ILA Best Practices

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I want to know some of your best practices in community engagement. Following up on Hilary’s last post, share what has inspired you, but also share what you have done to inspire others outside the library field. When was the last time you changed a library stereotype? Do you participate in the community outside your role as librarian? My library is in a very small community, so I am involved in just about everything, from being secretary of the business association to playing in the pool league. Everywhere I go I am conscious of how I am portraying librarianship, because the town is small enough that a lot of people know who I am. For me, it is important to represent the library no matter what I’m doing. I try to market the library to the people that may have never met a librarian before. The owner of the gym now knows that he can learn computer skills for free at the library, the guy playing pool at the bar knows he can order geometry books through interlibrary loan to improve his bank shots, and the kids watching the homecoming parade know that librarians don’t just sit behind a desk. (Sometimes they dress up like princesses).

Float

I’m curious about how librarians in larger communities get involved. Our field always talks about how to get the non-users into the library, but what are you doing to show them what the library can do for them personally? One of the sessions at ILA talked about conducting phone interviews or surveys of non-users to find out why they don’t come to the library. That is a great idea, of course, but to borrow a phrase from Dawn Mushill, we should be “library ambassadors” all the time. Get out there and tell people what they’re missing by not coming to the library. Write an article for the newspaper, tell your yoga class about the new book club, and make sure your waitress knows she can bring her kids to story time. Stop expecting new patrons to come to you. Go find them!

Rylie Carter
Hinckley Public Library District

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While many of us dutifully read our library blogs and journals, we are often talking to ourselves. What has inspired you lately outside of our own profession? Have you gotten a great programming idea from a sports team? How about picking up on promotional tactics at the grocery store? Or thinking about a new library layout based on a well-designed web site?

Do you actively expose yourself to ideas outside of our field? Are you reading publications other than those in your subject areas? Are you attending classes or events on topics you know nothing about?

Has inspiration ever hit you as you go about your daily life? What were the circumstances? Have you found a way to increase the odds of adding new and creative ideas to your repertoire?

Even more difficult than generating lots of shiny and new creative ideas is the daily work of continuing to improve current offerings. How do you keep some of your most basic library offerings fresh and relevant? Academic librarians: Are you continuing to tweak your information literacy sessions each quarter? Public librarians: Are you reassessing summer reading programs each year? Special librarians: Are you ensuring you are continuing to meet the information needs of your patrons?

Your fellow Illinois librarians want to learn from you. Share the most off-the-wall thing that has inspired you, and how you translated that initial spark into a successful service or offering for your patrons.

Hilary Meyer

Chicago, IL

Is providing genealogy help @ your library becoming a service priority? Here are some successful services and programs the Algonquin Area Public Library is providing to support residents looking to “discover their roots.”

Laying the groundwork for successful genealogy programming starts with identifying someone who has been doing their own family research, is “genealogy friendly” and willing to share their expertise with the public.  Start by asking your own staff; call another library, a local historical or genealogical society from the surrounding community for free or inexpensive speakers.  Reference librarians Virginia Freyre and Kristen McCallum are our resident experts and teachers. They have created a first class genealogy collection and program repertoire over the last 8 years of books, classes, workshops, brochures, speakers, online resources, a web page and half hour consultations for the “Clueless about Genealogy!” We are close to becoming an affiliate Family History Center (LDS) to process patron requests for microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Our beginner classes are traditionally scheduled early in the year. The original Genealogy 101 class covered the basics of where to start, searching census records, locating vital records, military records and immigration and naturalization resources. Students loved the notebook we provided with handouts on each topic presented. The wealth of information presented is often overwhelming to beginners so Kristen and Virginia redesigned their class. The original 101 class was expanded to a 3 week session limited to 30 students titled Genealogy Bootcamp.  They discovered that step by step instruction, building on the previous week’s lesson, by using case studies, assigning homework, and giving quizzes helped the new “recruits” increase their understanding of the research process.  Information was provided about other genealogical programs, workshops, and conferences and attendance was encouraged for additional learning opportunities.

Our most popular program always filled to capacity is our After-Hours Genealogy Workshop. For the last 5 years, in April and November on a Friday night from 4:30-10:30pm Kristen and Virginia provide genealogy enthusiasts independent research time on our computers, technical and research assistance and occasional “expert” volunteers from the local genealogical society. The evening begins with a short presentation on a general topic of interest, snacks and drinks are provided, use of our computers, access to Ancestry and other databases, and unlimited free printing. October and November is a good time to schedule an after hours program to take advantage of the State of Illinois’s free trial access to electronic resources during their annual Try-it Illinois.

Two years ago they created the monthly Genealogical Lecture Series by choosing a regular day and time, ours is 3rd Tuesdays at 7pm (excluding July, August and December), to increase appeal to novices, seasoned researchers and increase attendance. We continue to schedule a variety of topics and speakers; Ethnic research strategies (Polish, German, Irish, English, Scottish, Swedish, etc.), Genealogy computer program comparisons of Family Tree Maker & Roots Magic, Online resource demonstration and instruction for Ancestry and Heritage Quest, FamilySearch.org Experts (LDS), Immigration & Naturalization, Marriage Records, Collateral Relations, Cemetery Research, Writing Your Family History, Old Photograph identification and restoration and Local History.

Contact Vicky Tobias at the Algonquin Area Public Library for more information.

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