V. Outreach and Advocacy

5.1, 5.3 and 5.4

Our youth services committee, of which I am the chair, spent time over the course of 3 meetings to discuss in-depth barriers to service.  We divided the conversation into three parts: identifying the barriers, what libraries currently do to address barriers, and what we would like to be able to do.  This was a collaborative effort and represents youth services as a whole in our county, not just my library, but I am proud of the work we did as a community and think that the resulting lists we compiled are important.  They have also helped us to document for our library directors and policy group what direction we would like to see the leadership of the county go in.

Barriers to service for youth in Washington County:

The group took time to discuss and generate a list of barriers to library service experienced by children and their families around the county. There was an emphasis on how these barriers are felt exponentially by marginalized populations, to the point that it sometimes feels disingenuous to do library outreach that focuses on getting kids to the library while these barriers are in place:

Related to Library Cards: Related to Using the Library: Related to Perceptions:
fines (especially for teen access) getting to the library—transportation issues


not knowing about the library
parent barriers to providing ID info language barriers (signage, printed materials, the catalog) lack of staff time for outreach work and need for professional development in this area
Issues of foster kids (what adult gets them a card? And other issues that arise)


cultural norm differences (i.e. communication) and knowledge of them perception of reading as “work”


legal guardian/family structure issues (i.e. divorced, separated, or unmarried families; grandparents as de facto parents, etc.)


technical issues: no Wi-Fi/limited access to devices for long periods of time little to no understanding of “the culture of libraries” (expectations, how to use it, etc.)
lost items and/or “ruined cards” open hours of physical library buildings class issues/perceptions of the library as “not for them” from both low and high socioeconomic populations
parental consent self-consciousness/ fear of being “kicked out” (for being “too loud” for instance) libraries’ reputation in the community (long community memories may keep new families away)
eBook portal: accessing kid items easily community partners need to understand what we do so they can think of us when referring families Apparent shifts of values of the dominant culture (examples given: parents may be hesitant to let children go out by themselves; the need for libraries to quantify their value rather than being accepted as having intrinsic value)


How Libraries are Addressing Barriers to Service

The committee generated a non-exhaustive list of the ways we address the barriers we identified.  Not all libraries do all of these things, but we all do what we are able.

Outside the Library

  • Outreach to Summer Food Sites/Summer Schools
    • SRP programming, signups, prizes
  • Partnerships with Community Organizations
    • Affordable housing, Title I Schools
      • Family literacy nights at apartment complexes
      • Summer Reading partnerships
  • Summer Reading in family childcare homes (onsite participation)
  • Library card drives that focus on full grade levels (for instance, 4th & 5th)
  • Hillsboro school district is looking into getting library cards for all children during school registration
  • Late open hours (9pm) makes the library a warm place for families to spend their time
  • Bilingual staff
  • No-fine borrowing programs (Library on Wheels, Bookshare, Books for Kids)
  • Outreach with e-card promotion and registration at Beaverton schools
  • Outreach promoting e-resources and databases
  • Books for Babies: babies under 1 year old get a free board book, fingerplay booklet, and informative insert (English and Spanish options)
  • Little Lending Libraries inside classrooms


Inside the Library

  • Alternate collections (Library of Things, games, etc.)
  • Displays that feature diverse titles
  • Multiple copies of popular titles
  • Using inclusive language (i.e. “grownup” rather than “mom” or “parent”)
  • Not requiring parental consent for library cards
  • Patience with noise levels
  • Making necessary supplies available for in-library use: headphones, school supplies, etc.
  • IT workarounds when students visit the library and their school device cannot connect to the WIFI
  • Creating a safe and inviting environment in the library
  • Free WiFi and computers in the library
    • “no judgment” access and friendly guidance
  • Paperback collections that don’t require checkout
  • Child “credits” to the Friends’ book sale
  • Materials in multiple languages
  • Materials that represent diverse populations
  • Storytime in languages other than English
  • Offering families different types of cards: limited borrower, family card
    • These card types “give families the tools they need, not demand they use what we have”
  • No damage fees on board boards
  • Inclusive library hours: time before the library is open especially for people with sensory related issues
  • Inclusive storytime/incorporating accessibility options into storytime


Community Organization Partnerships

The following organizations are examples of partnerships that help us reach marginalized populations:

  • WIC (storytimes onsite)
  • Head Start
  • Good Neighbor Center
  • Rolling Hills Church (ESL classes)
  • CPAH (affordable housing organization)
  • ELWC Family Resource Managers
  • School Districts
  • Pediatrics Offices (making books available)
  • Parks and Rec (afterschool programs)
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Teen Parent programs
  • Hawkins House (alternative school)
  • Local shelters
  • Hospitals
  • Early Intervention/NWRESD
  • Tigard Turns the Tide


Barriers pt. 3 – what we’d like to be able to do    

This list varies from doable to pie-in-the-sky ideas for serving our most underserved and marginalized youth and families. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • Formal mechanism for foster children to obtain library cards
  • Clear support for increased outreach and partnership (i.e., WIC, Title I Schools, etc.)
    • Examples given: addressing language barriers more comprehensively; stronger partnerships with in-home child cares like those in Books for Kids; remote check out and card registration for outreach events; training in outreach
  • Bookmobile/Bike Bookmobile
  • Transportation support
    • Examples given: deliberate bus stop/library promotion; Trimet partnership (maybe tri-county?); other rideshare partnership
  • More clear connections with each other and community partners (what is everyone doing? Are we doubling efforts? Are all schools served by a library?)
  • Off-site book drops, and/or clear messaging that you can drop off a book at any WCCLS site
  • Financial stuff: no fines for teenagers? Fine forgiveness drives?
  • Targeting adults as a way to get cards to kids (over 60% of adults in the county do not have a library card)
  • Clarity on billing notices (e.g. “if you bring the book back in good condition you do not owe money”)
  • Can we make our code of borrowing more clear? Decoding institutional language for the user
  • More discussion regarding the need for a Parent ID
  • Closer countywide relationship with the schools
    • Examples given: building institutional enthusiasm to ensure that school administrators foster a working knowledge of the school-library connection among their staff; county staff visiting with superintendents and other high-level administration; library open-house-for-educators coordination
  • Prepackaged PowerPoint presentations (for example, on databases for use in schools) posted on the extranet and continuously updated