Extending Our Reach

Screen caption of me on the left listening to a fellow volunteer during our outreach day at Straley House.

I attended “Librarian Outreach to the Homeless in Seattle: Midwinter Day of Caring” at this year’s American Libraries Association Midwinter Meeting – just a hop, skip, and jump from where I live in Northern California. It was exciting not only to see first-hand one of the organizations engaging with homeless persons in Seattle but to personally contribute a little bit to the awesome work they do!

Attendees chose what kind of activity they wanted to participate in and then we were off. I chose a youth organization “green and clean” and though it was actually all house cleaning (I thought with the name we’d be doing some outside work too) I had a great time with my fellow volunteers. I love the ideas and energy that comes from connecting with other librarians! YouthCare‘s Straley House is doing incredible, important work with homeless youth, providing them with essential services such as safe housing and more with life skills workshops. We heard from an employee of the house how important libraries are for their youth in terms of providing resources for job searching and checking email.

We received a handout “Extending Our Reach” with information about homeless person’s usage of libraries that I was able to pass on to my colleague; we had spoken briefly prior to my attendance at Midwinter about trends in our homeless population’s library usage. I especially appreciated the last section with examples of model programs that some libraries have implemented. We ran short on time at Straley House, and I wish I could have heard information or best-practices about better engaging one-on-one with homeless populations in our libraries. However, I left with hands-on experience with resources available to homeless population in that region and some resources to help guide me in learning more.

When we left the sun was reflecting our moods – shining brightly like the big smile on my face from a great day giving a bit of my time to make a difference with other like-minded individuals!

You can read more about this great event and watch a short video of us at work in an article written up in ALA’s American Libraries – briefly catch me moping the bathroom I deep-cleaned and even read a little blurb about me. Click here to download a PDF of the American Libraries article.


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