With funding from the Viburnum Foundation, the Center for the Book sponsored two regional workshops in September that provided training for representatives from rural libraries and communities that received 1998 family literacy grants from the foundation.
Held in cooperation with state library agencies and local literacy organizations from seven states, the workshops in Jackson, Miss. (Sept. 9-10) and Albuquerque, N.M. (Sept. 16-17) launched the new Viburnum Foundation/Center for the Book Family Literacy Project (see the LC Information Bulletin, May 1998.)
"More than 75 people participated in each workshop, and we were delighted with the results," said Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole. "Special thanks go to Center for the Book consultant Virginia Mathews, the workshop coordinator, and to the Mississippi Library Commission and the New Mexico State Library for their support. The three-year grant we received from the Viburnum Foundation for this project, coming on the heels of the successful completion of our five-year Library-Head Start-Museum partnership project, continues the center's interest in family literacy and in encouraging collaboration on behalf of books and reading among libraries and other community organizations that serve children, youth and families."
From 1992 until 1997, the Viburnum Family Literacy Project was administered by the Office of Literacy and Outreach Services of the American Library Association. In 1998, the first year of the Center for the Book's involvement in the project, the Viburnum Foundation made small grants totaling $100,000 directly to 30 small rural libraries in seven Southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
"Our goal is to provide effective training and -- when appropriate -- to expand the existing program," said project coordinator Ms. Mathews. "The workshops emphasized the importance of establishing meaningful, ongoing partnerships with other youth and family-serving agencies. These include state education, library and literacy officials; health care professionals, Head Start staff, adult literacy teachers, community educators, literacy councils, reading teachers, teachers of English as a Second Language and people involved with youth museums, public schools, correctional institutions and with the rehabilitation of teenagers who are in trouble."
The workshop in Jackson on Sept. 9 began with an informal reception and dinner that featured storytelling demonstrations by Alexis Dean, consultant for children's services, Mississippi Library Commission; and Judy Boyce, Youth Services Librarian, West Baton Rouge Parish (La.) Library, who worked with Oneal Isaac of Playmakers of Baton Rouge.
Speakers at the introductory session on Sept. 10 included John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book; and Mississippi Library Commission Board members Glenda Segars, chair; Hester Plauche, commissioner; John Pritchard, executive director; and Margaret Murray, director of library development services.
Coordinator Virginia Mathews led participants through a day of short presentations and discussion of experiences in planning and implementing family literacy programs. Sessions included: "Kids Can't Wait for Family Literacy and Libraries"; "Experiences in Partnering: What We've Learned"; "Resources for Family Literacy Programming," which dealt with materials; volunteers; funding; in-kind services, sites and facilities; transportation; strategies for outreach; publicity; and needs assessments; and "Evaluating and Measuring Outcomes: How to Do It and Who Needs to Know?"
Speakers and discussion leaders in these sessions included: Donna Hutchings, literacy coordinator, Waveland Family Literacy Centers; Judy Boyce, West Baton Rouge Library; Molly Kinney, state consultant for children's services, Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education; Annie Lucas Brown, Alabama State Library; Gail Criswell, Louisiana State Library; Jean Hudspeth, Outreach Services, Mississippi Library Commission; Valinda C. Smith, adult literacy coordinator, Grenada, Miss.; Eloise Richardson, State Board of Community and Junior Colleges, Jackson, Miss; and Laura Hauser, DeKalb County Public Library, Georgia.
The structure of the Albuquerque workshop, held a week later, paralleled that of the Jackson meeting. Many of the speakers, however, drew on different cultural traditions. The storytellers on the first night, Sept. 16, were Vaunda Nelson of the Rio Rancho Library and Jean Whitehorse of the Crownpoint Resource Center, a member of the Navajo tribe and the Towering House People clan. The next day the program was introduced by Center for the Book program specialist Anne Boni, with additional remarks by Marsie Cate, director of the New Mexico Center for the Book, Ben Wakashige, director of the New Mexico State Library, and workshop leader Virginia Mathews.
Speakers and discussion leaders included Clara Rey, Schlientz Memorial Library, Tucumcari, N.M.; Joyce Aguilar, Socorro Public Library, N.M.; Diana McMahan and Renee Yocum from the Chickasaw Regional Library, Tishomingo, Okla.; Leslie Gelders, Oklahoma Department of Libraries; Patricia Froelich and Elaine Goodman, New Mexico State Library; Ronda Lehew, Pioneer Library System, Okla.; Susan Sonfleith, Santa Fe Public Library; Debbie McWilliams, Thomas Brannigan Memorial Library, Las Cruces, N.M.; Rena Paradis, interim director of the Coalition for Literacy, N.M.; and Elaine Shannon, Youth Services Director, Albuquerque Public Library.
The Viburnum Family Literacy Project is fully described in a 60-page publication, From Thibodaux to Tucumcari: Family Literacy in Rural Libraries, A Report from the Viburnum Family Literacy Project, by Molly Turner and Nancy Kober, with a preface by John Cole. The booklet is an evaluation and history of the project up to 1997. Drawing on specific projects, it presents details about how, with limited resources, committed staff in small libraries can successfully respond to the needs of parents and other care givers for family literacy programs. Copies are available free from the Center for the Book, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4920; telephone (202) 707-5221; fax (202) 707-0269.
Key Features Of Effective Family Literacy Programs
(from Thibodaux to Tucumcari: Family Literacy in Rural Libraries)
- Dedicated librarians and literacy coordinators
- Motivated participants
- Dedicated volunteers
- Flexible program design
- Good program content
- Transportation and child care
- Thoughtful and creative outreach and publicity
- Strong support from library board
- Strong support from community
- Effective mechanisms for collaboration
- Creative fund-raising
- Sense of limits
Future Public Programs
Forthcoming speakers in the Center's "Books & Beyond" author series are Patricia O'Toole, Money and Morals in America (Dec. 8) and Henry Mayer, All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery (Jan. 26).