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.
Click here to view the demographics of the Rosedale Middle school community . All of the activities took place in either the library or other campus locations.
Since the pilot program started in September, we have about ten to twelve youth involved. We have noticed increasingly positive interactions between staff and students, and behavioral problems have been minimal. The youth themselves are enjoying the activities; one girl participating in the Physical Therapy “field trip” was having so much fun, she didn’t want to leave early when her mother came to pick her up for a dental appointment.
Though we have yet to plan for next year, there is already discussion about letting the kids help with some of the library’s other community projects (Petpalooza, an event showcasing responsible pet ownership).
We are committed to further evaluating and assessing the progress of the 39th Street CREW outreach project; we know we can make it stronger and increase enrollment. The Fall 2008 semester was our first step in making a difference for these students; there are many more steps to climb. Ultimately, it is our hope that by embracing the youth into the University of Kansas Medical School community they will see they are a part of something bigger then themselves, bigger than the local Kansas City neighborhood. They are individuals belonging to a global community and their presence matters.
Anne Huffman, MLS University of Kansas Medical Center A.R. Dykes Health Sciences Library Head of Public Services/Biomedical Librarian [firstname.lastname@example.org]