39th Street Crew
The population that the A.R. Dykes Library of the Health Sciences serves at the University of Kansas Medical Center is unique. Located in a decisively urban area, it serves a multi-cultural, diverse clientele. The library’s doors are open to the general public, and the youth from this community were the impetus for the development of the 39th Street CREW (Community for Rosedale Enrichment Workshop). The library is within easy walking distance from a neighborhood middle school, and the library often saw youth coming to the library to use the 4 computers designated for public use. Tensions sometimes arose between the kids and library staff; the kids had a tendency to be disruptive and sometimes disrespectful to staff and students, but there were no other places within walking distance for these, and other, at-risk youth to go…besides our library.
Rosedale Middle school closes at 1:30 p.m. twice a week, for teacher development. The primary mission was to provide a safe environment where the youth could learn vocational skills, as well as expand socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Knowing that 78.6% of students from Rosedale Middle school come from economically disadvantaged homes, it was our goal to give these youth exposure to resources and ideas they might not be exposed to otherwise. As an academic health library, these are not in short supply! Therefore, it was not a matter of not having the resources to accomplish our goal, but rather how to apply them effectively.
A small task group investigated other possible resources in the community for these kids: community centers, a place that offered after-school programs (the local middle school wanted the kids off the property when the school day was over), etc. There were no places within walking distance for these, and other, at-risk youth to go…besides our library. Lacking sufficient amount of knowledge and time to plan this program, we sought additional help. Partnering with a social worker in the University’s Social Welfare program and also a liaison to the Rosedale schools, we started planning an outreach after-school program to take place at Dykes Library.
Luckily, we learned of an organization (Teacher Tech) that helps place teachers in various working environments during the summer months. The individual whom was hired put together a curriculum for Fall 2008. She also utilized our “community within a community” at the Medical Center: Hospital departments such as Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy were delighted to have the kids come over for a tour and some hands-on time with their equipment.
Flyers and parental consent forms, in English and Spanish, were sent home with students and parents at Rosedale school, informing them of this new opportunity for an after-school program.
Outside personal contacts also proved successful; for example, a guest speaker from the FBI offered to talk about his work with the youth. We also decided to support learning initiatives by offering tutoring on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we recruited volunteers at a campus volunteer fair to assist the youth with their school work. Mondays and Wednesdays were designated as “activity” days, with two social welfare graduate students supervising the youth. By the time our teacher went back to her job in August, we had a schedule outlining all activities, programs, and lesson plans for September through December.
We presented classes and two‐hour workshops for middle and high school students. The classes were designed to provide the experiences through interactive learning stations. We offered options of morning or afternoon sessions on different weekdays throughout the time of the exhibit and offered two sessions for Girl Scouts on Saturdays. We assembled youth “goodie bags” with a CD of resources about health sites and health careers and created two LibGuide sites for teachers that included learning resources for students of various ages. The Metropolitan Medical Society hosted a small web site of brief bios of other local women physicians, and to include our own health careers, we created a handout about “What do Medical Librarians Do?” This resource was recently shared at a high school health fair so its usefulness persists. The learning stations from the classes and workshops included an impressive variety of topics:
- Investigate the available electronic resources in medicine and science offered through the various university libraries.
- Take blood pressures/heart rates to gain a better understanding of how life styles/heredity affect our personal readings.
- Practice extracting DNA from fruit or wheat germ.
- Create slides of bacteria to view under powerful microscopes and witness strange pathology specimens.
- Learn about the newest research and development in bionics, prosthetics, and neural‐controlled movement.
- Interview current students in medicine, nursing, and allied health.
- Explore burgeoning careers and future needs in health care.
As a cooperative effort of four academic medical libraries, there were advantages and disadvantages. We used SharePoint, provided through the University of Kansas Medical Center, to provide online access to planning documents and a calendar of events, as well as experimented with it as a task planner. We made extensive use of email to plan meeting times, discuss changes to documents, and poll other members about ideas. Meeting minutes also were a helpful way to track progress and document decisions.
We needed to travel across town to meet as a group, but the Clendening History of Medicine Library and Museum kindly hosted the meetings, providing refreshments and free parking. Often, meetings to discuss arrangements, and even edit or draft reports, grant proposals, or publicity materials on a computer while others brainstormed, were fruitful. As one member noted, “We do seem to have good synergy when we do get together – lots of good things flow.”
