Céline Gareau-Brennan’s Review of “New Frontiers In Engaging Vulnerable Children After School”

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New Frontiers In Engaging Vulnerable Children After School (D6)

Speakers:
Anne Hill, B.A., MLIS, Calgary Public Library, Community Outreach Librarian, Village Square Library
Brin-Chenille Bugo, MLIS, Calgary Public Library, Community Outreach Librarian, Village Square Library

Article by: Céline Gareau-Brennan, MLIS/MBA Candidate 2017, University of Alberta

The session New Frontiers In Engaging Vulnerable Children After School described Anne Hill and Brin-Chenille Bugo’s experiences developing an after-school outreach pilot program for school-aged children. This experience began when approached by the Calgary Police Service (CPS) about a CPS led initiative that targeted low ranking schools to receive “wrap-around” programming, intended to fill an apparent gap in afterschool recreation, and thus improve the quality of life of the attending students. Together with the CPS and the local YMCA, the Calgary Public Library (CPL) developed an after school sessions that include the development of literacy, digital literacy, and numeracy skills.

The program runs weekdays for students at Patrick Airlie School, from 3:15pm to 6pm Monday through Thursday, and from 12pm to 6pm on Fridays due to early dismissal. The participants were youth, often in precarious situations, and therefore the Hill and Bugo stressed the importance of having strictly enforced attendance and pick-up authorization procedures. As well, there were detailed emergency protocols in place. The librarians also established appropriate responses to disclosures from children. Hill and Bugo noted that for certain participants, having a caring adult in their lives was a new phenomenon. The logistics and preparation for staffing and training were also disclosed during the presentation. The staff were selected based on their flexibility and competencies with children Training was emphasised, and the session presenters stressed the importance of self-care to prevent staff burnout. Hill and Bugo also identified challenges in information sharing and personality conflicts. Despite these difficulties, the staff managed to establish certain solutions, which included a formalized quick staff meeting before each session, a task list, a communication book, and setting personal goals.

As a session attendee, I thought the content was very well handled. Hill and Bugo were engaging as it was clear that they were passionate about their project. It was exciting hearing of the impact such sessions has on its participants, including the enthusiasm expressed by children in coming to the library and recognizing a librarian involved in the program. However, it should be noted that because the program is a pilot project it is difficult to ascertain all of its benefits and limitations.  As well, formalized assessment has yet to take place. The large staff investment made me slightly hesitant as to the project’s scalability in different communities or throughout an entire city. That said, Hill and Bugo’s commitment to library outreach is admirable, and I am curious to hear how their work evolves.

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