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Janelle Valera's Asset-based Community Development MOU Page

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Huntsville Public Library ELLA Program (Early Literacy Library Ambassador Program)


Partners: Janelle Valera, Children's Coordinator, Huntsville Public Library; Barbara Lewis, Education Coordinator, Texas Departmet of Education Region VI; Dr. Joan Williams, Department of Reading & Special Population, SHSU College of Education; Dr. Holly Weimer, School of Library Science, SHSU College of Education; Janet Williams, Director of Educator Preparation Services, SHSU College of Education.



1.     To establish a sustainable network of early literacy library representatives, called “Library Ambassadors,” who can provide outreach early literacy opportunities to the Huntsville community on behalf of the library.

2.     To strengthen community ties with both the university (one of Huntsville’s greatest community assets) and the underserved, disadvantaged populations within Huntsville.

3.     To empower the entire Huntsville community with literacy development.




Objectives for Goal #1:

A. Develop a lesson plan for an Early Literacy training program to teach future “Library Ambassadors” how to present an early literacy based outreach program, using philosophies from ECRR2 and other research based teaching methods.

B. Train 6-10 Library Ambassadors within the first year of the partnership.


Objectives for Goal #2: 

A. Hold quarterly meetings with SHSU COE staff members to maintain ELLA program and explore additional future symbiotic relationships between the university and the public library, particularly between the public library and the SHSU MLS program.

B. Establish 2-4 outreach sites for Library Ambassadors to perform literacy classes and develop a list of active and empassioned contacts for various community organizations. 


Objectives for Goal #3: 

A. Offer 1-2 literacy classes a month (or 12-24 in the first year) with the goal of 10 people (children and adults) at each session (or approximately 120-240 people per year).

B. Over a five year period grow in attendance and number of classes by 20%.


ALSC Competencies: Valera_MOU_Competencies.docx


Evidence-based Practice 

Ed Barratt-Pugh, Caroline, and Nola Allen. “Making a difference: Findings from Better Beginnings a family literacy intervention programme.” The Australian Library Journal 60.3 (2011): 195-204. (accessed 11/20/14). http://ezproxy.twu.edu:2339/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=479cdad9-d71a-45c2-954e-0b227a38c581%40sessionmgr4003&vid=1&hid=4212


Using the statewide family literacy program Better Beginnings started in 2005 and developed by the State Library of Western Australia, researchers Caroline Barratt-Pugh and Nola Allen conducted a four year longitudinal study, evaluating parental responses to a literacy based outreach program.  Their greatest concentration focused on the questions of parent/care-giver attitudes towards early literacy; parent/care-giver practices in regards to early literacy; and parent/care-giver library usage and attendance of library based programs.  This detailed study revealed that early literacy outreach programs which focus on teaching young children and their parents research based language learning methods can have a long term positive impact on literacy engagement, library usage, and academic success. This study supports the purpose behind goals #2 and #3. It demonstrates that early literacy outreach strengthen ties between parents and the library (goal #2), and it supports the idea that early literacy programs empowers families and has lasting effects (goal #3).


Johnson, Anna Marie. “Information literacy instruction for an honors program first-year orientation.” Communications in Information Literacy 6.2 (2012): 141-150. (accessed 10/2/14). http://ezproxy.twu.edu:2225/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=eb2d66f7-a77c-4844-9db1-19726d2e5780%40sessionmgr115&vid=4&hid=124


Researcher Anna Marie Johnson documents the success of the partnership between the academic library at the University of Louisville and the honor’s program at that same University.  Although this study reviews a partnership between two academic organizations, the emphasis on sustainability and collaboration is of great importance to the ELLA program.  Johnson chose to investigate this particular partnership because of its proven results and enduring dedication to its mission over a fifteen year period.  Many programs start with great momentum but die out over time for various reasons.  Johnson evaluates and documents the factors which lead to long term success between partnerships.  This study supports Goal #1, as this goal focuses on the benefits (and challenges) of establishing and maintaining a self-sustaining program that will advance all parties involved. 


Measures for Success 


Data for Objectives for Goal #1: 

A. Keep statistics on the number of interested/potential Library Ambassadors, the number of people who complete the program, and the number of people who follow through by actively engaging in outreach.

B. Follow up with evaluations at each stage, especially the students who do NOT follow through with the program. The library should discover why they did not continue with the program and make any adjustments, if needed to minimize volunteer loss.


Data for Objectives for Goal #2: 

A. Have leadership committee evaluate the communication and ability/ease to work with the library and vice versa. Based on these responses, the relationship can be adjusted for continued positive collaboration.

B. Have “porch style” conversations with people at programs and document responses. Official surveys and/or evaluations will not be required for the literacy class participants, as this can be intimidating or uncomfortable to the targeted populations.  


Data for Objectives for Goal #3:   

A. Work with public schools and Headstart programs to collect data on pre-school and kindergarten assessments. Compare these annual results over a five year period for targeted populations to determine if improvements have occurred.    




Benefits for the non-profit agency: Students will gain practical experience with early literacy in a classroom setting and they will receive credit towards class projects or volunteer hours for educational organizations. The university will gain positive exposure in the community, as well as to opportunity to provide an additional experience for educating pre-service teachers, their core mission.


