These are notes from interviewing one of the library staff at the Columbus Metropolitan Library Northside branch. It is a summary of points not a direct transcript of the conversation.
Q: What are barriers for children in the area to access books?
A: There is always an economic barrier. Even the CML is fine free but it doesn’t mean there is no materials replacement fee. We have lots of leeway for placement fees but not everyone always knows. Parents can have 5 books per year fees waved away so there is still some kind of limit. Also if on any card you hit more than $25 fees on card blocks you from checking out. Which can sometimes just be a single graphic novel. The popular items are expensive.
We have kids library cards that kids can sign up for, but with them you can only check out certain items. It is tough because parents have to sign their kids up for certain cards. So say a student under 18 wanted to do research and they don’t have a photo ID. They want to check out books for research but can only checkout books in the juvenile category. So if they are trying to do an anatomy project they won’t have access to those books. It is a barrier to have to come back with a caregiver to have them sign you up for a new card.
There are always gray areas and work arounds depending on the situation and whose working.
So for the economic barriers waving fees is one thing. It has proven effective but there is still a misconception people have that library fees are to pay the library— which they aren’t. Fees are there to promote people to get items back in on time not to make the library money.
Q: What are some programs that the library has to promote literacy and barriers people have from accessing these resources?
We have youth programming, different now because we can’t have people in the building with COVID-19. For normal operations in the past there was a strong focus on getting children in the building. There are socioeconomic barriers to that because it relies on having a caregiver to bring them to the library.
We have online services right now with a homework center online, but there is still the access issue that people need internet access at home to use these resources.
We can just offer the service, there is only so much we can do on our end. Diversifying what we offer is something we can do. We have bags of activities and books we put together people can take home.
We have not seen a ton of people utilize that free resource. The Northside branch doesn’t have as much of a youth presence and not as many families. Our primary age is adults or college students. Weinland Elementary is close and we have partnered with them some. Partnering with Weinland and local schools to send youth services member to that location to check out items. We can keep a record of kids card numbers to check stuff out— bring the books to the schools they can check out.
Q: Is there any way the library focuses on adult literacy programs?
Our adult literacy interventions are few and far between. Most of it would focus on tech literacy not reading and writing literacy. This is a really small branch. System wide we have them, mostly tech literacy at the main branch. In the past we have partnered with Columbus Literacy Council to host classes at branches but not now because of COVID. CML tries to partner with organizations like Columbus Literacy Council for things like that because we have the space but they have more premium staff. For promoting these events, it is up to the local organization to promote it. CML isn’t putting fliers out about this stuff but we do list it on our website. When it is a CML program they do have fliers to promote it. We have a community bulletin space (before COVID) where local organizations can put up fliers. People can sign up for emails or we do have physical fliers. We also have fliers that consolidate social service info to food backs and stuff and we can hand those out on a case by case basis.
Q: Since your branch has more of an adult audience, what branches of CML have a stronger population of kids?
Down high street the Whetstone branch in front of the Park of Roses. It is a suburban library I worked at before working here. There is a huge early family demographic. There is also Worthington public library. Again it is higher socioeconomically and there are more resources in this area. A lot more people in the community that can invest. You can find a lot of information about what they do on their websites.
Photo Source: https://www.columbuslibrary.org/buildings/northside
Source: Primary Research interviewing staff at CML Northside Branch
Comment: Talking with the library staff at the CML Northside Branch helped us understand a bit better the libraries interventions and limitations to bringing access to books. There are a lot of access issues of just getting to the library or as a kid being able to get a library card that will allow access to books they need. A huge barrier we can’t overlook right now is access to the internet at home. During COVID all the special programs are online and if there is no internet access at home there is no ability to utilize the programs and books.