The library in awesome & unexpected places

Artwork by John LeMasney, lemasney.com.

Artwork by John LeMasney, lemasney.com.

I'm super excited to be part of the Show Me the Awesome multi-blog series, coordinated by Kelly Jensen (read her introductory post), Sophie Brookover (check out the Show Me the Awesome Tumblr) and Liz Burns.

My Show Me the Awesome post is all about bringing the library and a lot of the neat stuff we support: literacy, creativity, and child development, outside of the library. Early on in my career as a librarian (first as a youth librarian and now as an Assistant Director focusing on programming and outreach) I discovered that as much as I enjoy facilitating programs that take place in the library, surrounded by our books and other media, I really really like popping up in funky or unorthodox places to bring library activities to the community at times outside of the regular library routine. 

I have two “pop-up” programs taking place this summer in my capacity as Assistant Director for a small public library in Wisconsin. One is a library table at our town’s Saturday farmers market. We provide supplies for a hands-on project that kids (and grown-ups!) can do, along with a bookmark with “related titles” of books and other media from our collection.

Another activity (one that we’re trying for the first time in our community) is a partnership with our local swimming pool! Every week I’ll be at the pool under an umbrella (armed with a big floppy sunhat) for “Break with a Book” - a short (20 min.) story time that coincides with the afternoon adult swim time. Kids sit on their towels and I read a picture book (something familiar that they can engage with and don’t have to crowd super close to see the pictures) and we sing a couple of songs. When the whistle blows, it’s back into the water. 

I love these encounters, brief though they may be, that take place outside of the library in the summer time. For one thing, we’re adding value for important community partners like our local growers association and our community pool - both groups mention us in their advertising as an added draw for families. Prep for these activities need not be extensive; I keep a running list of titles and songs that would work at the pool going constantly and always try to sing familiar songs so that I don’t need to bring song sheets with me.

I find that these activities are a good way to connect with kids and families who aren’t necessarily coming to the library for summer reading events and programs. It's a chance to remind them about upcoming events, and answer questions about library cards and fines. 

I KNOW that other libraries "pop-up" in unexpected places - without being able to point directly to other examples, I know that I've heard about story times and other activities at campgrounds, on the banks of a river, in parks, stadiums, and more. The opportunities are endless. Unexpected, yes, but awesome? Absolutely! 

Follow the awesome on Twitter at #30awesome.