October 25, 2014

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Library outreach coordinator Ann Plazek recognized

Ann Plazek, director of community outreach for the Medina County District Library, stands inside the library’s bookmobile last week. Plazek received the outreach award from the Ohio Library Council for her work to bring services to underserved areas of the community. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

Ann Plazek, director of community outreach for the Medina County District Library, stands inside the library’s bookmobile last week. Plazek received the outreach award from the Ohio Library Council for her work to bring services to underserved areas of the community. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

Medina Library Outreach Coordinator Ann Plazek has been awarded the Outreach Service Award from the Ohio Library Council.

The award will be presented at a luncheon in October honoring top-performing libraries and staff throughout the state.

Plazek said her outreach services staff, including eight employees and several volunteers, helped earn the award.

“This is not an individual award,” she said. “It’s a department award, and we have a great staff and volunteers,” she said.

In their comments about Plazek’s work, the Ohio Library Council noted she “has a strong vision for the future of outreach services at MCDL including hopes to secure funding for an early literacy van to take early literacy programs to the community and a program to provide a new book to every child born at Medina Hospital.”

“She’s innovative and she has determination,” said Theresa Laffey, assistant director of the library, who nominated Plazek for the award.

Laffey said Plazek has worked to expand programs for young children, especially those programs aimed at improving childhood literacy.

“When the county assessment was done and we realized people weren’t reading to their preschoolers as much as the state or country-wide average, she started working to get kids ready for kindergarten.”

Plazek helped develop the Brunswick ROCKS program, or Reading Opportunities Create Kindergarten Success, along with Project LEARN and the staff at Brunswick City Schools. The program focuses on improving reading skills for preschool children and helping parents learn how to prepare their children for school. The project is expanding to Medina and Cloverleaf districts this year with support from the United Way of Medina County.

“We just tried to bring everyone to the table who wanted to help make the program a reality,” Plazek said.

To reach even younger children, the library also hosts baby story time for parents with young children to come and sit with their baby and listen to a book reading.

“We see a lot of play dates and friendships come out of those sessions,” she said.

Other outreach services include providing books to about 160 to 170 seniors and the disabled. The outreach allows seniors to select what types of authors or genres they prefer, and the library delivers a set of books each month. The books are delivered by staff or volunteers.

The library also has an extensive schedule for the bookmobile, or as Plazek calls it, “the library’s smallest branch.” The bookmobile is a Blue Bird bus that was retrofitted to house library stacks featuring books, DVDs and other library materials.

“We have a little bit of everything,” Plazek says.

The bookmobile makes stops in about 20 places every week, including Spencer, Homer Township, Sharon Center, Litchfield Township and apartment buildings and mobile home parks where there are larger populations of residents who can all be reached at once. People can also preorder library materials that can be dropped off when the bookmobile reaches their location.

“We’re always looking for new locations for the bookmobile where we can reach people in one stop,” he said.

Plazek said she credits the breadth of local outreach programming to a supportive board and leadership team at the library.

“I think it’s awesome we have a library system that really supports outreach,” she said. “It’s sometimes the first thing a library cuts when the budget gets tight. I think it’s important for the community we maintain these programs.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorengenson.