At its virtual conference this year, the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) presented Susan Parkins, Senior Outreach Specialist for Laramie County Library System, with their John Philip Excellence in Outreach Award. The award, sponsored by ABOS and Farber Specialty Vehicles, was given in appreciation of her outstanding contributions and prominent leadership in ABOS and library outreach services.
Susan has worked for LCLS for 32 years, dedicating her career to providing outreach services through the bookmobile and home visits. Her tireless work has ensured that homebound and rural community members still receive the benefits and resources offered by the library.
This award recognizes the impact that she’s made not just in Wyoming, but on the national stage. Susan has served the ABOS organization since 2017 as a Board Member-at-Large, Vice President/President Elect, President, Past President, and Chair of several committees.
A statement from the library read, “Susan’s impact on ABOS and the outreach community at large cannot be understated. Her work to expand outreach services and mentor those who provide them has influenced both the local community and fellow library employees on a national scale. Laramie County Library System congratulates Susan on this well-deserved honor and thanks her for her dedication to bookmobile and outreach services at large.”
Given the impact Susan has made, we decided to sit down with her for a conversation to get her perspective on library outreach and leadership:
What made you decide to work in libraries?
I have loved libraries since I was little and even “cataloged” my own books. When the library job opened up I knew that was where I wanted to work.
What made you choose outreach specifically?
I started out at the circulation desk but really wanted to work in the children’s division. That job soon became available and I worked there for 10 years. During this time I subbed for the bookmobile driver and I was hooked. As hard as it was to leave my job in children’s, I applied for the outreach job as soon as the position opened. Here I am now, 20+ years later!
What makes outreach such an important component of library services?
It’s one thing to provide library services to the public, but a whole other level to take those services to those who are in need but cannot come to a library. I serve in this capacity by way of the bookmobile and homebound delivery. We’re reaching those who do not have conventional access to a library. It might be visiting a rural community where the bookmobile is the only library access without extensive travel or offering a library hub in a community setting where latch-key children aren’t able to get to a library for a variety of reasons. It might be delivering library items to someone who can’t leave their home or taking a rotating collection to a nursing home facility. In addition to these services, it’s important to build partnerships in the community. This is done through outreach.
What are the benefits of taking leadership roles in the library community?
It’s important to grow professionally in your career. You do this through advanced and continued education, volunteering, and involvement in professional organizations. While you can benefit and grow, reciprocity is important. Mentorship and volunteering of your time and expertise is very important in the strength and support of those around you in your career.
What was it like for you to receive this award?
You don’t volunteer and serve in hopes of the recognition. The reward comes from knowing that you have done your best. To also receive the recognition does take it that one step further and the acknowledgement of a job well done helps you realize that what you’ve done and continue to do is important. I never expected this and still find it hard to consider myself in the ranks and accolades of those that earned this award before me.