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PopUp books

NLCL partners with pantry to bring library materials to more patrons

NORTH LIBERTY– Patrons who use the North Liberty Community Pantry have an nice list of items to choose from these days: not just boxed and canned goods, but also fresh produce, toiletries, and sometimes cleaning supplies and paper goods.
And now…books.
The North Liberty Community Library (NLCL) has partnered with the pantry to provide Pop-Up Library services there twice each month, to give pantry clients the chance to obtain library cards, place reservations on materials, or check out and return books, DVDs, magazines and other materials. Even technology services, like the use of laptop computers, will be available at the site.
The first Pop-Up Library session at the pantry took place April 14. Library staff members loaded up a vehicle with books, library materials and equipment and toted it across town to the pantry at 85 N. Jones Blvd.
“It went well,” said NLCL Adult Services Librarian Elaine Hayes. “A lot of people were curious.”
The PopUp Library concept was one result of the library’s strategic planning process, said NLCL Library Director Jennie Garner. The Planning for Results program is promoted by the American Library Association as a model to help public librarians identify and respond to community needs. The NLCL used the model last year; a volunteer consultant from the Iowa Library Services led a group of community leaders, library staff and users, social services representatives, church leaders and library board members through the rigorous self-evaluation tool.
“It helped us target service areas we wanted to work on and improve,” Garner said. The group identified major goals, objectives and tasks to meet those goals. “It’s a fluid document that will allow us to shift things around as needed. What I really like about it is that it came from the community; we got input from the board, the staff and people who use the facility.”
One of the targeted service goals that arose from the strategic planning process was to express creativity and stimulate imagination– for NLCL, this meant helping patrons find things they need and want in library materials, and even delivering that material in a new way.
“We asked, where can we be to reach the most people who maybe aren’t using the library? Who are we under-serving?” Garner said.
Since North Liberty lacks public intra-city transportation, there are people who simply can’t get to the library housed in the North Liberty Community Center on Cherry Street. It made sense, then, to take the library to them, said Hayes.
“Libraries are changing, going out into the community more and more. We can’t expect everybody to come to us all the time,” she said. While Children’s Services Librarian Andrew Frisbie does outreach by visiting different daycare centers each week, NLCL has never offered off-site outreach to adults before.
The library has partnered a great deal with many area organizations, providing meeting space for nonprofit organizations like Iowa Workforce Development and the Crisis Center of Iowa City, serving as a satellite location for early voting, and working with other libraries in the area to bring in All Iowa Reads authors for presentations. The NLCL has also conducted its Food for Fines program for years, offering the chance for patrons to pay their overdue fines with cans of food that get donated to the pantry.
“Those types of things are what make everybody stronger and better,” Garner said. “I just think we can do more. There are always ways we can reach people who can’t get to the library, or who wouldn’t want to come in because they don’t know what we offer.”
Since some pantry clients lack their own transportation, and because books are often one of the most popular items to be whisked off the shelves when they are donated, Pantry Director DuBois said the PopUp Library program is a good fit for her organization.
“Families take them home, so we know people like to have the books and materials. We definitely saw a desire to have more access,” DuBois said.
Ready access to library materials has benefits beyond convenience, both DuBois and Garner believe.
“Education is a long-term solution to poverty,” said DuBois. “If we can get more books into their hands– to adults, to prekindergarten children who otherwise might not be exposed to books because their parents can’t afford them– we are going to increase the positive education experiences, which impacts their future education choices, and education can help them secure employment…so eventually, they may not need to use the pantry at all.”
Garner agreed.
“Success draws directly on literacy and having good literacy skills, so getting that access to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come through the doors is really important,” Garner said.
It also has economic impact, Garner added. “When we help people do more– like showing people how to use the free resumé planning software, offering career computers they can get on for four hours to search for jobs, or letting employment groups come in and hold interviews– that is a service we can provide because we are hopefully helping people get jobs.”
PopUp Libraries at the pantry are just the first chapter in what Hayes and Garner hope will become a series of pop-ups throughout the community. After DuBois posted a comment on the pantry’s Facebook page about the PopUp Library, a resident of North Liberty Living Center replied he hoped the library would consider coming there as well. Hayes said the Living Center and other locations are already being considered.
Garner said she knows of other communities that even hold pop-up library opportunities in places like bars and laundromats.
“I don’t know that we will expand to that extent, but it’s logical for librarians not to just stay within their four walls, to be out and letting people know what we have to offer– and that it’s free. It levels the playing field for more people,” Garner said.
The library staff are now in the process of seeking grants to buy a small collection of materials that will be specific to North Liberty’s PopUp Library, rather than pulling existing materials off the shelves.
Hayes said requests for specific books, magazines or DVDs will be filled, even at the pop-up locations. Just call the library at 319-626-5701 to place a reservation.
“If people ask for certain kinds of materials, we will definitely meet their requests,” said Hayes.
“We want everybody to feel like the library is a good experience and find what they are looking for,” Garner added.
The next PopUp Library session at the pantry will be held Thursday, April 30.