By Spencer Pennington, Outreach Coordinator, Cherokee Regional Library System
“I would love to get locked in the library so I could read constantly,” exclaimed Chris, a local elementary student, to staff at Cherokee Regional Library System’s Pop-Up Library during the recent Community Egg Hop in LaFayette, Georgia.
But just like our branches, this pop-up library is more than books.
“The pop-up lets us see upcoming events and virtual library uses,” wrote another patron. At the Community Egg Hog, we highlighted our upcoming Summer Reading Program and gave information on how to access the library from anywhere using our digital resources. Kids had fun painting bookmarks, coloring Pete the Cat sheets, and playing giant Connect Four, which were available to give our neighbors an idea of the fun that awaits at the library.
At the Egg Hop, our pop-up had a fun addition: a prize wheel. Any patron who registered for a card not only got to spin the wheel, they will also receive a gift upon their first visit to a branch.
This strategy reflects our outreach philosophy that drives both the pop-up and outreach our branches conduct. We want to find people where they are and meet their immediate needs. However, we need people in the library to connect them with the full range of resources. Books, DVDs, programs, research, helpful staff, community spaces, wi-fi and computers – all the irreplaceable assets many community members do not know are available.
The Pop-Up Library is a new project of the Cherokee Regional Library System, supported with funds from the Georgia Public Library Service. It travels across Walker and Dade Counties in Northwest Georgia promoting library services, connecting people with their local branches, and registering new patrons.
When this project was first proposed, Cherokee Regional leadership suspected patrons did not know about the range of digital resources available to them, and this suspicion has been confirmed. Pop-up staff use the opening question, “Do you have a library card?” to start the conversation. This is usually met with a disinterested “yes.” The follow-up, “Have you heard about Libby?” is where the conversation gets really good.
Libby gives access to thousands of ebooks and audiobooks from anywhere, on any device, absolutely free. This line brings them in every time! From here, it’s easy to showcase other digital resources like Learning Express Library or Mango Languages. Then it’s a natural bridge to programs and physical resources. Most people had never considered that the library offers more than dusty books – imagine their surprise when they find out we have a Lego club!
The work of the Cherokee Regional Pop-Up Library is just beginning. Over the next few months, we will have a booth at the region’s most popular outdoor festivals: the LaFayette Honeybee Festival and Down Home Days in Chickamauga. We will be at the Garden Fest plant sale, where master gardeners from one branch’s garden club will join the pop-up to give expert garden advice. We are attending a Glow Run, then speaking at the Southeast Lineman Training Center. Of course, we can never leave out our public schools. We will visit an elementary school’s Fine Arts Fair to connect students and parents with free resources.
New pop-up events are added often, and as summer rolls in, we are excited to expand our partnerships with recreational sports leagues, senior centers, schools, and other community groups to get the library involved in all that our communities have to offer.
The most important lesson from the Pop-Up Library is that outreach is two-way work. It’s not enough to ask people if we can come out. “Can I bring my table to register new library cards” will languish in an inbox. “Can I bring giant Connect Four and seeds for the kids to sow” gets you an invite, a thank-you, and usually a new connection.