A few months ago, one of the librarians at RIT contacted me about the possibility of having a public library card sign up day at their library. She was thinking that even students who couldn’t get transportation to our library could still access all kinds of wonderful things through OverDrive (our ebook and downloadable audiobook system). We have a lot of students living in our town, and the idea of doing more to serve their needs and also to collaborate with our area colleges has come up multiple times in brainstorming sessions with staff, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to start taking steps in that direction. So through a lot of emailing and one meeting, we developed a plan and set a date.
Now our library has never to my knowledge done outreach where we issue library cards at a remote location, or, if we have done it, it’s not a routine sort of thing. (Anne issues library cards to students in classes, but that’s a different sort of process entirely, and, honestly, way more complicated. Anne and Cathy deserve multiple gold stars for their dedication to making that work.) I figured I was going to have to go out and do this thing myself because I really wasn’t sure how or even if it was going to work, but I also know that I am probably the slowest library card issuer on our staff, because I just don’t do it enough to be quick. So I asked one of our clerks, Dacy, to come help because a.) she’s a college student, b.) I knew I could count on her to go with the flow, even if things went badly, and c.) she is way faster at issuing library cards than I am. Lucky for me, she said yes.
Then I had to figure out how to get a laptop that could connect to the staff side of our circulation system, which was a whole thing. Thank yous to Tonia, Anita, and Lynn for helping me figure this out. I’ll tell you what: it takes a village to help you plan your first offsite library card sign up day. So, anyway, I did get that problem solved, and this morning, Dacy and I set out with three laptops (because I wasn’t taking my chances), a bunch of brochures (thanks to Dacy, Kristen, and Terry for these), and some cool light-up key chains Rosanne gave me right before we left.
When we got to the Wallace Library, we found that they’d set up signs and a nice table, and they even helped us get all the technology working.
Dacy worked with one of the RIT librarians at the blue table issuing cards while I worked at the high table showing people how to access OverDrive though whatever device they happened to have. We issued 26 cards in two hours, and they even fed us cake. It was informal and pleasant and worked well. Dacy suggested that next time we should try to figure out how to attach a scanner to the laptop, which, yes, we should do.
I loved a lot about this. It’s been months and months since I’ve done an outreach thing with the public, which was such a regular part of my old job. This was different than going to a preschool and doing a storytime, but, then again, not so different. I was engaging users out in their natural environment, and that is something I have always loved to do. I also enjoyed the process of working with all the different people who helped make this happen. It was a relatively small event, but it was also a successful one we can build on. In fact, we’re talking about doing another library card sign up day at RIT this fall. I’ll be looking forward to it.