Meet René Bue, Hedberg Public Library

Today we welcome René Bue from Hedberg Public Library in Janesville, Wisconsin. René has a lot of experience with community engagement and looking at the library as a space and resource that extends well beyond its physical walls. Enjoy!

Please introduce yourself! Tell us your name, title, and how you got to your current position.

My name is René Bue.  I am the Programming Outreach Coordinator at Hedberg Public Library (HPL) in Janesville, Wisconsin.  I have been at HPL for 12 years and was originally hired as the part-time Bilingual Outreach Coordinator.  That position was originally part of an LSTA grant.  After that, the HPL board decided to make it a permanent position in 2007.  After a short time, my position morphed to include other cultures.  After the retirement of my direct supervisor, my current position was created and offered to me.

Tell us a bit about your approach to community engagement or outreach work.

Community engagement and outreach is a very important aspect of the work I do.  The main purpose or goal is to reach people in our community who are not already library users.  I want to make sure that our community knows all of the services and programs that we offer.  I love getting to show the community that HPL is not only a place to check out books and other materials but also a place where you can: learn to use your electronic devices, get help finding information, attend cultural programs, use databases to learn a second language or some other skill, and many other things.  People are surprised to learn all of the possibilities that exist at libraries.  I enjoy working with other organizations to partner in offering some of our programs.  This all is possible through very active community engagement and outreach…some of which is also done via our bookmobile.

René with a young reader in the bookmobile. Image courtesy of René Bue.

How does that philosophy play out in your day-to-day job?

In my day to day job, I am responsible for planning and implementing our overall outreach.  That means that I must stay informed about the community events where we can have an informational booth or the bookmobile.  I also work with local organizations to offer them space in the library to have “office hours” so that they can more easily connect with their clients and potential clients.

I work with all the departments in the library in order to offer the outreach.  Youth Services plan the outreach visits that they do which include school visits and much more.  Our Teen Librarian does bi-weekly visits to the Rock County Youth Services Center (juvenile detention) and provides books to the youth there.  We now also have our adult librarians doing embedded librarianship within specific areas including business, health, history, literature/literacy, non-profits and more.

I also supervise the Bookmobile Assistant.  Together we coordinate her stops that begin in April and end in October.  This is a great way to connect with many of the underserved populations and get books into the hands of people who have not or will not walk into the library for a variety of reasons.

All of this means that I spend a lot of time out of the library and connecting with people and organizations who can help us connect to the members of our community who do not already come to the library or use our services.  I love this aspect of my job as I get to see a lot of smiling faces when I help people realize how we can help them.

How has the transition from an internal focus to an external focus unfolded at your library?

One of the most recent and important changes for us has been the addition of a bookmobile.  This will be our 4th year taking the library out to the community.  The number of people that we have talked to and helped via the bookmobile is amazing.  There are many people who do not think the library belongs to them.  Still others haven’t been in the library for a long time because they owed money for fines.    Some people think that libraries are only places to check out books.  We help to change those perceptions.  As a result of the work we have done with the bookmobile, we are getting people inside the library for programs, services, and so much more.

The embedded librarianship is also offering us the opportunity to connect with businesses and organizations in the community to demonstrate to them all of the things that we can do to help them.  We already have had a positive response with a lot of excitement about how this work will change the perceived value of libraries.

What’s a challenge or speed bump that you’ve encountered in this work?

One of the biggest challenges is having enough staff to cover all of the events and projects that we want to be a part of.  However, one of the ways we have dealt with this is by offering HPL staff to go outside of their normal job duties and join me or other staff at our booth or on the bookmobile.  This has been fairly popular and a great way for library staff to see the library in a different way…the same as what we hope for the community.

What makes library staff suited to this kind of work?

Library staff are already working with the public.  Our staff enjoys answering questions and helping people who come into the library to find whatever it is they need.  Now they are doing the same thing…just outside the library.

Also, because of all of the community partnering we have already done, we have a great network in place that keeps us on the minds of organizations that offer events where we can have a table or the bookmobile.  Many times, I am invited to have a table at new events because people are so accustomed to seeing us at events in the community.

Who else is doing interesting work in this area (does not necessarily need to be in the library field)?

There are many community organizations that have realized that it is not enough to sit inside their buildings and wait for the public to come to them.  They also are realizing that all of the marketing in the world may not help to get people into their buildings either.  People now want to see organizations like the historical society, the Parks and Rec, local non-profits, school districts and more at events.  It allows them the opportunity to get information, ask questions and do some “one stop shopping” at events that are often free.

