Library outreach deserves applause

Published 11:52 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

The library was a treasured space for me as a kid.

My earliest memories of the library involve scouring the kid’s section for books from the “Hardy Boys” mystery series, which my mom refused to purchase because she wanted me to be a girly-girl and at least, for the love of Pete, read the “Nancy Drew” series instead.

She would let me check them out from the library, though, so I read them all multiple times. On occasion, I’d find one I didn’t think I’d read before, only to get a few pages in and realize I had, in fact, read it. No matter. I kept reading anyway.

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Later on, for three summers, I volunteered for the summer reading program, which then, unlike now, involved absolutely zero use of technology. Kids would log the books they had read on paper sheets and bring them to us young teenage volunteers at the desk during certain hours. We would then record the number of books they had read and let them pick a prize.

When I got to high school, I would go to the library during the school year to research term papers and during the summer to check out works by Shakespeare, Dickens and the like — a decidedly far cry from “Hardy Boys,” but still not what my mom would have preferred. She was usually downstairs looking for Stephen King novels.

Back then, it never occurred to me that the reason I was able to frequent the city library, which wasn’t anywhere near walking distance, was that I had two parents who both had vehicles and a grandmother who not only had a vehicle but also was retired and always willing to cart me wherever I wanted to go. While not terribly well off, our family had enough money that the cost of gas for the round trip to the library wasn’t a big deal.

It never occurred to me back then that there were kids who didn’t get to go to the library because they were not as privileged as I was.

However, I now realize, of course, that is an unfortunate reality that many in Suffolk are dealing with. That’s why it’s so cool that Suffolk Public Library has an Outreach and Program Services Team that’s so great they recently won an award for their work.

The library won the Virginia Library Association’s Public Library Innovator Award for outreach projects that have broken down barriers to access. The Library2Go service takes library resources out to underserved areas like public housing neighborhoods, retirement and assisted living homes as well as rural areas.

The Outreach and Program Services Team also started a prison re-entry outreach to focus on helping inmates develop the skills, tools and support they need to find their place in society once they get out.

On behalf of all the little kids who just want to read some mystery books, and all the teenagers and adults who still rely on the library, I want to say thank you to the Suffolk Public Library. I’m proud that our library has these programs to help extend its services to all Suffolk residents.

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