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#OnTheRoadULC: Featuring San Francisco Public Library // Two Librarians & A Microphone Podcast

When San Francisco Public Library recognized approximately 50% of 3rd and 4th graders in their community were not reading at grade level they decided to step up immediately.

Tapping into the need across their community to assist struggling young readers with developing learning and reading strategies, they developed the FOG (Free Orton-Gillingham) Readers program. Led by their learning differences librarian, Laura Lay, and built upon the expansions of their adult literacy learning programs, the FOG Readers program recruits volunteers to work with students 45 minutes every week and currently has over 120 active learner-tutor pairs. Tune in to hear how they have not only assisted students in increasing their reading competencies, but how the library has also engaged millennials in their volunteer programming to meet an urgent need in their community.


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Jim Heuer [00:00:17] Hey everybody! We continue on here in Baltimore at the Urban Library Council Annual Forum. Ingram Library Services are a proud sponsor of the Innovation Awards that the ULC bestows upon its members. Today we have the top librarian from San Francisco Public Library. The folks at San Francisco have been awarded a Top Innovator in the Education Birth through Teens Category for something that they're calling FOG Readers. First of all, we'd like to welcome Michael Lambert to Two Librarians and a Microphone.

Michael Lambert [00:00:55] Thank you so much, Jim. Thank you, Donna and Pamela. We really appreciate Ingram and the partnership we have. You guys take really good care of us, so thank you.

Jim Heuer [00:01:04] Excellent, thank you so much. We're here to talk about your innovation. Why don't you tell the folks out there a little bit about the FOG Readers, what that is, how it came to be, and anything else you might want to let us know.

Michael Lambert [00:01:16] Sure, so FOG Readers, it's an acronym. It stands for Free Orton-Gillingham. It is really the brainchild of our Learning Differences Librarian. Her name is Laura Lay. She works in the Bridge at Main, which is our 21st century literacy and learning center at the main library. Laura recognized there was a need in the community. In the city and county of San Francisco, approximately 50% of third and fourth graders are not reading at grade level. And if you look at the state of California as a whole, that number increases to around 55%. And that's true whether you're talking about public schools or private schools. Furthermore, approximately one in five children have dyslexia or some sort of difficulty learning how to read, a learning disability. You put that all together, our Learning Differences Librarian, Laura Lay, she recognized she had a special skill set. She is certified in this Orton-Gillingham method. The Orton-Gillingham method is basically a methodology for helping struggling readers, whether they have dyslexia or just their own struggles learning how to read. This Orton-Gillingham method is a way to give young people strategies for how to decode words and information and helps them contextualize words and think about the how or the why question when they're viewing some words on a page. It's been a smash hit. Laura has done a great job developing this program.

Donna George [00:03:10] Michael, how awesome is it that you employ someone with the title of Learning Differences Librarian?

Michael Lambert [00:03:16] Thank you so much.

Donna George [00:03:17] I was reading about your story and it's so compelling. I think if we think about the role that libraries have played in the past, we're certainly all familiar with trying to instill a love of reading with story time and things like that…with being a host for people to come in to do tutoring, but you've really taken it to the next level. And I wonder if you can talk maybe just a little bit about this Learning Differences Librarian and how she came to be on your staff. I think that's remarkable.

Michael Lambert [00:03:43] She's amazing. I can't remember the island in the Pacific, but we actually recruited her from some Pacific island. She's extremely dynamic. She's part of an incredible team in the Bridge at Main. I'll tell you a little bit about the Bridge at Main, just to give you a high-level overview. This is our literacy and learning center. It built on the foundation of our adult literacy program that we've had for many, many years at San Francisco Public Library called Project Read. That paired adult learners with volunteer tutors in the community. But, we've been able to build off of that program. We have the career online high school program at the Bridge at Main. We have a veteran’s resource center. We have a computer lab, so there's a lot of digital literacy classes happening. We even have family literacy programs. We have the Every Child Ready-to-Read Program where we help prepare parents and caregivers and instruct them in the importance of reading with young children. Laura has a very unique role as the Learning Differences Librarian. It's really a position that was created with the understanding that there's so many learning styles and so many different ways that people process information or people have different circumstances. Laura is able to work with people, all kinds of people, and help them develop their own strategies for reaching their learning goals. She's also fluent in how to use a 3D printer. She has such a dynamic skill set.