Meet Maggie Killman, Shaker Heights Public Library

Hi all! My turn to formally introduce myself. In my two years as a CE Librarian in a new position, my work has shifted from running from place to place and always responding to ideas into careful planning to achieve long-term goals. I’m excited to share some of that process with you all.

Please introduce yourself! Tell us your name, title, and how you got to your current position.

I am Maggie Killman, the Youth Community Engagement Librarian at the Shaker Library. I got where I am now through a combination of luck and a commitment to working with communities. I’ve been working in public libraries for 6 years, and in that time, I’ve always been drawn to projects that utilize partnerships to provide innovative services. In 2016, I was working as a Children’s Librarian here at Shaker when the Youth Community Engagement position was created. It’s been an incredible opportunity to work with colleagues to build a program that enables us to meet our residents where they are and to provide library service that suits their unique needs and interests.

Tell us a bit about your approach to community engagement.

I work closely with my colleague who is the Adult Community Engagement Librarian. He and I share very similar perspectives on the importance of social capital and targeted community building initiatives, so we worked together to pull research from the social sciences to apply to our work as librarians. We used this research to write a Mission, Vision, and Values for Community Engagement at the Shaker Library, a document which describes our overall goals for our work. Much like an organizational MVV statement, this document helps us direct our activities to engage our community in as meaningful a way as possible.

In a nutshell, our top 3 priorities as “community engagers” are:

  1. Building community
  2. Partnerships
  3. Community-responsive library service

In action, this often looks like my colleague and I attending as many community meetings as we can in order to connect with residents and develop strong relationships within our neighborhoods. These meetings also provide us an opportunity to learn about the issues our residents perceive as the most pressing and look for ways to help them* address those issues. Often new connections arise organically from these conversations, helping us expand our understanding of the assets available in Shaker Heights.

*I emphasize “help them” because in my experience, the most meaningful programs and services are brought about through working alongside community members. Instead of deciding what the community might need or like and putting a program together, helping our residents pull together something they do want produces significantly better outcomes. They’re more invested in the program being a success, they’ll bring out their friends and family, and in working on the program they’ll develop leadership skills that will serve them well as community leaders. Likewise, collaborating with partners allows us to reach a wider audience and share resources to provide more effective and accessible services.


Librarians worked alongside school officials and community members to create a conversation around the All American Boys visit from authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

We had the opportunity to present our work at the PLA conference last year in a talk titled Building Meaningful Relationships Through Community Engagement. With another year of experience under our belts, we’ll be presenting at the Ohio Library Council’s Community Engagement conference in May.

How has the transition from an internal focus to an external one unfolded at your library?

Slow, but steady. We’re lucky to have an administration that has been focused on Community Engagement since the term started to become popular in library circles. We’ve had an Early Literacy Specialist for 30+ years, a full-time position whose main activities involve providing story times and lending books to area preschools and daycares. We also have a PR Coordinator and a Local History Librarian who work constantly with community partners. And then, in the past few years, the Adult and Youth Community Engagement Librarian positions were created out of existing librarian positions. All 5 of these people meet monthly as a Community Engagement Team, and we keep in close contact about our activities outside the library. We also work together on large or long-term projects that require involvement from multiple departments.


SHFD shows off a truck to local kids at the library

What’s a challenge or speed bump you’ve encountered in this work?

Relationships are so rewarding, but also hard work, and navigating communication among two larger organizations working together can be a challenge.

What are your long-term goals for the work that you do?

I guess I actually answered this at length above (oops!), but I am working on a couple of long-term projects right now. One of  the biggest projects I’m working on is grant-funded. In order to support the outreach work of our Early Literacy Specialist, we secured an LSTA Competitive Grant from the State Library of Ohio to develop an Early Literacy Outreach Collection. This collection will live in storage and circulate only to local preschool and daycare classrooms. Currently, the Early Literacy Specialist visits around 45 classrooms regularly, and she may loan up to 600 books at a time, pulled from the regular circulating collection. Many (if not most) of the children she visits in these classrooms are black, but due to the underrepresentation of people of color in children’s literature, our librarians have a hard time keeping enough diverse titles on the shelves, let alone stocking enough to send diverse books to each classroom we visit.

