Success Stories

Has your library successfully implemented an adult literacy program or do you have a cool partnership with a local literacy council? If so, I would love to hear from you and publish your story here for other libraries interested in getting involved in adult literacy!

Belleville Area District Library - Belleville, MI

Submitted by Dan Lodge, Reference Librarian

Starting an Adult Literacy Program has always been a desire for the staff of the Belleville Library. The Library's Assistant Director, Mary Jo Suchy, in fact, wrote a paper during her studies for her Masters in Library Science on how libraries can provide better services to their patrons who are illiterate.

So the idea of a literacy program for the Library was in the front of a lot of staff member's minds when we all attended Kristy Cooper's presentation at the 2012 Michigan Library Association conference in Detroit. Kristy's presentation provided the spark for the staff to get such a program started.

Per Kristy's suggestion, we contacted Alison Austin at Washtenaw Literacy to help us get started. We were lucky that she was available to provide lots of help in the way of advice and materials - Kristy's website, hopefully, will provide the same function for you.

Here are some more pieces of advice that I can pass along from our experience.

  • We found it best to decide on our goals before we started our Program. How many people can you help? By deciding that number before you get started, you will feel good no matter how much of a response you get from prospective volunteers.
  • If the community that you serve is large, then consider finding other places than the Library where tutors and learners can meet. Because our Library serves three communities, we figured that not everyone would be able to drive to the actual Library building to meet for tutoring sessions. We met with both the local community college and the township halls of two of the three communities we to serve to see if tutors could use them as places to meet their learners.
  • Keep what you say on your publicity flyers short and to the point. Also make sure to pass them out to as many places as you can. We received a lot of response by passing out flyers to the local churches.
  • Finally, try to get to know your tutors. We had fifteen people go through all five nights (fifteen hours) of training. Make sure you get to know a little bit of a background on each of your volunteer tutors. Knowing whether a person might have a background in, for example, literacy groups will help you match them up with a learner that they can help.

Above all have fun! There's nothing better than seeing the look on the face of a 65-year old man who just checked out his first library book.