San Jose Public Library, CA
MLS, San José State University, 2006
Classical singer who hits very, very high notes—her dog does not approve
Photo by Jocelyn Fong
Black Belt Outreach
Whether librarian Madeline Walton-Hadlock leads 100 toddlers in a music and movement story time at a hip downtown San José coffee shop, inspires volunteers and staff, or partners with the hacker community to turn summer reading into summer learning, she lives up to her moniker “outreach black belt.” That’s what relatively new director Jill Bourne calls Walton-Hadlock.
Since Walton-Hadlock started at San José Public Library (SJPL) in 2006, she has been finding innovative ways to reach out to the community, says Angie Miraflor, an SJPL division manager. “Maddy understands that librarians who stay within the walls of the library will not attract new users and won’t be able to see what our community needs really are,” says Miraflor.
Bourne says Walton-Hadlock has a knack for building connections with patrons. For example, story time at the coffee shop introduced downtown families to the library and prereader literacy activities. Walton-Hadlock also issued invitations to community groups for outreach at the Alum Rock branch and the year-old Bascom Library (she manages both), which brought in a visiting organization nearly every day.
Leading SJPL’s 15-person Summer Reading Celebration planning group, Walton-Hadlock says she was inspired by her work at libraries in economically disadvantaged communities. “These kids have been my primary motivation to transform the summer reading program into a less intimidating, game-style program that rewards different styles of learning.” Under her guidance, summer reading participation soared by 40 percent in 2012 and almost 45 percent in 2013 to nearly 22,260 participants. She developed tracks for prereaders, children, teens, and adults and focused on experiential learning outcomes and rewards, says Bourne.
Walton-Hadlock also sought help from eBay’s Opportunity Hack to develop a summer reading smartphone app that will launch this summer. The app will offer games, reminders to read, digital badges, and community connections, as well as gather statistics for librarians. “She’s looking for ways to bring nonreaders into the program, making a larger impact in schools, generating a love of reading within our community, and…spread[ing] this message to our staff, too, so they have a vested interest in the program,” Miraflor says.
Not only did Walton-Hadlock write a proposal to eBay, she “gave a heartfelt pitch to a roomful of coders and software developers…yield[ing] the support of a creative team of programmers working to help the library…introduc[ing] the library to the hacker/developer community and…connect[ing] to a local corporate partner,” says Bourne. That’s black belt outreach.