Tower of London

Tower of London

Monday, July 27, 2009

ACADEMIC-Edinburgh Central Public Library

(Pictures courtesy of Dr. Teresa Welsh's personal photo album.)

I think I found my twin in Scotland! There is so much I could say about the Central Public Library. It is spirited and a vivacious community center. It is a Carnegie Library, more impressive because Carnegie was a Scottish son before his parents moved to the United States. It is actually housed in two buildings! Of all of the public libraries I have ever visited I think this is a first.

Living in one of only two states that do not have a Carnegie library, I was excited to see one in person. It definitely lived up to my expectations, but little did I know, I would find something much more interesting than the building happening at the Central Public Library.

Colm Linnane is a Reading Champion at the library. While this sounds like an exciting title for children participating in the summer reading program, he is actually an Outreach Coordinator. An dedicated activist in the literacy community, he promotes the benefits of reading for pleasure for both the individual and the community at large. He has participated in programs that reach out to troubled teens, families, disenfranchised members of the community, and schools. His passion for his work is evident and his desire to reach out to other librarians to partner and learn from their work is inspiring.

Long story short, Mr. Linnane is a contact I would like to keep. With more than a dozen years of outreach and advocacy experience under my belt, he was speaking the same language I have loved for years. While it sounds like the same type of language you would hear from any librarian on the surface, outreach is a special creature that needs to be handled delicately. It is often hard to bond with your peers because so much of your work is done outside of the building. At the same time, it is hard to meet all of the needs of the partners and organizations that you work with because you only have so much time and money that can be given to each cause.

Luckily, the rewards of the job far outweigh any of the challenges. When done well, outreach strengthens your library's position as a community leader and it reminds the community that you are a resource readily at their disposal. Lives can be improved and empowered as we take our message of literacy out to the masses and show them that not all books are textbooks and there really is something for everyone. As cheesy as it may sound, we really can make a difference and outreach empowers us to multiply that difference exponentially. And when you have someone with as much enthusiasm and commitment as Colm Linanne, the possibilities are endless.

To learn more about Carnegie libraries, click here.

To learn more about Edinburgh's Central Public Library, click here.

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