Outreach to Veterans
July 27, 2012
For some time, I have been thinking about the various constituencies that our community college library serves. One group that is probably underserved is our veterans. However, Elgin Community College does a good job reaching out to its veterans (see this site and read through their newsletters–a nice amount of truly useful information!)
One thing that libraries do well is that they try to be everything to everybody. Generally, I think that they succeed. However, do we market and communicate to our various patrons what is truly important to them? One of the marketing exercises that I did in a class was to observe and to make a list of the various groups that the library serves. So, although we do have materials that support veterans (books/articles/databases on war, psychology, self-help and lots more), I am not sure if this is communicated to them in a direct way, such as ECC’s Admissions and Recruitment team are doing.
I am currently reading “The Great War and Modern Memory” by Paul Fussell, and through this, I have been introduced to some of the great poets that were influenced by World War I. My current poet is Siegfried Sassoon, a British poet who survived WWI. In reading his and other poems, I am struck by not just the beauty of the language, but also of the horrible images. Another book I am starting is the classic “All Quiet on the Western Front”, which discusses the war in its many forms. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller also talks about the absurdity of war, and I am sure there are many books (fiction, non-fiction, poetry) that could be of interest to veterans, so that they understand that what they are going through is unique in some ways, but not in others. Acknowledgment of what these veterans may have gone through, rather than ignoring what we don’t want to know, could mean a lot to them.
So, here are some ways that this could be accomplished in a library setting:
- Most importantly, get any research already done by ECC that surveys veterans and their needs. If something specific hasn’t been done, then spearhead something to make sure all can have their wants/needs considered/met
- Partner with Admissions and their team to identify areas that the library can assist in supporting veterans
- Offer a “veterans only” night (after regular hours, perhaps) that has food, drink, and highlights not only what the library offers, but what other departments can offer. Invite their families, too!
- Invite veterans of all ages/wars to speak at a special program about their experiences
- Contribute to the Veteran’s Newsletter, highlighting particular works or themes that could be of interest to veterans
- Offer specialized programs in conjunction with community groups, for veterans and their families
- Do a twice yearly library publication/newsletter for veterans, highlighting particular library resources and programs that support veterans
These are just a few ways that a library could positively impact the veteran population. Getting back into a college/daily lifestyle after being deployed or stationed overseas could be a very difficult transition. Thinking of ways to support veterans and make them special (which they are!) will help them to assimilate back into their communities. It is the least we can do.