There is a known and oft-discussed “achievement gap” within our public schools, wherein students of color or of economic disadvantage achieve lower scores overall than their more privileged peers. Kindergarten readiness numbers reflect that this gap begins in the preliteracy skills, despite the fact that 89% of all children in Shaker attend a preschool. Inequity abounds. Having a dedicated collection for circulating to classrooms will allow the Early Literacy Specialist to provide tailored collections to support our local early childhood centers’ curricula, as well as allowing her to provide more diverse books for our local children to enjoy. It is our hope that a more tailored collection will promote print motivation across the board for our youngest students and help more of these children acquire the skills that will make them ready for kindergarten. The project itself will take about 9 months to complete and involves teamwork from many library departments: Youth Services, Page Services, PR, Technical Services. It’s a lot of work but very exciting to be creating this new resource to serve children in Shaker.


Maggie (left) at a community event with local leader Joanne Federman, Executive Director of Family Connections


Who else is doing interesting work in this area (not necessarily in libraries)? Can be an individual or an institution.

Lots of schools in the Greater Cleveland area have created positions to focus on Family and Community Engagement. We work closely with the FACE department at our local schools, and the FACE Coordinator Keith Langford is active in a larger network of family engagers. They organize events, help PTO groups mobilize, and work with many partners to develop robust programming for students in the schools. They even organized a national Family and Community Engagement Conference here in Cleveland last year that was a great success.

Meet Laura Damon-Moore, Madison Public Library

Hey everyone, you’ve heard from me a bit already through a couple of project-specific posts, but Maggie and I want to make sure that you meet us through interviews about our broader community engagement work. To that end, here are my answers to our interview questions.

Please introduce yourself! Tell us your name, title, and how you got to your current position.

My name is Laura Damon-Moore (she/her/hers). I am a Community Engagement Librarian at the Central Library at Madison Public Library in Madison, Wisconsin. I graduated from the iSchool at UW-Madison in 2012, and then worked in small public libraries as a youth librarian doing lots of programming, outreach, and volunteer coordination. In January of 2016 I started my current position at Madison Public Library. That position is much more focused on adults, and is a combination of public service desk work and engagement, which I would categorize as partnership and relationship building, some programming, and project work. Some specific, larger-scale projects that I personally work on include:

Tell us a bit about your approach to community engagement.

When I first started in 2016, it was very refreshing because it was a new position, so the expectations were very nebulous. I and my one other CE colleague (we are now a team of five!) were just charged with talking to people, no action items or outcomes necessarily. Since those first months, we’ve started to put some projects/initiatives/programs into place, but we work to be very intentional and community-driven when determining how we spend our time. At this point it’s unusual for me and other members of my team to sit around and come up with some brand-new idea that has not been driven or directly led by community members or at the very least, partner organizations. We work really hard not to be prescriptive in our programming and resources. I should note that our team and our approach is very much a work in progress–by no means have we figured out how to do things perfectly 100% of the time.

How has the transition from an internal focus to an external one unfolded at your library?

As a team, we have about two full years of community engagement work under our belts. We are a very new team within Madison Public Library, so there’s been a lot of foundational work done to make, revisit, and strengthen connections. While my core team is based at Central Library, there are other community engagement librarians in many of our eight neighborhood libraries. So a big part of the last two years has also been figuring out who does, and where, and how we support each other’s work across Madison. From what I can tell from folks that have been with MPL for a long time, a lot of the outward facing work was done on an informal basis and by whomever was available at the moment. So the transition has revealed a need to clarify channels of communication, and to get staff organized on the “back end” so that we know our capacity and can respond promptly to community asks.

What’s a challenge or speed bump you’ve encountered in this work?

Identifying community priorities, working collaboratively with community members and partner organizations to determine an appropriate response, while also making sure that we’re not duplicating efforts and not over-committing library resources is challenging, period. It’s a lot to juggle. Communication can easily fall off someone’s radar as soon as you hit a busy time of year, and my capacity can change dramatically depending on staffing levels–someone has to cover the desk. You have to be okay with thinking in three to five year plans. I’ve also run into issues where community wants directly conflict with library policies. For example, we are not supposed to have vendors sell items in the library, but we had a team of community members who wanted to support local vendors at an event, particularly vendors that are women of color. There are workarounds for some of these policies, but it’s also important for staff and the library as an institution to be aware of policies that, in practice, may make it harder to support community initiatives on community terms.

What are your long-term goals for the work that you do?

I really just want to support community endeavors and ideas in an effective and flexible way, to hear from folks about things that are not working well or different approaches, and to have the time and space to make necessary changes to our platforms. So with everything that I work on, I hope I am moving and evolving toward those goals.

