One of the things I’d like to write more about is community-led children’s librarianship. A few years ago Dana wrote an introductory post about this topic with great examples. She also pointed to the Bible of community work: The Community-Led Libraries Toolkit. This model of service positions the community members as experts and asks library staff to examine the different barriers to access users face. I believe community outreach is a key part of our job, one I’m not willing to outsource to volunteers. So let’s dive deeper into the toolkit strategies that help me better understand my neighbhourhood. We’ll start with community mapping.
When I moved to my current library branch a year and a half ago I had a fair idea of the demographics. I looked up data from the Human Early Learning Partnership based out of the University of British Columbia which shows me the level of vulnerability and developmental health of the early years and middle years children in my specific catchment. I knew the types of stores and restaurants in the area because I don’t live far away. What I didn’t have a good grasp of were the key services for kids ages 0 – 12 years old: daycares, preschools, schools, and out-of-school care facilities. These were the groups I wanted to reach out to but I didn’t know where they were located.
Enter community mapping and Google maps. I’m a visual learner and have a much easier time keeping track of information when I can look at a picture. In the Community-Led Libraries Toolkit one of the strategies for getting to know your area is called community asset mapping. Community asset mapping “focuses on learning about the organised or formal groups in a community. It helps you learn about the services provided in the community and identify potential community partners, providing a launch pad for you to enter the community.” I decided to create a Google map specifically mapping those three groups to better understand the spread of services. Here’s what my map looks like. The yellow book icon is the library, the blue children are out-of-school care facilities, the purple houses are elementary schools, and the pink babies are preschools and daycares.
To create a map first open Google My Maps then select “Create a New Map.” There are tons of customization options. I didn’t do anything fancy. This website has a short video tutorial if you’d like to see a step-by-step guide. I like how you can colour code points, change the icons, and add notes.
Now I can easily spot daycares and preschools not within walking distance to the library or on an awkward public transit route. It’s also easy to spot the services that are clustered around a school, something I keep in mind when visiting classes. When I schedule an outreach visit I look at the map and check to see if there is another centre nearby I can visit, either to drop off information, do an informal storytime, or simply collect more information.
There is a notes field attached to each point on the map that allows me to track how often I visit, the centre’s access to books, if the centre has an institutional library card, the socioeconomic status of the families, language spoken in the centre, etc. You can write in anything you find useful! It’s great for an at-a-glance summary of the spaces families are using for childcare and learning in my neighbourhood. Here’s an example:
Community asset mapping can be used for much broader purposes too. In the toolkit, they list the following questions to consider when creating your map:
- Who lives, works, or visits around here? Where do people go?
- What do they identify as the best places to shop for groceries, stop for coffee, check a bulletin board, or relax in a park?
- Are there different “best places” for youth, families, seniors, or specific ethnic or economic groups?
- What types of services and resources are available in the community?
- What kinds of places or activities do people feel are missing from the community?
You can also invite the community to help you create your map. I’ve seen libraries make giant maps that they put on display and ask library users to add the places they frequent. You can also have staff go on community walks and come back and add any new developments they spot.
How do you get to know what’s in your library’s community? I’d love to hear about any other ideas!