Benefits for the library: The library will be able to extend outreach opportunities with little cost in funds or staffing.  Additionally these outreach programs will introduce non-library users to the resources of the library and theoretically result in increased library visits and circulation, as new patrons utilize the library. Similar to the university, this partnership will provide additional positive exposure for the library in the community, which will hopefully result in greater social, political, and financial support for the library.


Benefits for the community: The community will profit from free early literacy classes at convenient locations with convenient hours; this will result in enhanced educational opportunities and a stronger, more secure future for all of Huntsville.


Responsibilities of the Partners: 


Non-profit Agency Responsibilities:

SHSU COE will organize the students; this includes marketing to, locating, and suggesting students or student groups.  The will also work on the details of providing credit towards classwork for student involvement. Additionally they will provide the feedback from participating students and run the background checks for the Library Ambassadors. 


Library Responsibilities:

The library will provide the training space for ELLA, as well as the craft and other supplies.  The library will also organize and schedule the outreach locations and times. Finally, the library will keep the statistics, evaluations, and other necessary documentation. The library will also market and distribute fliers to the target populations, advertising the program.

Shared Responsibilities: Both organizations will collaborate to create the training lesson plans and present the trainings (with representatives from the university and the library emphasizing their educational angle and specialty).  Likewise they are both expected to maintain open communication and attend/prioritize collaboration sessions.  They will also both need to provide support and guidance for the Library Ambassadors, should they need it.



Budget Detail: Craft supplies $200.00, Office supplies/copies $100.00


Source(s) of Funding:

It has been established that the Huntsville Public Library will fund $300.00 for the supplies for the ELLA program from the annual juvenile programming budget.  Although a cost analysis has not determined a specific amount, it has been agreed that SHSU COE will support any additional resources specific to student recruitment and any costs associated with establishing a classroom credit system within the university up to a matching $300.00.  If any expenses unexpectedly do appear from this area, they will be officially added to the budget line for the following year’s ELLA budget.  



 Project Timeline:

Beginning in January 2015, Huntsville Public Library staff and SHSU COE staff will actively meet on a monthly basis to provide regular updates on projects specific to strengthening the program itself, as well as the connection between the university and the library.  The major projects will include establishing the classroom credit system for the university and creating a network of outreach locations for the early literacy classes for the library.  During the spring semester, the meetings will focus on developing a lesson plan and agenda for the training sessions that will accommodate both organizations’ agendas, and focus on balance between teaching theories and library practice.  As the summer is a busy time for the library and a break for the university, the time period between June and August will be reserved for evaluation and review of final details.  Meetings will not be regularly scheduled but called when needed. Beginning in September, the training sessions will commence for the first group of Library Ambassadors.  Beginning in October, coinciding with the FY 2015-2016 fiscal year for both the library and university, the Library Ambassadors will begin performing literacy classes at the outreach locations and continue throughout the year until summer of 2016, when the students will not be school.  Additional training sessions will be held at least once a semester in September and January, or more regularly if required by the interest in education students.  The specific number and length of sessions has yet to be determined; this will be established during the planning meetings occurring in the spring of 2015 and be depend upon the lesson plan and agenda created by the library and university representatives, as well as the availability of potential Library Ambassadors.


Evaluation Points: 

Although the program will ideally run with constant self-evaluation and open communication between the active parties at all times, official evaluations will occur at regularly scheduled points.  The first one being the summer of 2015, after the original groundwork has been implemented but the actual trainings have not begun.  This will be a period to reassess any final details of the planning stage.  This evaluation will take the form of a scheduled meeting after a period of individual review. Each training session will conclude with a written evaluation for each participant to provide feedback.  Likewise, the Library Ambassadors will engage in open discussions with ELLA participants at each program and document any feedback on a specifically designated worksheets. Quarterly, the leadership team will meet to review the evaluations of the trainings and the literacy classes, the program statistics, and other program documentation.  Based on the information collected, any adjustments to the program will be decided upon at this meeting. In August, just before the beginning of the new ELLA program year, a yearly evaluation will include a review of the strategic goals and result in an annual report to be presented to administration at both the library and the university.    


Ending the Partnership 


Deal breaker(s): 

Should either organization not be able to fulfill the basic agreed upon responsibilities on a regular basis, as determined by the leadership committee and written in this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the partnership can be reassessed and dissolved, if need be.  Major areas of concern include the university’s ability to locate students interested in become Library Ambassadors and the library’s ability to establish a network of community contacts for outreach locations.  Both parties shall be equally vested and active in creating a training lesson plan and fulfill their financial agreements of up to $300.00 per year. If one of the organizations cannot demonstrate consistent and sufficient dedication to the project, this is a deal breaker. This includes both organization representatives and organization administration.  


