Community Outreach Specialist

There may be many different names for a library’s Community Outreach Specialist. They include, but are not limited to, Community Engagement Specialist, Community Resources Specialist, Library Outreach Coordinator, Library Outreach Specialist, Community Outreach Librarian, and Outreach and Partnership Specialist. No matter what the position is called, the goal of the job is the same – to provide library services to the community, outside of the library, to reach those in the community who are underserved, are infrequent users of the library, or are not library users. Community outreach specialists strive to include everyone in the library’s services, providing an equitable delivery to all, through developing programs, practices, policies, and behaviors that help to make the library available to everyone in a community.

Community outreach specialists may work with a diverse group of people, depending upon the library they serve. They may work for public libraries, school libraries, government libraries, or specialized libraries. Therefore, their intended audience depends upon the type of library, the setting, the environment, and the population the library serves. This may include the traditionally underserved, such as minorities, homeless people, people with disabilities, incarcerated people, ex-convicts, new readers, LGBTQ populations, and rural communities. 

Young adult woman returning books at library

Working as a community outreach specialist can be a very rewarding position within a library. If this type of job interests you, read on to discover how you can become a community outreach specialist

What Does a Community Outreach Specialist Do?

Because of the varied settings in which a community outreach specialist may work, duties will vary from one job to the next. Generally, however, the following duties are common to the profession:

  • Assist with outreach activities designed to bring new customers into library and new participant into child/adult learning programs
  • Contact and meet potential participants to explain benefits of program
  • Work with program staff to coordinate assigned recruitment activities 
  • Provides information about admission requirements and program benefits to prospective participants
  • Assists new participants with enrollment process
  • Plans, coordinates and organizes information fairs and open houses
  • Participates in developing materials for online promotion
  • Implements internal and external communication strategies
  • Assists in preparation of presentations about learning services
  • Participates in regular meetings with program staff
  • Produces follow up reports on outreach and recruitment activities and plans
  • Supports establishment, expansion and maintenance of excellent referral relationships with internal library partners and external organizations to meet social, emotional and educational needs of participants
  • Follows up on referrals to ensure participant needs were met
  • Maintains, tracks, orders supplies
  • Acts as administrative support for designated outreach site
  • Completes activity reports for tracking and accountability
  • Manages collection and distribution of outreach outcomes statistical data for reporting purposes

Where Do Community Outreach Specialists Work?

Job settings for community outreach specialists are usually changing and dynamic. As they are in an “outreach” position, they typically work outside of the library, within the communities they serve. Community outreach specialists may also run bookmobiles and other outreach vehicles. They may work with varying groups or with specific populations of the underserved. Likewise, the work schedule of a community outreach specialist can change, and may include evenings and weekends, depending upon the programs they are providing to the community.

Characteristics of a Good Community Outreach Specialist

A community outreach specialist should be very focused on people, with well-developed social skills. They should be passionate about spreading the work of the library to all. They should also be committed to educating new audiences about the library’s services. Creative types of people who “think outside the box” are perfect for the position of community outreach specialist. 

Skills a Community Outreach Specialist Should Have

Specific skills that make for a good community outreach specialist include:

  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills, both orally and in writing
  • Good collaboration skills to work with diverse groups of people and various organizations
  • Good assessment skills to quickly assess a new environment and identify the strengths of the library to best serve that environment
  • Good multi-tasking skills to work on a few different things at once
  • Understanding of information technology resources available at the library for usage by users
  • Ability to conduct group classes and sessions and educate public

Education for Community Outreach Specialists

Community outreach specialists are special types of librarians, and therefore require the same basic education as a professional librarian – namely, a Master of Library Science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. If a college MLS/MLIS program offers a specialization in community outreach, this is a plus; however, such a specialization is not truly necessary, as skills can often be learned on the job. Some colleges that offer community outreach specializations within a MLS/MLIS program are:

  • University of Alabama (MLIS – Academic Libraries or Public Libraries specialization)
  • University of Maryland (MLIS – Diversity and Inclusion specialization)
  • University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (MLIS- Public Library concentration)
  • Syracuse University (MLIS- User Services and Community Engagement concentration)
  • Catholic University of America (MLIS- Community Services Librarianship)

Courses that one can expect to take in a community outreach specialization may include:

  • Accessible Library and Information Services
  • Information Technology in Educational Organizations
  • Motivational Aspects of Information Use
  • Collection Development and Access
  • Storytelling for Information Professionals
  • Database Administration Concepts and Database Management
  • Human Interaction with Computers
  • Public Library as an Institution
  • Instructional Strategies and Techniques for Information Professionals
  • Foundations of Research Methods in Information Studies
  • Cultural Competence for Library Information Science Professionals
  • Academic Libraries 

Jobs for Community Outreach Specialists 

A recent perusal of online job postings for library community outreach specialists found the following open positions available: 

  • Children’s and Family Outreach Services Librarian – Oshkosh Public Library, WI; salary $56,513/year
  • Teaching and Outreach Librarian – The Claremont Colleges Services, CA; salary not specified
  • Senior Librarian Manager of Mobile Outreach – Lee County Library System, FL; salary $46,833.02 to $84,332.56/year
  • Manager of Circulation/Bookmobile – Fairbanks North Star Public Libraries, AK; salary $87,087/year
  • Medical and Academic Library Outreach Coordinator – University of Iowa, IA; salary not specified
  • Assessment and Outreach Librarian – SUNY Delhi, NY; salary $45,000/year
  • Community Resources Specialist – Leon County, FL; salary $48,997 to $80,845/year
  • Electronic Resources/Outreach Librarian – Newberry College, SC; salary not specified
  • Community Engagement Librarian – James L. Hamner Public Library, Richmond, VA; salary $37,000/year
  • Community Engagement Librarian – City of Taylor Group, MI; salary $40,000 to $42,500/year