Who else is doing interesting work in this area (not necessarily in libraries)? Can be an individual or an institution.

The blog Nonprofit AF has some really terrific articles and perspectives that libraries can learn from, particularly in the area of community engagement. In a lot of ways I think folks working in adult services / public services / reference are showing up late to the community engagement party. Our youth services colleagues have been working very closely and collaboratively with community partners, caregivers, and of course, youth themselves, and they have a whole slew of best practices for us to learn from. And I’ve found that the ABCD Institute, now located at DePaul University, is another solid resource on this topic.

Supporting new citizens with library technology

Greetings, everyone! In this post for the Engaged Library Collaborative, I wanted to highlight a relatively simple but impactful resource that Madison Public Library developed in close partnership with one of the library’s most committed community partners.

First of all, let me introduce myself – my name is Laura, and I am a Community Engagement Librarian for Madison Public Library (WI), based at the Central Library. I work on a team with four other community engagement librarians, all of whom work part time on the public service desk and part time working with partner organizations and community members on different projects or resources.

The partnership I want to talk about today demonstrates a couple of key items in my, and our team’s, evolving approach to community engagement:

  • a willingness to listen and ask questions
  • a collaborative approach to any new program or resource idea
  • a nimbleness internally to use existing library tools and infrastructure when possible.

Where we started

This particular resource started with a question that came to the public service desk: does the library have tablets available for checkout? The simple, fast answer to that is that we do have tablets that can be checked out for use in the library, but not available for patrons to take home.

I happened to be at the desk and got to chatting with the patron, who ended up telling me that she was a staff member at one of our community partners, the Literacy Network, which facilitates English Language Learning workshops, citizenship education, adult literacy and ELL tutoring, computer skills for adults, and lots of other resources. She was asking about the tablets because as it turns out, the USCIS now requires citizenship exams to be completed entirely with a tablet and stylus–including the essay questions. For learners that are brand-new to the technology, these examination conditions add an extra stresser in an already stressful examination setting.

In that initial conversation, which probably lasted 15-20 minutes, we determined a couple of ideal outcomes: could library staff bring tablets to one of the citizenship classes for people to practice with? Could the library make tablets and styluses available for use in the libraries?

I looped in a couple of my team members, both of whom have different tech-related interests, and we got the go-ahead from our supervisor to pursue the idea alongside Literacy Network staff.

What were the results?

After a bunch of emailing and one in-person meeting, we generated the following resource:

The library would make sets of equipment (iPads, tablet stands, charging cables, and styluses) available for checkout for people who are preparing for a citizenship exam. Equipment is only available for use in the library, with a library card. Working with the Literacy Network, we identified five of the nine library locations that are used most frequently by citizenship learners and their tutors, and deployed the tablet sets out to those locations. We ended up spending about $85.00 on the endeavor (mainly to purchase styluses and tablet stands) since we were able to repurpose several older iPads from Central and neighborhood libraries. The tablet sets were distributed to neighborhood libraries with instructions for staff in late February.

One of the comments we heard from the Literacy Network staff is how much they appreciated us actually listening to them throughout the process and more generally, not pitching partnership ideas that they haven’t asked for. Due to connections we had already made at the Literacy Network, we were on very comfortable footing once the idea was raised, and could move relatively quickly. This was a great opportunity to hear about a very clear community need, and to assess library resources to repurpose older technology in support of that need. And on a very positive note, so far a number of learners have been able to practice with the technology in advance of their citizenship exams.

Plans for the future include library staff traveling to the Literacy Network citizenship courses, bringing tablets so that learners who cannot make it to a library still have the chance to see and practice with the equipment before their exam, and also incorporating tablet/stylus training into the Literacy Network tutor training to help build capacity. Additionally, the Literacy Network is helping to spread the word about this resource to other citizenship education organizations in Dane County, so that as many people are aware as possible.

This is a solid, recent example of what is possible when we listen to a partner’s needs and act as efficiently as possible internally. The result does not need to be a time-consuming program, and can still have a significant and measurable impact on our community.

Preaching Motivation


Fowl Language Comics

Lately I’ve been on a crusade to convince parents of the old librarian adage: reading is reading. This task is harder than it sounds.

