Satia Marshall Orange makes fiery plea for library community outreach

PHILIPSBURG–Retired former Director of the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) Satia Marshall Orange, who is also a motivational speaker and civil rights activist in Chicago, Illinois, is visiting Philipsburg Jubilee Library this week. Purpose of her visit is to motivate and train library staff, to mobilize support for literacy and outreach programmes for socially disadvantaged persons and to provide advice to the library on how to enhance its literacy and outreach activities.

After teaching in Missouri, New York and Wisconsin, the daughter of two librarians became a librarian herself at the Campus Elementary School at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Forsyth County Public Library in North Carolina and directed the Arthur R. Ashe, Jr. Foreign Policy Library at TransAfrica Forum in Washington. D.C. before coming to Chicago to serve as OLOS Director at ALA, which is the largest and oldest library association in the world.

Under Marshall’s leadership, OLOS broadened the association’s support of traditionally underserved library staff and library communities. She was instrumental in enhancing ALA’s support for numerous outreach programmes in various communities in the United States.

Throughout her career, Marshall found that people and not books are a library’s greatest assets, hence her great emphasis on the importance of outreach programmes. “Libraries need to reach out to members of the traditionally underserved populations to expand their service to people who normally do not visit, among which are coloured people, minorities and the homeless, specifically where literacy and general outreach programmes are concerned.”

After meeting with library staff here, she said the library is having a “wonderful” programme and “fabulous” services, which include reading sessions, lectures and computer classes, just to name a few.

There are, however, also challenges. The bookmobile, which caters to young readers in the various districts, is in a state of disrepair and senior citizens activities are not always well attended.

Marshall may have a remedy. “The library has a truck. Just load some books, boxes and a couple of tables and put them on display at a community centre to keep catering to your public that is used to getting their books from the bookmobile,” she said, underlining that activities can be cost-effective and make use of community-dedicated volunteers.

Her message is: the library needs to leave its own building and go to the community and provide services in consultation with the community. “Talk to the people in those communities about their needs.”

According to Marshall, the library has much more to offer than a number of books on a shelf. “Spanish-speaking people probably do not even know that there are books available in their language. The library should advertise more that you may also find that old movie you wanted to see and so much more. Libraries share information, but most people think we share books.”

The library has, for instance, a computer room where visitors can browse the Internet; it also has a collection of old photographs, old and new newspapers and magazines.

The misconception is not just limited to readers, but includes leaders in society and even library board members, on which the library largely depends where it comes to financial support. “Most of these people have not been in a library since they left school,” said Marshall.

To increase community awareness about the library’s activities, Marshall Orange will be meeting with Governor Eugene Holiday, Director of St. Maarten Development Foundation Keith Franca and with Secretary-General at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Jorien Wuite.

She will also meet with the SXM Reads Committee, consisting of representatives of Community Outreach Mentorship and Empowerment (COME) Centre, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Rotaract Club of St. Maarten Sunrise.

Marshall Orange will be the main speaker during an information session at the library for stakeholders and the general public Thursday, 7:00pm-9:00pm.

Source: The Daily Herald