It is said that every crisis presents an opportunity. In 2011, the branch libraries of the Washington State Library learned that their book budgets had been severely cut. Magazine subscriptions were reduced, and there was no money for new materials.
At the same time, several units at the Western State Hospital were restricted from certain areas on campus that included the library building. Library attendance dwindled. Overnight, I was in charge of a library with nothing new to offer and only a small number of walk-in users.
So I decided to send a monthly newsletter to to all the wards to tell patients and staff about our collection. I named it the “Dewey Digest” because I showcased something on the shelves from every Dewey classification.
The plan worked! Patients and staff began calling me to request materials. In Year 2 of the “Dewey Digest,” I introduced monthly themes when appropriate.
Then my luck turned around.
In 2014, the institutional libraries received small budgets to purchase new materials! At the same time, movement restrictions at the state hospital relaxed a little. So in 2015, the monthly library newsletter became a weekly to feature the new books, films and music CDs arriving from the acquisitions department in headquarters.
In 2017, the “Dewey Digest” became a monthly again. The 2018 library newsletters discuss topics relevant to the library and host institution.
Both staff and patients are encouraged to submit their original poetry and artwork to be featured in the newsletter. Historic photos and articles about the 130-plus year history of the state hospital are regularly featured as well.
— by Kathleen Benoun, library associate at Western State Hospital for the Washington State Library
Funded in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act.