Information era parenting is hard

Parents are sent so many messages constantly about how to raise their children–do this, don’t do that, let them do certain things (or don’t let them, at all costs!). Many of the messages they receive are conflicting, which can be confusing, at best. Other messages are vague and can leave parents to draw their own conclusions, whether those conclusions are backed by research or not. In the information era, as librarians well know, the battle has become helping people navigate an environment of too much information instead of too little. We all need help sometimes sifting through everything that’s out there, and every parent is just doing the best they can with the information they’ve been given.

We see this a lot when it comes to leveled reading programs for younger students. These programs can be a powerful tool for teachers to measure the progress in their students’ reading skills and reading comprehension. But when parents are given progress reports that list their children’s current reading levels, they may become anxious that their children are not making enough progress, or they may think that their children must read books that are at their current level. Sometimes they begin to think that their child should be reading books at a higher level, and other times they don’t want their child to attempt a book “too advanced” for them. Captain Underpants is too juvenile; Rainbow Magic books are all the same (trust me, I know). All of these motivations come from a place of love, of wanting to provide their child with the structure and support they need to grow in their abilities as readers. There is an opportunity here for us as librarians, experts in all things books and reading, to help parents understand what research-based methods are out there that can help their children along this journey.

Bringing the message to them–meet them where they are

As a part of my community engagement work, I try to regularly visit PTO meetings for each of the 8 buildings in our local school district. If I can make it to each PTO group once a school year, I call it a win. Partly, my goal is to hear about the projects that parents in our community are working on and what concerns they may have about their children. My other goal is to introduce myself to parents and get to know them, so they know the library is available to support them in the work they do to raise their families. This school year, I’ve also started using my time at these meetings to spread the good word about intrinsic reading motivation, in hopes it will add some important tools to their parenting toolbox.

The research into reading all agrees that when kids read from intrinsic motivation, a knowledge that reading is a fun and enjoyable activity in its own right, as opposed to extrinsic–reading for prizes, or reading to avoid punishment–their outcomes are better across the board. They are more excited to read, their comprehension deepens, and they develop their reading skills more readily. Likewise, if children perceive themselves as strong readers or if they have books that they are excited to read, they are more likely to have stronger intrinsic motivation to read and continue developing those skills.

Practical ideas can make the greatest impact

Another strong indicator for high intrinsic reading motivation is that the child has a supportive family reading environment at home. This is the part of my talk with parents that I like to open up for discussion, so folks have the opportunity to share some ways they’re already supporting their kids’ love of reading. It’s a wonderful opportunity to validate parents in the knowledge that they’re already doing some things right, and it also allows them to share ideas with one another and connect to each other in the shared goal of supporting their kids. If they’re stumped, here’s some ideas I share with them to get the conversation moving:

  • Let your kids see you reading: children are always looking to their parents for examples of what a successful adult looks like. Any opportunity for parents to show their kids that they think reading is a valuable use of time will make a difference.
  • Let your kids pick their own pleasure reading books: they’ll be more excited to read and more likely to read more often! I know, Captain Underpants for the 500th time is exhausting. But it’s such a gift when they have a book they actually want to read.
  • Talk about books with your child. Did they like it? What was it about? Do you want to read it too so you can discuss it together?
  • Read with your child. No one is too old to be read to–even if they’re reading on their own, taking the time to read together builds a special bond and fondness for the shared time and activity.

There’s so many other great ways to build a supportive family reading environment at home; these are just some ideas to get you and your community talking and thinking together.

Edit 2/22/19:


Any good librarian cites her sources. To learn more about intrinsic reading motivation, check out the articles below. If you’re interested in my much more detailed notes and references on the topic, contact us!

Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annual review of psychology53(1), 109-132.

Froiland, J. M., Peterson, A., & Davison, M. L. (2013). The long-term effects of early parent involvement and parent expectation in the USA. School Psychology International34(1), 33-50.

Katzir, T., Lesaux, N. K., & Kim, Y. S. (2009). The role of reading self-concept and home literacy practices in fourth grade reading comprehension. Reading and Writing22(3), 261-276.

Schaffner, E., Schiefele, U., & Ulferts, H. (2013). Reading amount as a mediator of the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic reading motivation on reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly48(4), 369-385.

Share your stuff with ELC

Are you a library worker doing community engagement work? Do you have a great example of an engagement tool or initiative that you would like to share on the Engaged Library Collaborative? We’re especially looking for ideas that are deeply community-driven or community-led, and platforms or initiatives that support open dialogue and true collaboration between libraries and community members.

Email ELC editors Laura and Maggie using this form:

We can’t wait to hear from you.