Community Connection in Micro-Libraries
“I was definitely one of those kids that grew up in the library. My dad would take me and drop me off, and I’d just read all day long.”
Brianna Anderson, ‘17 MLIS
Librarian II and Branch Manager of the Micro-Libraries
Stockton-San Joaquin County, California
Brianna Anderson oversees three micro-libraries in the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library System: Van Buskirk, Stribley and Arnold Rue. These micro libraries are located within community centers that serve their immediate neighborhoods. Having previously worked as an assistant librarian in the small town of Escalon, the experience of managing three libraries and not having a single “home-base” is an adjustment. It’s been a matter of balancing the diverse needs of the different populations as well as, “trying to combat economic hardship in certain places.”
The intimate connection with the community is a strength of the micro-libraries, increasing their reach to include, as Brianna describes, “people who may not go to the library on their own, who may not go to a traditional branch library for whatever reason. We get a lot of people who just kind of walk in.” In this way, each micro-library can serve as a connection between the larger library system and the neighborhoods. Brianna notes that the model of close community connection, which she defines as “some kind of bridge to connect communities together,” is something being considered in the creation of new libraries. Bringing communities together is one of the important services that a library can provide. When programs are happening in the micro libraries, she observes that, at first, it’s the kids who are doing the program while their parents off to the side. But then, “after a little bit,” says Brianna, “their parents are participating too. Everybody’s talking together, and the parents are helping kids with their crafts and talking to other parents.”
Serving Multiple Sites
The only full-time staff member, Brianna oversees a part-time staff of 18. There is usually only one staff member at a given library at a time, unless programming which may require two or three librarians is occurring. The hardest part of Brianna’s position is that “you can’t be everywhere at once, so you really have to learn how to prioritize your time.” Managing so many staff members across different locations has required a lot of organization and time-management skills, something she learned through her iSchool education.
When she started (on January 2, 2020), the micro-libraries were hosting different programs at each site on a daily basis. This put a lot of pressure and stress on the library staff. Brianna was in the process of streamlining the programs to help lighten the staff’s burden when work got interrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic. Now the micro-libraries, along with the community centers they are housed in, are closed. For the time being the bulk of her work is focused on providing content for the Stockton-San Joaquin County social media sites, which serve the 16 libraries in their system. However, she is also continuing to serve the micro-library communities, noting that “library and recreation have teamed up to provide brown bag groceries and lunches for school-age children at all sites. I’ve been taking books to little free libraries set up right outside of the community centers for people to pick up while the libraries themselves are closed.”
Brianna has enjoyed creating programs for these libraries and is looking forward to getting back to that work as soon as she can. One program she’d been running was called: “Happy Something Day.” The program used wacky holidays as a focal point for activities. “We did sock doughnuts for wacky sock day, which was fun. The food programs are always a huge hit with the kids.” A “What’s Cooking” program explored simple, no-bake recipes with the kids, and there are gardening and planting programs with the adults.
Of all the programs she’d been running, Brianna’s favorites are the science-based ones – such as making light-up Valentine’s Day cards using simple circuits – and the crafts, like painting teapot flower vases and doing stained glass. To help determine what programming should be done, she does community surveys as each micro-library’s community is interested in different things and topics. This allows her to tailor the programming to the needs and wants of the individual community. “One of the [micro-libraries] pretty much only sees kids and teens, we don’t really see any adults at all. One of them has lots of seniors, so I try to tailor to different demographics.”
Brianna is hoping to incorporate some literacy programming within the micro-libraries. Before the Covid 19 closures, they had storytimes and a teen book club. But the regulations of her system, which don’t allow individuals under 18 to get a library card without parental permission, has created some challenges in this. Since the kids can’t check out materials, they’re working to provide them “with things while they’re there.” Brianna also recognizes that “a lot of them see the library as a pure fun place, not necessarily a literacy place. So, when they come to us, they want to do things. They want to do different experiments or play video games. I’m learning how to insert literacy into those things they’re already driven to do.”