May 12, 2018

Heather Acerro | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Change Agents

Heather Acerro


Head of Youth Services, Rochester Public Library, MN


MLIS, UCLA, 2002


ALSC blog; Rochester Public Library on Instagram

Photo by Douglas Gritzmacher


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.

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