Donna George [00:05:26] Fantastic.

Jim Heuer [00:05:27] I see some of the ways you're measuring this and there's some ability to move up a half-grade level in the first few months. That's pretty remarkable to be able to find someone like Laura. Has she been able to get other librarians, kind of teach them this FOG method or is it all kind of contingent on her?

Michael Lambert [00:05:46] Yes, she is actively training and recruiting volunteers in the community and placing those volunteers at different library locations. We have 28 library locations in the city and county of San Francisco and right now we have tutor-learner pairs at 23 of our 28 locations. This FOG Readers methodology, she is looking to streamline it and continuously improve it. There is an opportunity to get more staff involved. Ultimately, she wants to share our best practice. There's at least one library that has reached out to us so far and we've shared the curriculum and the tools that we've developed. We would certainly invite other library systems to reach out if they have an interest in replicating the program. It is easily copied once people understand the methodology. They can certainly implement this curriculum in their local community.

Jim Heuer [00:06:49] Your advice if someone listening to this or reading about your innovation from ULC, would just be...

Michael Lambert [00:06:54] Call us.

Jim Heuer [00:06:55] There you go, that's great. What's next? What's the next level? Are you going to go national, do some online learning? What are you guys thinking?

Michael Lambert [00:07:05] We're really focused on growing the program locally and serving our local community. The demand has certainly outstripped the supply of volunteers that we have. We currently have 120 tutor-learner pairs, but we have 200 students on the waitlist. We are talking with our community partners, our Friends in Foundation in the San Francisco Public Library. We've talked to some private sector partners about corporate social responsibility and potentially getting some of their workforce engaged. The really cool thing about this program is that we've been able to engage that elusive millennial demographic that libraries are trying to bring back into the library. We've had some success with that and it's really wonderful that for many of these millennials, it's their first adult interaction with the public library since when they were in grade school. It's really a powerful re-introduction into the impact that public libraries are having in the 21st century and we're getting these people engaged. We're also developing library supporters and library advocates in the process.

Donna George [00:08:23] We talked about millennials in one of our recent podcasts. Jim, you may remember. This feels like a perfect fit for a group of people who are probably often misunderstood and certainly out of our age band here. For people who are really searching for meaning and this is certainly a meaningful program that you're doing at your library.

Michael Lambert [00:08:41] Thank you so much.

Jim Heuer [00:08:43] We'll, just once again, congratulate you on the Top Innovator Award from the ULC. That's great. Always love to see what you guys are doing there. Always some fantastic stuff coming out of San Francisco.

Michael Lambert [00:08:54] Thank you so much. We're very honored.

Jim Heuer [00:08:06] Two Librarians and A Microphone is brought to you by Ingram Library Services. It is a division of Ingram Content Group. Our producer and director is Rachel Cope, sound engineering by Craig Simpson, special assistance by Essence Brisco, and Elizabeth Wilcox. The research done by our librarians, Tricia Bengel and Donna George. I'm Jim Heuer. Thanks most of all to you for listening. Please follow us on Instagram at @thelibrarylife. Tag us in your #thelibrarylife moments, because we got some cool stuff going on, on that social media platform. We're going to be giving away some exclusive books, ARC’s, perhaps a signed copy. In order to make sure you're staying tuned to this podcast, we would love for you to go to our landing page, But most importantly, the best way to show your support for us, we’d love some reviews on Apple iTunes. If you could go in there, leave us a positive review, that would really help. Tell us what you would like to hear. That might help us as were thinking about some of the content were trying to bring you. But, it's the best way you can support what we’re doing. We're trying to bring you interesting, fun, compelling, thought provoking content. We might see some of you at ULC in Baltimore, and if so, we look forward to that, and if not, we will see you in your libraries. Thanks, everybody.