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Adaptability in Partnerships Leads to Success

Blog Feature Bsbshreve Memorial

Boys receiving free haircuts during Shreve Memorial Library’s Children’s Book Festival held on May 4, 2024.

Written by Katie Sullivan, Senior Program Manager, Urban Libraries Council

In partnership with Barbershop Books, ULC’s Barbershop Books Pilot for Libraries supported a small cohort of libraries in 2023 and 2024 to provide reading opportunities to Black boys directly in barbershops in their local communities. Participating libraries received support, peer learning cohort opportunities and virtual training to connect with and establish programs in local barbershops. Continue reading for a case study from a participating ULC member library.

Barbershop Books Case Study: Shreve Memorial Library

In reflecting on their participation in the Barbershop Books Pilot for Libraries, the Shreve Memorial Library Programming and Outreach Team all agreed that their greatest success was their partnerships and relationships built with their barbers. They started by getting to know each business and library staff joined barbers at their shops’ promotional events.

The library recruited 10 barbershops as part of the initiative, and staff expressed developing a sense of camaraderie with them. “They are enthusiastic and want to help,” said Donna Frazier, Outreach Specialist for Shreve Memorial Library. “You just may have to ask a few times.”

A participating barber, Sean Boston of Bos-man’s Barber College, invited local authors to come to his shop. “One young author paid for everyone to get a free haircut while he sold his books at the barbershop,” said Frazier. “We then asked the author to be a part of our library’s children’s book festival, and he sold so many books he couldn’t believe it.”

Since the initial outreach to barbershops, Bos-Man’s Barber College has also now attended Shreve Memorial Library’s Children’s Book Festival twice, where they provided dozens of free haircuts.

Recruiting barbershops and getting the program off the ground was no easy feat, however. The library programming team’s adaptability and willingness to conquer challenges ensured their success. Barbers are busy and were sometimes hesitant to sign on to the program when first approached, but the library team learned how to persuade them. The library team emphasized that the program was for kids, and worked to minimize what barbers, with limited time and capacity, needed to contribute other than space in the shop.

Barbers were also often occupied and working when the library team stopped in to talk with them about the program. They wanted barbers to watch a training video from Barbershop Books, and to make it easier for them developed a QR code that barbers could use to watch the video on their own time. The team was also willing to speak with barbers while they were working with clients. To collect evaluation survey data, the team spoke with barbers while they worked. The library team filled in the survey responses from the barbers, so that the barbers did not have to stop what they were doing.

Other challenges arose just because of the nature of the region. Shreveport, Louisiana, where the Shreve Memorial Library system is located, is sprawling. “They are such widely spaced neighborhoods that getting out and visiting each location as often as we wanted was a challenge,” said Loretta Casteen, Programming/Outreach Specialist for Shreve Memorial Library.

To address this, library staff divided the city up in quadrants, sometimes spending full days out in the community in their van. In the end, the work paid off. Jeremy Williams, owner and manager of Level Up Barbershop in Shreveport, told the library team that there was one little boy whose hair he had been cutting for years and the boy would never speak with him. Once the books were added to the barbershop, however, the barber engaged the young man in a whole conversation about the book he was reading.

Ultimately, the barbershops that participated in the program in Shreveport received an estimated 13,572 combined visits from children 8 and under, and the books were interacted with an estimated 10,660 times in the program’s first year.


Estimates based on barber survey responses and projected over 12 months in 2023-2024. Projected counts are not unique and include repeat visits and repeat interactions.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant number LG-252555-OLS-22.


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