Bless and release (exit strategy): 

If it is determined during any stage that either the library or the university cannot consistently provide adequate time, funds, staff and other support for any aspect of the project, then the existing organization may opt to replace the other organization with another non-profit organization in an effort to keep the program alive.  For example, if the university cannot fulfill its obligations, then the library may look to other service organizations such as the Retired Teachers Association of Huntsville or the Junior Service League to supply the voluntary Library Ambassadors. If the library cannot fulfill its obligations to the project, the university can look for another organization to provide training and outreach opportunities, such a Region VI or the Huntsville Literacy Council. In this situation, it is important for either the library or the university to respectfully request a reassessment and dissolution.  Even if the partnership is broken, the connection and desire for future collaborations should still be firm.  There is always the possibility that the ELLA partnership could be revived at a later date when both organizations have the opportunity and desire to rededicate resources, or other partnerships between the library and the university could be explored.


Reflection on Capstone Project, Stage 3: 


SLO 1: Effectively connect classroom theories to real-world experiences through practical application of knowledge.


Throughout several of my courses, specifically Library Management LS5383 and Public Libraries LS5303, much emphasis has been placed on collaboration with outside agencies by assigning projects designed to walk a student through the process of establishing a network of contacts and working alongside them to enhance library services.  I used these assignments as a guide to establish the framework for the ELLA program. However, something I learned from actually implementing a partnership that was never experienced in the mock projects, was the “real” sense of accomplishment that comes from working with new people, especially ones who share your vision, and the thrill and excitement that comes with creating something entirely new.  There is power in watching plans come together, especially when so much has been invested. I truly enjoyed working with my contacts and learning from them, as they come from difference backgrounds and experiences than a public librarian.  For example, while working with Barbara Lewis, I learned that she performs as Mother Goose to preschoolers to teach about rhyme and language patterns.  This is a direct correlation to ECCR2 which can be incorporated in our training sessions to pre-service teachers. I could have never imagined, let alone incorporated, this factor into a hypothetical project.  Therefore, while the classroom assignments were crucial for building the foundation to sustain my visions, it was the engagement with “real” people that sparked my enthusiasm for the project.


SLO 2: Accurately assess knowledge and skills related to personal or professional goals to include collaboration, application, and problem-solving.


This project has taken much hard work: making repeated phone calls, setting up convenient meetings, tracking down information, etc. but in the end the work has proven rewarding.  This has mainly been because of my emphasis on collaboration, application, and problem-solving skills; these have helped to make the project come to maturation. While these are not skills taught in a traditional classroom, they are skills that will take a librarian far when building relationships with staff, administration, partners, and the community in general and can be developed through “real” life projects such as this capstone. This project has helped me to hone those skills and utilize them to the benefit of the library and the community.  

Collaboration requires tolerance and a willingness to release control, see another’s perspective, and allow them to take the lead at times.  It has been hard at times to step back, such as allowing the university to identify possible Library Ambassador candidates. Although I wanted to play a role in selection of the 2015-2016 maiden class, but I had to recognize that the university representatives would be more knowledgeable than I in this regard. 

Likewise, being able to implement or apply a program is another skill vital to professional goals of being a librarian. Although each program is implemented differently, dependent upon various factors, one thing they all have in common is that application requires persistence.  Several times I had to call people over and over to get the required information I needed or remind people gently of assigned responsibilities, but if I had given up, the project would never have gotten off the ground. 

The skill of problem solving is perhaps the hardest skill to perfect, as no two situations will be the same; however the key to problem solving is flexibility.  The ELLA program required much flexibility, as not all participants are or even can be on the same page.  This can be frustrating at times but it can also be wonderful, as it allows for differences in perspective.  One example of when I heavily relied upon problem-solving skills what when determining the timeline for the project.  I originally hoped to start meeting sooner than the new year in January, especially in regards to the timeline for my capstone.   This, in turn, would have started the program before October of 2015, but because the university functions on semesters, our timelines were different.  Therefore, I had to put on my problem solving hat, and suggest that the planning happen in the spring, a break happen in the summer, and the program truly get started in the fall.  In the end, this turned out to be a better idea because of coinciding with the fiscal year. But had the issue of timing not been a problem (to be solved), the program would have not had a clean ending and beginning time.





Association for Library Service to Children. 2009. Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries.http://www.ala.org/alsc/edcareeers/alsccorecomps (accessed September 12, 2014).


Barratt-Pugh, Ed; Caroline, and Nola Allen. “Making a difference: Findings from Better Beginnings a family literacy intervention programme.” The Australian Library Journal 60.3 (2011): 195-204. (accessed 11/20/14). http://ezproxy.twu.edu:2339/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=479cdad9-d71a-45c2-954e-0b227a38c581%40sessionmgr4003&vid=1&hid=4212


Johnson, Anna Marie. “Information literacy instruction for an honors program first-year orientation.” Communications in Information Literacy 6.2 (2012): 141-150. (accessed 10/2/14). http://ezproxy.twu.edu:2225/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=eb2d66f7-a77c-4844-9db1-19726d2e5780%40sessionmgr115&vid=4&hid=124


Open Clip Art. 2010. "Mom holding child's hand-outline." JPEG. Edited in ImageBot website (www.flamingtext.com). https://openclipart.org/detail/69991/mom-holding-childs-hand---outline-by-horse50



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