Adult Services Librarian
Bainbridge Island Library, Kitsap Regional Library, WA
MLIS, University of Washington, Seattle, 2010
Before becoming a librarian, Barbakoff was a theater lighting designer
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images for Library Journal
Whether she’s hosting a book group on a ferry or helping bookworms meet at a “speed friending” night, adult services librarian Audrey Barbakoff takes community engagement to a higher level. Barbakoff’s community building, outreach, and innovative programming have changed how Bainbridge Island Library engages with the community’s younger adults, says Rebecca Judd, branch manager. “Audrey has helped redefine adult service at our branch
and for our library system as a whole,” Judd says.
When Barbakoff came to work at Bainbridge in October 2011, she noticed a gap in usage between youths and 50-plus retirees. She targeted working adults, especially the “elusive twenty- and thirtysomethings, and people who don’t have a lot of money.”
She added eight events a month to the library schedule, including a DIY series dubbed Radical Home Economics. Program attendance jumped dramatically, doubling to 600 adults in October 2012 from October 2011, Barbakoff says. Once she has perfected a program, she exports it to other Kitsap branches.
Barbakoff’s flagship may be Ferry Tales, a floating book group on the Bainbridge Island–Seattle commuter ferry. Up to 30 percent of Bainbridge’s adults take a ferry off-island to work, making it difficult for them to visit the library. After receiving state permission, Barbakoff started a monthly book group in March 2012 and an ask-a-librarian session. Ferry Tales now has 15 regular participants. “[The program] really made me get outside the library and approach people,” Barbakoff says. “It’s stretched me in dealing with a lot of different outside groups.”
One of those groups is Washington State Ferries, which recently approved Barbakoff’s proposal to expand onboard library service to weekly. Called Books Afloat, the new program, launching in April, will enable Barbakoff to offer book talks, author appearances, circulation of popular books, and instruction on downloading ebooks to adults on the ferry. “We lose people once they hit adulthood,” Barbakoff says. “The library is a place for lifelong learning…lifelong does not mean under 18 and over 65. It’s a vital relationship.”