Ingram Blog

Somali Family Bookmaking Series at Seattle Public Library

Jim Heuer, Director of Sales
In my 19 years at Ingram, I am fond of telling customers that everything we do starts with a story that took place in a meeting when someone said to us, in one way or another, “Hey can you do _________ (fill in the blank)?” Here’s my story.

In November 2016, representatives of Seattle Public Library met with Ingram Library Services during a normal business review. During the meeting, Acquisitions Manager Rachel Martin and Assistant Director of Collections and Access Andrew Harbison inquired about the availability of board books in the language of Somali. They indicated that the Seattle Public Library was having difficulty finding material in Somali.

From the Ingram side, we were pretty confident that if they couldn’t find them, neither could we, so we remarked that it would be easier if we made them ourselves. With the recent addition of the Publishers Group West (PGW) publishers, we thought there would be a match somewhere in the Ingram Publisher Services (IPS)/PGW group of publishers who would be interested in a co-branded project with Seattle Public Library for this idea, and potentially more. Ingram Library Services (ILS) then set out to find a publishing partner. Applewood Books, the first publisher who joined IPS in 2005, proved to be a perfect fit, and Phil Zuckerman from Applewood was an enthusiastic partner.

Meanwhile, Seattle Public Library began to work with local Somali organizations to create content. According to Amy Twito, Informal Learning Program Manager at the library, they worked with community partners and recruited five families to come together to create artwork for a Somali alphabet book. They started with four specific goals:

  • To develop a community-based project that supports family learning in a culturally sensitive way
  • To pilot a project that is small and manageable and then to reflect on how to scale or replicate
  • To work collaboratively with families and understand and prioritize their interests and needs within the confines of this project
  • To have an end product (Somali book for young children and their families) to be used for Seattle Public Library, Seattle Public Schools, and Seattle Housing Authority programs

And six objectives:

  • To build parents’ capacity to support student learning and the joy of reading at home together
  • To help families gain early literacy skills and get resources (books) to read at home in either language
  • To improve school attendance through building academic support within the family and conveying the importance of school attendance
  • To develop community and positive connection between families
  • To generate intergenerational conversations about culture and identity
  • To engage in an effective cross-sector partnership across multiple agencies

Seattle Public and Applewood Books worked together to create the book, and in a relatively quick turnaround.

My hope is that this will spur a couple of different things into fruition:

  1. Other libraries needing a similar service in a language they cannot provide for their patrons pick up the mantle and take on the next project with Applewood Books.
  2. Other libraries who have a project and don’t know who can help them look to Ingram Library Services and the myriad of colleagues we have in our divisions of Ingram Content Group just waiting to lend a hand.

Do you have a great story like this? Share how you live #TheLibraryLife.




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