New Community Liaisons Bring Outreach Efforts Beyond Library Walls

In early 2019, CALS adopted a strategic plan to identify needs in our community and work to meet those needs. A pillar of that strategic plan is a new initiative to increase outreach to the Black and LatinX communities, as well as to extend all community outreach in settings outside library buildings. With these focused outreach efforts, CALS will help more people become aware of our services and programs and feel warmly welcomed to enjoy their public library system.

Three new staff positions focus on community outreach

Three newly hired staff positions at CALS will support the library’s strategic effort to increase outreach, with a special focus on LatinX and Black communities for the two staff members hired as community liaisons.

Jessica McDaniel is the Community Liaison for the Black community. She has been a Little Rock resident for more than a decade and is an active CALS patron.

“I’m looking forward to working with an organization that has identified a need and is actually doing something about it,” McDaniel said. “I’m so excited that I get to wake up every morning and know that I am working to have a direct positive effect on my community by promoting learning, literacy and imagination.”

Maria Aguilar is the Community Liaison for the LatinX community. She has resided in Arkansas since 2005 and has been active within the LatinX community, particularly the Mexican population. Aguilar is glad to be the point of contact for the LatinX community.

“I want the Latino community to feel welcome at CALS,” Aguilar said. “I hope to inform and assist them so they can use our services, learn about our various programs, and participate in the events that the library system holds. I hope that the community can use our resources in order to develop skills that help them reach their professional potential.”

Courtney Frazier Jones is the new Community Outreach Coordinator and will focus on extending outreach outside of library buildings and in innovative ways. She has lived in Little Rock for 24 years and most recently served as the Adult Programmer at the CALS Terry Library. Her work in her new position will create synergy with the cultural outreach efforts from the Community Liaisons.

“I’m really excited that this new position is going to get me and our team out in the community in ways we’ve never been able to accomplish before,” Jones said. “Coming to the library can be difficult logistically for some people and can be intimidating as well.  It’s going to be great to meet people where they are and coordinate our efforts to serve them.”

National crisis sparks greater needs than ever

All three staff members share a vision of the importance of outreach work that has become even more crucial in a post-pandemic nation rocked by economic stress and continuing racial injustice.

McDaniel believes that there could be no better time than the present for reaching out and developing relationships within the Black community.

“There is so much going on in regard to social unrest in the Black community,” McDaniel said. “And CALS is fortunate enough to be able to provide a wealth of knowledge, references and resources for all people seeking to educate themselves on these issues and make a difference.”

Aguilar also sees the timeliness of her work due to the growing LatinX population in the CALS service area and across the state.

“The Latino community needs us to reach out to them to let them know the services that we offer,” Aguilar said. “Also, the Latino community has been adversely affected during the pandemic. Combined with a lack of technological skills, loss of jobs, deterioration of health, and the current political environment, it makes our efforts more important. As part of this mission it is important to create resources, be creative and help through our services offered.”

Jones agrees that the pandemic has created even more urgency for this strategic outreach initiative.

“With COVID, the need for outreach is even greater,” Jones said. “Life has been altered so dramatically that even those patrons who were benefiting from CALS services before are struggling in multiple ways.  The need for community support through outreach has multiplied exponentially. What folks needed and wanted before has changed now.  We need, as a team, to set our sights on these new needs and meet them.”

A strong start to the initiative

David Stricklin, Director of Strategic Partnerships, has high praise for the work the Community Liaisons have started.

“Jessica and Maria are off to a great start,” Stricklin said. “They’ve really jumped in in, helping with CALS programming, our feeding programs, and our efforts to make sure everybody in the community has access to library services and resources. They’re also helping establish new partnerships and strengthen existing ones. The benefits of their work will be felt by vast numbers of people for many years to come.”

Mark Christ, Head of Adult Programming, is looking forward to bringing Jones on board in her new role in another week.

“Courtney has shown again and again in her work with the people of our community that she knows how to connect,” Christ said. “She’s dedicated to thinking of fresh and creative approaches to our mission. Her energy and experience are going to be a great asset as we innovate to reach the community in new, safe ways for the post-pandemic world.”

Top photo

Jessica McDaniel (left) has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Jackson State University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her ideal outcome for her work would be for CALS to be a staple point of contact for African American individuals and families in our area not only for reading, but for volunteerism, fun and learning.

Maria Aguilar (center) was previously the Community Outreach Specialist for the Department of Community Affairs at the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock. In this role she supervised the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ programs in the areas of education, health, and economic development in Arkansas, and parts of Oklahoma and Tennessee. Aguilar has a bachelor’s degree in international business from the University of Guanajuato.

Courtney Frazier Jones (right) has lived in Little Rock for 24 years. She has worked at several CALS libraries and most recently was the Adult Programmer at the CALS Terry Library. She studied Fine Art with an emphasis on oil painting at the University of Arkansas and Henderson State University. Jones recently completed a number of Spanish courses at a local university and plans to continue that study.



feature by Rosslyn Elliott