May 12, 2018

Heather Acerro | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Change Agents

Heather Acerro

CURRENT POSITION

Head of Youth Services, Rochester Public Library, MN

DEGREE

MLIS, UCLA, 2002

FOLLOW

ALSC blog; Rochester Public Library on Instagram

Photo by Douglas Gritzmacher

MS_logo_300x81

Good Neighbor

“Failure is a critical ingredient to success,” says Heather Acerro, head of youth services at the Rochester Public Library (RPL). “Not being afraid to fail, and even embracing failure, gives us the opportunity to boldly try new things.” Her creative approaches to community needs have resulted in positive outcomes for RPL. Despite the challenge presented by Minnesota’s “11-and-a-half months of winter,” as Acerro jokes, she wrote a grant that resulted in the addition of a bicycle-pulled trailer (the first in the state) for library outreach. “Almost 97 percent of BookBike users agreed that…the trailer allowed them to check out more materials,” says library director Audrey Betcher. In 2017, after winning a citywide award for the project, Acerro used the prize money to add an ArtCart, filled with supplies for creative projects.

Ensuring the library is an inclusive organization is a priority for Acerro. In 2014, she and her team committed to providing a much-needed safe space for LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) youth and families. RPL now offers a variety of programming for this audience, from a “q club” for LGBTQIA teens to Parents Empower Pride, a gathering of parents of LGBTQIA children. As a result, “q club survey respondents indicated that over 80 percent felt safer in the library and almost 70 percent increased their knowledge of the library’s LGBTQIA materials. [All of the parents] reported that they feel more connected to the community…and gained knowledge,” says Acerro. Her team now delivers training to other youth-serving organizations, reaching 400 more people with the message of inclusivity. “With her steadfast commitment and passion for reaching underserved and at-risk residents with library services, [Heather] is the leader…of this effort to support the LGBTQIA community,” says Betcher.

Acerro also heads the Neighbors Read program, working with multiple community partners to install free minilibraries in 180 locations. RPL has distributed more than 8,000 items. Users are not only reading more but also “feeling more connected to their neighbors,” says Acerro. Betcher praises Acerro’s bold approach: “She translates our strategic plan and core values into meaningful and measurable actions.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Share
Building Literacy-Rich Communities
Hosted by Library Journal and School Library Journal, Stronger Together is a national gathering of thought leaders and innovators from across the country who will share where and how partnerships between school districts and public libraries are having success. Join us May 10–12 at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as we explore the impact these collaborations are having on the institutions, communities, and kids they serve.
Maker Workshop
In this two-week online course, you’ll create a maker program that aligns with your budget and community needs, with personal coaching from maker experts—from libraries and beyond—May 23 & June 6, 2018.
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*