The connections with three different institutions gave a wider network of resources, though it also meant that we needed to coordinate efforts with three institutional hierarchies. With seven primary collaborators working on the task, we had a nice mix of skills: writing and grant writing, web design, planning youth activities, knowledge of history of medicine resources, and planning social events for libraries. These were all invaluable.
- 18,000 people attended the exhibit.
- Survey comments and comments about youth classes were quite positive and some youth noted interest in previously unknown health careers. Here are some examples from parents, teachers, and from students.
- “I think having young female medical students explain heart health using all those models really impressed my daughter. She seemed to like asking the other medical students questions about how they got into medical school, and learning what it takes to become a doctor.”
- “This is really amazing! My daughter goes to a private school, and they just don’t have the updated lab equipment to use, or the resources I see here. Thanks for doing this! I wish something like this would’ve been available when I was young (referring to exposure to careers in healthcare).”
- “Thanks for offering this class. It’s a great opportunity for our students from the inner city to see the possibilities.“
- “I’m so glad we brought our students here during the exhibit! Even though they aren’t reading every panel, the links you gave them are really helpful. It’s not often that young people get to see these kinds of pathology specimens you set out.”
- Youth attendees: "future prosthetics engineer"
- "Very informational! Great look and easy to follow. Brought up many new issues. Gave me new ideas that helped."
- "I didn’t know there were so many different careers in health care."
- Notes in our guest book about the opening reception and exhibit were quite positive. Dr. Marjorie Sirridge is a popular local mentor to women in medicine and her opening lecture got the exhibit off to a good start. A lovely reception was held in the lobby of A.R. Dykes Library of the University of Kansas Medical Center, adjacent to the exhibit. Elegant and tasty hors d'ouevres were served by circulating waiters and non-alcoholic sangria was served. Floral arrangements, valet parking, the classical trio Classical Muse, and refreshments were provided by the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. Most attendees came to the lecture and then stayed a bit for the lovely reception—there was lots of milling, discussion and lingering around the exhibit.
- The exhibit received a half page article in the Sunday Kansas City Star Magazine and we did an interview for the radio program, Every Woman. Even after the event, we continued to receive publicity, or publicity inquiries, which indicate the enduring value of this collaboration.
- Less is more. As a committee we spread ourselves too thin and overestimated the numbers of people who would attend. We recommend choosing a few events and concentrating your efforts on publicizing those events.
- If planning for youth events, get to know the school district policies and communicate with them early on to get their support. We experienced a shift in policy that no longer allowed mailing directly to public schools. Some things needed to be taken to the school district office or the school mailing office. Other districts required PDFs to be provided for approval before distribution. Even though the classes were planned in line with curriculum requirements, many factors affected attendance such as transportation and budgets from the previous year.
- Our potential audience and speakers may have been reduced because of the same exhibit being hosted in Columbia MO, two hours away, at the same time as our exhibit. The exhibit was then hosted in Wichita KS, three hours away, immediately after leaving us.
- Be aware of schedules. We scheduled our opening and closing events on Saturdays to try to eliminate parking problems during the week, which are always present at a University Medical Center. Although we were able to work around home football schedules, the general fall schedule for everyone proved extremely busy. High school schedules don't allow for field trips on weekends.
- Local publicity was disappointing and late. Get firm publicity requirements from your own university. Our university policies insisted that PR come through official publicity channels and this was stifling. Toward the end of the exhibit, we talked with news people directly and that is when we received successful publicity. ALA publicity restrictions required a lengthy sponsorship statement that may have discouraged some potential written publicity.
- The largest audiences attended established meetings. The programs seemed to work better as part of another regularly scheduled meeting.
- We submitted our application to host the exhibit four years prior to its arrival. The local context can change over a four-year period. Different people held governmental and university positions. Institutional priorities change with leadership changes; an original collaborator dropped out of the committee after a change in leadership.
- Request resources, or beg, effectively. University vending policies are more restrictive now and the economy is tighter. Everything that is donated or given may need to be reported to the university hierarchy.
- There are lots of messages out there. Younger people may be using Facebook or Twitter. Email is overwhelming and even printed mail may only be scanned and is expensive. The web site was one of the main faces of the exhibit and a good way to communicate. Diversify the message, if possible.
- Be prepared for the reporting. The reporting structure of the ALA grant is challenging and restrictive. For instance, when the exhibit arrived the condition of all panels had to be reported in detail. Other grants received had their own reporting requirements.