Manager School Outreach, MyLibraryNYC, New York Public Library
MLS, University of Western Ontario, 2009
Photo by Patrick Heagney
In 2014, when Amie Wright became the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) manager for the MyLibraryNYC (MLNYC) school outreach program and project lead for NYPL, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), and Queens Library (QL), she quickly discovered she’d made misguided assumptions about her audience. Educators weren’t already awareof the full range of available library services, and they used but weren’t passionate about library educational collections, which were based on curricular units and sourced from educational vendors.
Lessons learned, Wright diversified the teacher collections, adding graphic novels and other comics, such as John Lewis’s memoir, March, and George O’Connor’s “Olympians” series, whose circulation is now “among the highest in the special collections,” says Wright, as well as items in Chinese, French, and Braille. A Ms. Marvel fan herself, Wright is “super-passionate about [advocating for] nontraditional materials such as comics in the classroom,” she says.
She also moved away from large, unsuccessful initiatives like library card drives to a flexible outreach menu, letting schools choose the services that resonate with them. And she worked with partners at BPL, QL, and the NYC Department of Education to secure permanent funding and add seven dedicated outreach librarian positions.
Her strategy worked: teacher collections circulation increased more than 100 percent; students with MLNYC cards checked out 16 percent more juvenile and 30–40 percent more teen materials than did students with standard library cards; and MLNYC now serves more than 500 schools, 60,000 educators, and nearly half a million students.
Another reason for the success of MLNYC, says Wright, is that the program “partners exclusively with schools with school libraries, and the school librarian is our primary point person…. I believe that schools and libraries are stronger together.”