Library Outreach: The Living Library

Library Outreach: The Living Library

by Sami Lange

Contemporary academic libraries have an opportunity to show their value during outreach events and specially targeted programs. The Santa Rosa Junior College puts on a yearly event, Day Under the Oaks, which serves as an open house for the JC and highlights the campus community for the 10,000-12,000 visitors. In my new role as a Public Service & Instruction Librarian at the Santa Rosa Junior College Library, I have the opportunity to try a new outreach event called the Living Library, which will be held during the Day Under the Oaks to highlight our Library’s role in continued student success.

Before I go in to what steps it takes to create a successful event, what exactly is the Living Library? The Living Library project is an event that invites experts in a field to represent a profession and act as a “living book.” Interested individuals will check out a living book for a one on one conversation about the expert’s profession. Approximately 25 professionals from a variety of disciplines will describe what they do in their daily work lives, explain what education is required, and offer any tips they have for those aspiring to the same careers.

These are the key steps to creating a Living Library event, but many of these steps apply to other outreach events.

Determine your outreach goals: what is the final goal of the event (attendance, funds, publicity, etc.)? Our goal is 100% check-out rates of our living books, meaning over 150 check-outs during the event. It will also create a buzz for our library system and bring patrons into the Library.

Build your team: I was fortunate to get a lot of internal interest and there were several individuals already in the library who knew about human/living libraries elsewhere. I have a group of six individuals all with different backgrounds in web design, print design, editing experience, marketing, press and local contacts and veteran Library employees making it a well balanced team.

Get the outline going: As with many outreach and marketing plans, there is an initial brainstorming period and then goals, specifics and timelines start to solidify. Once the timeline solidifies, touch base with your team members and let them know specific expectations.

Get your text ready: During the planning of this event, there have been multiple needs for ‘ready’ text such as press releases, e-mails inviting our living books participation, calls to alumni, and content for interviews. As soon as you have the specifics of the event, you should get your text ready and have everyone on your project team aware of what catch phrases and quotes are appropriate in addition to any logos or images that can be placed in e-mails.

Stay flexible: there will be many little details to manage and staying open to changes in the plan and the approach is important.

Have fun!: Last but not least, the day of the event should be one that proves your hard work was worth it. Make sure you and your project team are all on the same page with expectations of crowds and troubleshooting. Game on!



Sami Lange is a Public Service & Instruction Librarian at the Santa Rosa Junior College Mahoney Library. She has a Masters in Library Science from San Jose State University and a Masters of Science in Education with a focus in Online Teaching and Learning from Cal State East Bay. She blogs sporadically at and can be reached at sprylibrarian@gmail.comInterested in attending? The Living Library event will be held on May 5 at the Santa Rosa Junior College Doyle Library from 11am – 1pm. If you are interested in checking out a Librarian or any other “living book,” please stop by!