Over the past year, I’ve noticed that my programming numbers have been slipping. It happens. We’ve all been there, but when I started to look at who was coming I realized two things: 1) They’re basically the same kids that have been coming for years & 2) they’re almost all 8th grade and up. I realized that if things were going to change, I need to get myself into the schools more ASAP.
I decided to tackle this mission in multiple ways. First, I reached out to the school librarians I already had good working relationships with, which was 4 out of my 9-11 schools. We talked over email and in person about what they needed from me and what I could do to make stronger partnerships. This included coming in for a monthly craft, helping with an art project, Brunch with Books, helping with Battle of the Battle Books & the normal open houses as well.
The second thing I did was send out a pamphlet to all the other schools. I’d been emailing several of them for about a year with no luck, so I thought maybe this way would be better. Here’s the pamphlet that I sent out:
(Bigger view at Canva or PDF)
I’d like to say that it was a home run, but I didn’t hear back from a single. To say I was a bit defeated was an understatement. Instead, I focused on the schools I could get into.
For one of my local high schools, I’ve been doing a monthly craft since November. So far, we done paint sample notebooks, DIY pendants, & Book Hedgehogs. Basically, projects that the teens can get done in 25 minutes or less. It’s been fun to watch my numbers grow as I come back each month. Some have even started to come with friends. It’s also been a sneaky way to find out what they’d like to see at the library as well.
In one of my middle schools, I came in and helped out with the GN art project. She got a grant for a whole bunch of GNs, which she had the kids read. After they were done reading, she had them draw a scene or character out of the GN they read. I’ll admit that I was basically an extra set of hands, but it allowed the teens to see my face. Also, it was super cool to see what talents these teens had.
Then, dear readers, something miraculous happened in January. My other schools started to call me! We were invited to two high school exploration nights plus another one asked us to come in and do a e-magazine presentation. SCORE. In fact, the one exploration night went amazingly; we ended up doing 19 library cards that night. Usually, we’re lucky if we do anything at all.
Fate has continued to smile on me as well as I’ve added two of those high schools into my monthly craft rotation. One of them started because they saw pictures of the pendants we did and wanted to do it there as well. The other, well, she shares the same name as with the high school librarian I was already working with. I’ll admit, I accidently sent her an email about doing book hedgehogs meant for the other librarian. WHOOPS. But after the amazing exploration night, she was willing to bring me in and try them in her library as well; we had a whopping 55 teens come in and do them. WOOT.
Thankfully, the good luck has continued over into summer reading visits as well. I sent out my typical email letting them know when I was available a couple weeks ago. Usually it takes a few days to weeks to fill up. This time though? All of my available days were gone in 24 hours. In fact, I’m double booked one day where I’m sending one of my co-workers in my place. I’ll have 16 visits in all at 8 different schools. This includes two high schools (a first!), two middle schools I’d not been able to get into the past couple of years, and 1 middle school I’ve never been to at all! I’ll be ending the school year with a BANG for sure.
I know outreach can be tough and often discouraging. And I know that my success this year has probably more to do with luck than anything else, but don’t give up! Keep sending those email, letters and whatever else. Go outside the box whenever possible & find ways that you can make it about them. After all, the more the teens see our faces, for whatever reason, the more likely they’re going to come see you at the library.
I’d love to hear about what others are doing outreach as well. If you have a cool partnership, be sure to let me know about it!