In Honor of MLK Day: Service Projects @your library

In addition to being the Director of the Library, I am also the coordinator of service learning activities. I believe that the library is perfectly situated to play an integral role in promoting and managing service projects, because of its ability to connect with so many students and the daily traffic seen in the library. Not only does it allow me to get to know passionate students that might otherwise fly under the radar, but I also get to work out in my community, learning about and serving others. I have to admit that I absolutely love this part of my job and look forward to each new service activity, whether it be making lunch at the local Ronald McDonald House, visiting with Veterans, or distributing food at the local Food Bank.

Last spring, I wrote an article for School Library Connection, highlighting some activities that we do that also aligns with the work of a library. One of my favorite activities is our yearly book drive and book giveaway. We hold a book drive in the fall, and then attend a local Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank event called Produce to People. These events happen in various neighborhoods twice per month, and are a wonderful resource for those in our community. We attend one event in November and give out the donated books for free, and patrons are able to browse the selection as they wait in line. We have given away over 1,000 books so far. Many people thank us for being there and make requests for genres for future events!

This year, we had some books left after the food bank event, so I looked into other organizations that accept book donations. One that I discovered is called Book’Em Pittsburgh. Their mission is to get books in the hands of prisoners in Pennsylvania. They receive letters from prisoners requesting specific titles or genres, and hold packing sessions, during which they select books and pack and ship. They have thousands of donated books in all genres. They are an entirely volunteer-driven operation, so it is amazing to see the organization, care, and attention given to each aspect of the process. 

I organized a packing session as part of my school’s MLK Day of Service, which is held every year in honor of the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. A group of volunteers, including parents and students, came together to receive training on the selection and shipment process, and then went to work! The space was a flurry of people selecting books, taking care to fulfill the requests as closely as possible. The two hours that we were there flew by, and I cannot wait to attend another session in the future. Not only was I doing something I love (reader’s advisory!) but also assisting with bringing books and knowledge to those in need. I took the rest of the day to reflect on what more we could be doing for the prison population. Having recently finished Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, this has been on my mind lately, so I was thankful to play a small role in helping those in the prison system have access to books. 

Do you do service projects with your library? I would love to hear what you have done, so please share in the comments below!

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