by Meghan Lynch
Business Outreach Librarian
Chester County Library
The Welcome to the Library program at the Chester County Library in Exton, PA, was inspired by the realization that although new library card holders are given a lot of literature about various library programs and services at the time that they sign up for their new card, circulation staff can’t possibly explain all of the library’s services and programs in a transaction that lasts just a few minutes.
Reference and Information Librarian Nancy Niggel teamed up with Volunteer Coordinator Susan Walraed and library volunteer Craig Miller to create an hour and a half long presentation that all new card holders are invited to attend. The program is held approximately quarterly and has been offered both in the afternoon and the evening. New library users are given bookmarks promoting the program when they sign up for their new library card and an email invitation is sent out to everyone who has applied for a new card since the program was last offered.
Nancy, Susan, and Craig realized there wouldn’t be enough time to teach everyone how to access and use everything the library has to offer during the presentation, so they decided to focus on telling attendees about the variety of programs and services available through the library and who to speak to or where to look in order to find more information about each. Topics covered include adult and children’s reference services, the Museum Pass program, WiFi hotspot lending, the library’s Digital Media Lab and Makerspace, business and career services, the Friends group, and the 24/7 services that can be accessed remotely, such as databases, eBooks, eAudiobooks, and eMagazines. Each presentation ends with highlights of upcoming programs and events.
The decision to have a library volunteer be involved in the planning and to be the one to present the program was inspired by Susan’s attendance at the 2017 Conference on Volunteering and Service sponsored by the Points of Light Institute. A brainstorming session about innovative ways to utilize volunteers in libraries resulted in the suggestion of a welcome program from a volunteer’s perspective, which often is a less technical standpoint then that of library staff. Craig was a natural fit as a presenter, as he was a relatively new volunteer who had wholeheartedly embraced learning as much as he could about the various library departments and services. He also brought a human touch to the program, sharing with attendees his evolution from non-user to enthusiastic library volunteer. Craig stepped back from his role after several presentations but helpfully shared all of the resources he had created.
The program is now also being presented by Kathy Pearse, a Chester County Library System Board member, who brings a unique perspective, supplementing the existing material with statistics including door count, the number of books in the collection, even information about funding sources, in addition to sharing personal stories about being a patron and supporter of the library for over 30 years.
This easily replicable program supports the PA Forward Information Literacy Initiative.
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