Our role in Imagination Library: Something quite different

Dollywood Homecomin' 2013, Alaska contingent

Dollywood Homecomin’ 2013, Alaska contingent

You might be surprised to learn that Best Beginnings doesn’t enroll a single child in Imagination Library. Yet through Best Beginnings and our generous supporters, 20,772 children – 38.5% of all Alaska children under 5 – are now receiving a book every month through their local Imagination library.

So what exactly do we do?

We help. We support the local volunteers who spend the time, enroll the children, and make the local connections that result in successful family and community engagement. We raise funds statewide to give them a major boost in funding these books, and that’s critical. But at the recent international gathering of Imagination Libraries in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, it was obvious we were doing something else very special.

We’ve helped build a team.

For one thing, we take an Alaska contingent to Dollywood’s biennial conferences. This year, local chairpersons from Old Harbor, Nome, Anchorage, Upper Tanana, and North Slope were there, gathering information to take back and share with the rest of Alaska’s volunteers.

And we discovered that our level of statewide sharing is unique amongst Imagination Libraries. Each year, Best Beginnings brings all the Alaska Imagination Libraries in for training and networking. They share ideas, lessons learned, problems and solutions. But mostly, they connect.

Those connections are what make our Imagination Libraries special. When Nome presented a good idea, Kenai and Homer moved on it, too. When a family moves from Seward to Wasilla, those Imagination Library folks call each other or Best Beginnings to make sure the child is enrolled in her new home community.

Best Beginnings worked out enrollment of newborns at both The Children’s Hospital at Providence and Alaska Native Medical Center, but those babies are from all over the state. We gather all the forms, sending them to the enrollment volunteers in the local communities. And when a baby is born in the Fairbanks or Nome hospitals, they send theirs off to us.

Dollywood relies on Best Beginnings to help negotiate some very-special Alaska situations. When the Yukon River flooding forced Galena to evacuate, we knew paying their Imagination Library invoice was out of the question. To prevent the children from being cut-off, Best Beginnings contacted Dollywood to let them know the situation and that Galena was good for payment. And when family emergencies sent the Nanwalek database volunteers Outside, we were on the phone getting a new password for their remaining volunteer. Seward needs to post their Bookin’ for Books Trail Run results? We get them up on our website.

Alaska’s Imagination Library volunteers are the heart of the program. Our job: helping them.