BCLA Perspectives

Making outreach reachable: Library System provides Tools for Outreach to Rural Members

Libraries have long been a haven for those seeking to learn, and in an effort to provide their patrons expanded opportunity, many libraries are branching out to explore the realm of physical literacy. However, many rural libraries are already stretched to capacity and don’t have the resources to offer the range of programming that their urban counterparts do.

Chinook Arch Regional Library System (Alberta) recognized the hurdles that many of their member libraries face when trying to introduce new programs, or to bring programming into the wider community. Common themes are not enough time, money, space, or other necessary resources to expand the library’s offerings.

“As community hubs for activity and information, libraries strive to serve their communities to the best of their ability,” says Lisa Weekes, Manager of Partnerships and Community Development for Chinook Arch. “We are always searching for ways to support our member libraries in offering a wider variety of programming than they could on their own.”

Recently Chinook Arch developed a new Regional Plan of Service. Through consultations and research, the need for leisure and active living supports was identified, as rural populations often do not have the same recreational opportunities as urban centres. Luckily, physical literacy is a passion for Weekes, who immediately began looking for funding options to assist rural libraries in being able to offer this type of programming.

After successfully receiving a grant from the local Community Foundation, The Regional Programming Collection was created.

The collection includes giant checkers, parachutes, juggling scarves, indoor mini golf, hoops, and other physical literacy games. These resources are available for use by the 31 rural member libraries in the Chinook Arch region when planning and delivering community-based programming.

“Our rural libraries are in an ideal position to offer physical literacy programming in their communities,” explains Weekes. “One of our goals at Chinook Arch moving forward is to provide our members with what they need to expand programming and to create opportunities for community outreach.”

The collection works on both accounts. Pieces from the collection were used 75 times by 20 libraries in the first 6 months; most of these uses were member libraries taking part in community events that were not held at the libraries themselves.

Prior to the collection being available, member libraries were offered additional supports to ensure they were comfortable utilizing the different pieces. This led to an award winning partnership with Lethbridge College Be Fit For Life Centre, who assisted in curating the collection and also provided physical literacy training and programming ideas for regional library staff. Together the organizations were recognized with a provincial ChooseWell Healthy Community Award in the category of “Building Community Capacity” in October 2018.

“The power of partnerships never fails to amaze me,” adds Weekes. “Together with our member libraries and Be Fit For Life we have been able to offer what none of us could on our own.”


Joey Going is the Communications Specialist at Chinook Arch Regional Library System. She loves to write, drink tea, crunch leaves under her boots, and laugh until her stomach hurts. Not necessarily in that order.