Public Librarianship

Outreach Notes #2

A follow-up from the last post about outreach, here is what is happening:

After waiting longer than one usually expects for an email reply between organizations (about three weeks), I suddenly heard from everyone all at once:

I set up three meetings, two of which had significant changes before they actually occurred worth talking about:

I set up the first meeting, with BACDYS, a Bengali immigrant advocacy organization in the neighborhood. A significant percentage of our patrons here at Cypress Hills are Bengali immigrants and working with BACDYS seems an obvious win-win for both organizations. I notified my immediate supervisor and cc’d the branch supervisor when I scheduled the meeting. The branch supervisor is, herself, a Bengali immigrant and she decided she wanted to come to the meeting. However, the day I set up to meet with BACDYS didn’t work for her, so she asked me to reschedule the meeting. This is one of the shortcomings of collaboration (as all library branch work is, in the end, because even individual work is done on behalf of the team) – sometimes frustrating events occur that you can’t control, like having to reschedule your meeting and a look a little silly because of  something you have control over!

When the meeting happened, however, it was a big success, and soon the director of BACDYS will be visiting our library to look at our space and to talk about joint programs.

On Tuesday, March 14th, in NYC, there were city-wide closures due to predicted blizzard conditions. While the snow accumulation was far less than predicted, Brooklyn Public Library remained closed due to wind mileage. When a business day is unexpectedly not a business day, everything gets pretty backed up. As a result of that, one of my scheduled meetings, with United Community Centers, didn’t happen.  I will call on Monday to reschedule the meeting, which is also occurring at my branch.

The third meeting came to me! The Lions Club Pacesetters Alliance of Brooklyn (LCPA) called the branch because they are a service org in the area, committed to bettering their community, and they were looking for volunteer opportunities. The president of the group came to visit me at the branch, and we discussed the possibility of individual volunteering, a group service day, and the possibility of forming a friends group. The meeting went quite well, and as a result, I am going to their chapter meeting on Sunday to talk collect library card and volunteer applications, and discuss next steps with them.

Lastly, I heard back via email from CUP, a community organization with an East New York Chapter that runs workshops on community betterment from an urban planning perspective. I believe that the LCPA would benefit from one of CUP’s workshops, which we could host in our own space. In such an event, the LCPA would be patrons, and the CUP presentation would be an event on the calendar open to the public as well.  This is like win-win-win, because the LCPA get training, and I get both outreach benefits from them as an org, and stats from them as patrons.

This is the dream: the organization contacted me, neither natural nor unnatural conditions interfered, and everything went smoothly. In my limited experience, this sort of outreach is super rare.  Really the dream.

And now for the opposite of the dream: the most obvious candidate for outreach at my own branch is the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation. It is literally right around the corner from this branch, and its mission is, “With community residents leading the way, the mission of CHLDC is to build a strong, sustainable Cypress Hills and East New York, where youth and adults achieve educational and economic success, secure healthy and affordable housing and develop leadership skills to transform their lives and community.”

Here are some recent experiences with them:
-No reply to my email, six weeks in.
-A phone system that constantly loops and does not allow callers to actually get to even a voicemail, let alone a human.
-Advertisements for their own programs coming through via listserv from them.

It seems I will have to walk into their organization, folder in hand. There’s cold calling and then there’s this.  Will it be successful? Is it a bad idea to try to partner with an organization that does not seem reachable by reasonable means? To be determined!

By jtp

Joanna Tova Price has a lot of heart.

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