Scholarship Report: Jenni Sturm – Assoc. of Bookmobile and Outreach Services: On the Road

Event: Assoc. of Bookmobile and Outreach Services: On the Road | Out of the Box — Omaha, NE – October 19-25, 2019

Attendee: Jess Lind – Library Assistant I – Bookmobile, Rochester Public Library

How does attending this event relate to your current role in your library?

My job duties at Rochester Public Library focus mainly on three areas: bookmobile, homebound and deposit. The annual Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) conference is centered primarily on these three areas of library outreach.

The event does include sessions dealing with programming that you can take on the road with you. Some libraries have a dedicated Outreach department that does on-the-road programming from their bookmobile. For RPL, on-the-road programming is done mainly by the Youth Services department.

What was your favorite session you attended and why?

My favorite session was called “#morethanbooks: Scalable Outreach Programming.” The presenter, Rachel Yzaguirre, discussed how her Outreach department has taken their most popular in-library programs and figured out how to perform them in 5 minutes or less when programming offsite.

In order to engage with more patrons, Rachel brings materials that appeal to all ages to programming events. For example, she brings giant sized Checkers, Connect 4, and Jenga games to Senior Living facilities. She brings Lego Wedo, Snap Circuits, and Bee Bots for kids when at events geared towards kids. While the kids and adults are playing, she makes sure to tell parents about in-library programs focusing on STEAM for kids. She also does this for adult Maker Space programming.

One of the things I found most interesting was that she sends post-event surveys to staff. Some of the questions she asks staff deal with: 1) staffing (not enough or too many), 2) if the partnership is viable (some events lack partner communication and it gets messy), 3) what type of patrons were at the event (young, old, non-English speaking, etc. – maybe a bilingual staff member should go next year), 4) overall staff impressions. She uses staff input to determine if the library will go to the event again or how they can better connect with patrons at the next event.

Would you recommend this event to others and why?

I would definitely recommend this event to anyone who is trying to start an Outreach department in their library or simply looking for ways to improve upon and/or expand current outreach services offered by their library.

Many of the sessions that are presented at the annual ABOS conference deal with Outreach departments that were recently created or departments that wanted to take a step back, evaluate, and re-design their outreach services. The information provided by the presenters tell you how to start from the ground up, what did/did not work well, what they learned throughout the process, and how they were able to improve their services for their patrons.

Every library is different – while they all might offer the same services, how that service is provided can vary greatly. These presentations are a great way to learn how other libraries offer outreach services. It is also a great event if you want to network with people from libraries across the country.