
Providing access and connection is what we have strived to do for over 100 years.
Highlights Over the Past Year
- We said goodbye to our dear old bookmobile that served our community well for the past 15 years.
- We developed a whole new pandemic-friendly mobile library service with our new mobile library van and partnered with food distribution sites to bring services directly to underserved areas.
- We established “outreach collections” at two locations. These embedded collections aim to serve community members who aren’t able to readily access our library branch collections and who face challenges to getting a library card, such as people experiencing homeless and youth dealing with mental health crises.
- Library staff adapted to do virtual class visits for local students to keep them connected to library services.
- Our Social Justice Services (SJS) department continued providing embedded library services at the Juvenile Justice Center, Camp Wilmont Sweeney, and REACH Ashland Youth Center, as well as continued to provide essential book service to Santa Rita Jail. REACH has kept its doors open to young people since last June.
- SJS also continues to plan special virtual programming that is open to all but particularly relevant to the populations they engage with in their outreach efforts such as:
- Finding Justice, Fairness, and Joy in Your Community online event in January targeted at young people at the Juvenile Justice Center, Camp Wilmont Sweeney, and the Reach/Ashland Youth Center
- Alameda County National Youth Poet Laureate Inaugural Competition
- "Poetry for the People" online poetry event – coming in late April
- "Standing Up to Bigotry and Racism: A Conversation about Action and Hope for These Times" online panel to discuss violence against Asian communities – coming in late April
While we weren’t able to perform 100% of our usual outreach efforts this past year, we recognize the accomplishments of our dedicated staff that have strived to continue to provide services out in the community despite the circumstances of the pandemic. We are celebrating our successes while planning for our future as things continue to evolve. One thing we look forward to is getting our second mobile library up and running so we can expand mobile library services out in the community. Watch this video interview to get a sneak peek of the inside of the newest addition to the mobile library fleet, and hear more about what Mobile & Outreach Services staff have been up to. We look forward to seeing you out and about in the community sometime soon and wish you a Happy National Library Outreach Day!