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Instead of Outreach, Outward Focus

Pima County Public Library
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Innovation Summary

With an outward focus on the community, the Pima County Public Library (PCPL) becomes a “powerhouse that … connects, and enlightens residents to create more opportunity.” PCPL librarians use an outward focus to make community connections and to shape and sustain relevant programming in changing times.

Problem Statement

As part of a county-wide initiative, the Pima County Public Library is charged with encouraging and developing strong partnerships with groups, agencies and individuals concerned with environmental issues. Through these partnerships, PCPL librarians introduce new programs and establish an ongoing relationship with the community. PCPL takes advantages of these connections to make a great community even better.


With this outward focus library staff and innovative community members and groups have created environmental health programming, community gathering, learning and sharing in likely and unlikely places. Outward focus initiatives are designed to make a great community even better through encouraging local connections and by delivering things that libraries do best. Partners on sustainability initiatives are growing. Partners include Pima County Bike and Pedestrian Program, BICAS ,the Pima Association of Governments, Native Seeds/SEARCH, the Community Food Bank, and the Pima Cooperative Extension's Master Gardeners. Initiatives beginning in 2011 and 2012 include the Bookbike and the Seed Library. The Bookbike is a three-wheeled human powered bike that delivers books, library cards, bike maps, literacy information and library program information to underserved communities in the downtown area (soup kitchens, senior centers, etc.), with a goal of providing a place for people to gather together in their neighborhoods and choose books to read. The Seed Library provides the opportunity for people to borrow seeds, to experience the joy of gardening, enjoy the fruits of their labor and return the seeds saved from the strongest plants to keep the seed library going. Library staff and partners who sponsor and support these initiatives measure them by their ability a) to create the conditions that will help the community realize the best future, b) to make a unique impact with the community, and c) to create lasting connections with local partners and community interests.


In 2012-13, to reach more audiences more places, PCPL librarians have been approached by the Pima County Bike and Pedestrian Program Ambassadors. The Ambassadors have offered to pedal books to homebound residents in neighborhoods around priority libraries. Also, PCPL will offer “Common Ground” programming on native plant resources and heirloom fruit trees in cooperation with the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in the summer of 2012 during the Our State, Our Stories: Celebrating 100 Years of Arizona reading program.