By Cindy Kleback, Ellie Mullen, and Sara Demian
The Southeast Anchor Library has been hitting the streets... Conkling Street, to be exact. Librarians from the Southeast Anchor have been participating in the Highlandtown Farmers’ Market on the first Thursday of each month by staffing the Free Family Fun Tent with free activities for children.
The Farmers’ Market, located at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Conkling Street, is presented by Highlandtown Main Street, a program of the Southeast Community Development Corporation. The market is filled with vendors selling produce and baked goods as well as artisans with clothing, jewelry, and other crafts. The eclectic group of vendors and market-goers makes it a great location for library outreach; we are visited by many of our regular patrons but also get the chance to meet with residents who are not yet familiar with our library system.
Offering different activities at each outing, the Library's tent is a great place for children to pass time while their parents shop and socialize with other community members. During the Market on September 6, we had decorate your own fuzzy bookmarks with the kids and had hula hoops available for kids of all ages to play with!
In addition to providing free activities, the librarians also used this as a chance to advertise upcoming programs and educate market-goers about how to obtain and use a Pratt Library card. This unique outreach opportunity also gives our librarians a chance to meet the parents of many of our regular students; it has given us an opportunity to introduce ourselves and develop relationships with parents whose children we interact with on a daily basis in the Library. And the children love seeing the librarians outside of their natural habitat!
Also, by getting out into the community, we are able to advertise our services to people who might not otherwise visit the Library. Since participating in the Farmer’s Market, the librarians have met many Highlandtown residents who were not familiar with the concept of a free library system. Residents are surprised to find that the library is not just a place for academics, but a place for the whole family. By getting outside of our building, we are opening the Library to a more diverse group of potential users. People who were hesitant to come into the branch before now see it as the great free resource that we intend it to be.
The location of the Market provides a wonderful spot for outreach since the Library is visible from our tent. Newcomers to the neighborhood who have never visited us before can look right across the street and see where the Library is located.
The Highlandtown Farmer’s Market is held every Thursday from June 21 to October 18 from 4:00 to 8:00pm in the 400 block of Conkling Street, and you can find your Southeast Anchor librarians there on the first Thursday of each month. So, come on and meet us in the Market!