At the ALA conference earlier this week, I had the privilege of hearing how two librarians enhance outreach by using new technologies outside the library. The presenters were Erin Berman, a recent Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and her colleague Amelia Vander Heide, both from the San Jose Public Library. The program was called Tech in the Streets. This program was very timely due to the recently deployed SCLS mobile hot spots and the soon-to-be deployed mobile circulation kits. Having live access to the ILS can be very beneficial to mobile outreach projects. Below are my "takeaways" from the presentation.
The presenters provided a common-sense approach to identifying and planning programs using technology that you can do outside of the library.
- First, ask Why. One of their "whys" was to reach patrons where they are, especially in under-served areas.
- Second, ask How. They suggest doing a community assessment. What do people want? Then do an internal assessment. Do you have the hardware, staff, time and resources to do the program. Are there grant or sponsorship opportunities? Do you need anything special, like permits to use the location? SCLS provides maker kits and other equipment that could help you meet some of your internal needs.
- Finally, identify the Where. You can pick more traditional places, like farmer's markets or street fairs. But they point out that un-traditional spaces equal new opportunities (for example a skate park).
Their projects have ranged from very simple like taking a tablet to show people e-content or very complex like their new "Makerspaceship" which is a $400,000 plus bus. On the simple side, they described their experience with going to a senior center to show people how to download e-books on various devices. One of the things they had to do was to help people re-set their passwords. SCLS has two e-reader kits that can be reserved for a program like this.
A more complex event involved taking GoPros and a mobile maker kit with laptops and movie editing software to a skate park. They provided harnesses for the GoPros. Quite a few kids tried out the GoPros. I thought this was pretty nifty as they reached out to a group of kids who may not otherwise experience library services even if in the end, only a few kids tried the video-editing software. SCLS has a stop motion animation kit that includes video editing software which could assist with a program like this.
I hope that my summary of this awesome presentation inspires you to "take tech to the streets."