Time for big picture break

Monday, May 20, 2013 - 12:49

Alaska Public Library Director Mary Jo Torgenson just released the 2012 report for the library. This document was a great reminder of the importance of stepping back and looking at the big picture. Though filled with numbers, the overall arc of the report emphasizes why the library does what it is doing.

The mission of the library is to “deliver opportunities for education, information and enrichment for Municipal residents.” To help focus this broad mission statement, we have set accomplishment goals:

• Increase opportunities for our children’s success when they enter school by teaching the foundations of reading, social skills and creative skills through early learning educational activities, such as, story times and summer reading programs.

• Improve civic engagement, cultural enrichment, and enhance the quality of life for all Anchorage residents through provision of life-long educational services including library materials, online resources, and programs/events.

• Improve economic advancement by providing equitable access to computing equipment and resources; and improve public safety by providing safe and stimulating places for teens, as well as clean, well-maintained buildings for all.


There are dozens and dozens of ways to work toward those goals, depending on what part of town the library is. We have made a lot of headway.

The Muldoon branch manager has joined the community council as a way of improving civic engagement. The Mountain View location has found one of the best ways to “increase opportunities for our children’s success” is to partner with the Anchorage Food Bank to provide regular meals for youth over the summer.

An article, “The Link between Public Libraries and Early Reading Success,” was the catalyst for a system-wide drive to increase the number of youth cards issued by 5% every year. According to the article, statistics showed that the states with the greatest circulation of kids’ library materials are also the states with the top reading scores among youth.

Another directive is to increase the participation in preschool activities by 5% annually. For every $1 invested in preschool activities, the return is $3, a great investment. However, “for low-income and disadvantaged youth, for every $1 invested in a quality pre-K program, there is a nearly $13 public benefit through savings on future public expenditures like special education, welfare and, especially crime.” (Bright Futures, the early childhood education newsletter of the National Governors Association).

Plans to expand early literacy areas in every neighborhood library are underway, thanks to more than $11,000 raised specifically for that purpose during the Friends of the Library’s annual fundraiser, Beyond the Stacks, last month. At Loussac, a three-dimensional, interactive space filled with early-literacy stations for kids, 0-3, and lessons on supporting early learning skills for their parents, is scheduled to open in September.

The library also plans to add to the menu of activities, workshops and seminars geared toward adults with a goal of increasing program attendance by 5%. A focus on business development workshops and job skills classes will help the community economically, as well as, the specific individuals who attend. The growth in our technology gives those without computers somewhere to write resumes and apply for jobs. With our new OWL (Online With Libraries) program, our patrons can sign up to attend teleconferenced classes, hearings or even to do long-distance college interviews.

Over the last year, library programs for teens have increased more than 300%. Teens are gathering at their neighborhood libraries in larger and larger numbers. The regular library activities are giving even the shyest of teens the opportunity to belong to a group of peers.

Another part of the big picture - the library is also partnering with a number of local organizations, business, non-profits and government departments to support such city-wide initiatives as the United Way’s 90% by 2020 and Anchorage Economic Development Corporation’s Live. Work. Play. campaigns.

And, don’t forget Reading Rendezvous this Saturday from 12-4 pm, on the lawn at Loussac. This kickoff to the Summer Reading Celebration gets thousands of youth and teens to continue practicing their reading while school is out. The payoff for the hours invested in this two-month program are kids all over town going back to school in the fall ready to learn instead of needing to review.


Toni Massari McPherson is the Community Relations Coordinator of Anchorage Public Library. For more information about APL, go to www.anchoragelibrary.org or https://www.facebook.com/anchoragelibrary.

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