Serving unique communities with diverse interests and needs: a conversation with Alison Weissinger
DeKalb County Public Library (DCPL) is Georgia Public Library of the Year.
“DeKalb County Public Library is a system of individual library locations serving unique communities with diverse interests and needs,” said Director Alison Weissinger. “We created the Read More Campaign to coalesce all 22 library locations under a common goal of promotion, outreach, and unity.”
The campaign includes promotional items such as Read More staff t-shirts, car magnets and signage, as well as integrated outreach efforts. Their slogan “Read More. Think More. Play More. Make More. Get More.” highlights the many ways the community can engage with the library and its resources.
Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS): How does DCPL impact lives and communities?
Alison Weissinger (AW): We impact the lives of our patrons in many ways – for example, for the last several years we have really focused on early childhood education initiatives because we are well positioned to fill the gap before children start formal schooling. We have sought funding and resources to expand the PrimeTime Family program to four additional DeKalb communities as well as ensuring that we are able to distribute 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten reading kits to several thousand children each year.
GPLS: What are some of the innovative things you are doing?
Barbershop Book collections – placing high-interest collections of books in spaces where kids often get stuck waiting for their parents. Barbershops are community hubs in the African American neighborhoods, so it was a natural fit.
Fine Free Summer, which exempted all overdue juvenile materials from overdue fees from June to September 2018. This program encouraged parents and children to check out books to prevent summer learning loss.
“Take the Internet Home with You,” which offers patrons free mobile hotspot devices for checkout.
Human Library Project, which involves human “books” sharing their life experiences with participants in one-on-one conversations.
Our Local Author Expo — we have held three of these events that allow for local, DeKalb based authors to talk about and showcase their work. This has given us an outlet to be able to recognize and support local, self-published authors.
GPLS: What are you most proud of?
AW: DCPL is proud to be part of a network of great public libraries all over Georgia – the history of resource sharing and strong statewide leadership have helped us be stronger than we would be on our own.
We also are proud of our dedicated staff members, whose spirit of service and desire to meet community needs is the heart of DCPL. We also are grateful for the strong support from our many Friends of the Library groups at the DeKalb Library Foundation; these are folks who volunteer time and money because they believe in what we are doing.
GPLS: How do you keep the community engaged with the library?
AW: We are constantly trying to have community needs and interests reflected in the programs and services we offer. Some of these include our mobile hot spots for free check out, PrimeTime Family reading programs, the Georgia Center for the Book, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, The Human Library Project, the Summer Reading Program, our Senior Advisory Board and Teen Advisory Board.
We also look for other like-minded organizations to partner with and expand opportunities for our patrons, for example working with DeKalb Workforce Development to host their mobile career bus, hosting the Mobile Farmer’s Market run by the DeKalb Extension Service at branches located in food deserts and working with the DeKalb Board of Health to provide rapid HIV testing.