As OPL’s outreach department grows, patrons may be surprised to spot library staff promoting OPL services in unexpected spaces. One of the most unique partnerships this year started with a simple request: Could OPL curate a pop-up display of books for children to read to dogs at the Nebraska Humane Society (NHS) before the Fourth of July?
“We love to explore new ways we can engage with our community and partners who are making a difference,” explained OPL Outreach Manager Maggie Petersen. “A nonjudgmental ear can be so positive for developing readers. The opportunity to support young people in our community reading to dogs was an obvious yes.”
On July 1, OPL staff were on-site at NHS to explain the activity and register visitors for the Summer Reading Program. After the first session, NHS staff wrote, “It's amazing how calm [the dogs] get when someone reads softly to them - I haven't heard our largest kennel area that quiet in a long time.” Just like that, Furrrst Friday, an OPL and NHS read to a shelter dog event, was born.
Traditionally, Read to a Dog programs are collaborations between libraries and registered therapy dogs. A change in environment and audience can help establish an enthusiastic, confident relationship to reading for young people experiencing anxiety about pronunciation and accuracy. “Our Read to a Dog programs at the Florence, Millard, W. Clarke Swanson, and Willa Cather branches are already so beloved by our patrons. Furrrst Friday feels like an exciting extension of those events, with the bonus of supporting our reading culture and community in a new space,” said Outreach Librarian Elly Roberts.
"It makes a lot of sense for us to partner with Omaha Public Library for Furrrst Fridays. After all, the Abrahams Branch is literally in our backyard!" said NHS Marketing Specialist Brendan Gepson. "This partnership is especially great because the kids love it, but so do the dogs. The shelter can be a stressful place for our canine friends, but it’s amazing what a kind voice and a book can do to calm them down."
Growing steadily each month, recent Furrrst Fridays have featured treats for participants to toss to dogs, coloring pages, a bingo challenge, and a donation drive for the shelter’s Pet Food Pantry where participants filled NHS’s famed Puppy Cart to the brim with food and toys for shelter pets. Visitors of all ages are welcome to browse an OPL-curated selection of books, participate in monthly activities, and read to the animals at NHS, 8929 Fort Street, at Furrrst Fridays on the first Friday of every month from 3-6 p.m.