Public Librarianship

Outreach Notes #3

The theme of this post: upkeep, upkeep, upkeep.

Right now, the most pressing agenda item where outreach is concerned is finding a use for our adult events budget of $500 before the end of June, which is the end of the fiscal year.  These are the possibilities right now:

– A talk by Richard Exelbert from the Brooklyn Brainery on having fun in East New York and off the A/C Subway lines on a budget (the A/C runs through Cypress Hills where I work).

– A CUP workshop that is accessible to the low income folks in this neighborhood.

– A local business owner who is also a self published author and a long time resident on the spirit of the community, her books, and the self publishing process.

–  An entrepreneurship workshop on starting your own online business (Using Etsy or some other related website)

– My direct supervisor is pushing for a public-service-friendly musical performance. She is of the opinion that If It Is Exciting Enough, They Will Come. I am not convinced. Also, I don’t know very many musicians who are  like “yes, let me do a gig for next to no money in a place that will likely not give me that much bigger of an audience for having played it.”

One of the weird problems is that the best programs for my patrons are free anyway. We have two potential “know your rights” workshops form the NY chapter of the ACLU, one on getting stopped by ICE and the other on getting stopped by police.  We have teams here at the library who do job readiness and financial advising and citizenship prep and ESOL.  We traditionally think of programs that we bring into the public library as being above the “basic need” level but to get people to attend  these programs, we need to establish a community first. And it doesn’t seem to me that you can backwards hack it — you can’t bring in a jazz band and expect loads of people to show up, but you could have a workshop on resume help that overlaps with a jazz band by fifteen minutes and get people to stay. The trick is that getting them in the door is about need, not fun or spectacle.  At least in this community, where energy is in very limited supply.
I previously mentioned the Lions Club Pacesetters Alliance as a service org that could potentially meet all three areas of need:
-Friends Group
-Volunteers/Collaborative Org

I visited them at their monthly meeting on Sunday and I quickly came to realize that they don’t yet have the infrastructure in place to really do any of this without a lot of guidance from me.  They are a small group working with little means,  and  so bringing them in would probably benefit their reach in the community but does not do much to extend the library’s reach.  Moreover, they are not the right audience for a ULURP talk, but I did see CUP puts on a workshop on how to get and keep welfare benefits from NYC and that would be definitely be useful. So we’ll see.

I still have to walk into the cypress hills local development corp, and then it will be time to strategize and make specific asks of the orgs I have been in contact with.
A revised step-by-step of what the outreach process has looked like:

1) Reach out by email and also leave a few voicemails for about six organizations.
2) Hear nothing back for three weeks.
3) Reach out by phone to a couple of organizations, and get some appointments made.
4) Reschedule those appointments.
5) Make positive connections that are still very general at these meetings.
6) Begin to look at ways to use the $500 budget and start making specific inquiries.
7) Discover that organizational culture is such that trying to get everyone on the same page is a  multi-day, multi-email process.
8) Come to terms with the fact that various people have ideas about what outreach and programming are supposed to look like and will not be flexible enough to adjust to the needs of this particular community as they contradict what has already been planned.

Where I am now:
9) Call NYCC  regarding the missed meeting right after the snow storm.  This will be more about bringing adult patrons into programs we already have.
10) Follow up with Janel P. about bringing in an English Language Conversation Group leader for Saturdays, to compliment my Monday program.
11) Walk into the Cypress Hills Development Corp. and see what’s the what.
12) Bring in the president of the Lions Club Pacesetters Alliance to talk with Jeri L. about creating a Cypress Hills Friends Group
13) Remain in contact with BACDYS and CUP about a potential program to use up the adult events budget.

This is solidly second-phase, but it still feels very up in the air.  It’s more like “jump into the fray and see where it goes.”

By jtp

Joanna Tova Price has a lot of heart.

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