Break Out Session: Fostering Partnerships & Collaborations Outside the Library
Notes Taken By: Terry Rabideau, White Plains Public Library, White Plains, NY
We opened the discussion by noting that libraries cannot do it all on their own and therefore need to collaborate. However we agreed that collaboration brings with it certain challenges that need to be addressed.
The example of how the Douglas County Library (Colorado) changed how they staffed their reference work was cited. This involved librarians choosing which organization(s) with whom they want to partner. The librarians would visit those organizations in their meetings. Then when questions arose, the organizations would look to their librarians for answers.
It was recognized that in order for this to work in other communities, librarians would have to buy into the idea.
This lead to the discussion of a temporary agency being developed to get librarians embedded into community organizations. In MA there is a service called Bibliotemps. Libraries who have lost a manager or director can buy into this service.
For library partnerships and collaborations to work, it is important that these be part of the vision of the administration.
The idea of cultural collaborations was mentioned. The following libraries have excelled in this area:
One of the librarians in the break out session was from The Golisano Children’s Hospital Library at SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, NY. She reported that this library has reached out to organizations in the community by asking them to participate in storytimes. Example: Having a dentist come in to read a story.
Another suggestion was made that libraries could promote cultural festivals by offering smaller programs on individual cultures and then promoting the larger community cultural festivals.
In England, the author of Lola at the Library has worked with Somali families to bring them into the library.
Jessica Olin’s blog, “Letters for the Young Librarian,” was recommended. She has reached out to and infiltrated organizations by asking them what they need help with.
The smart thing for libraries to do is to make a list of the things they have to offer, (particularly during times of natural disaster), like: WiFi, space air, conditioning, etc. These help people understand what the library is and what it does and lets them know that the library is a community place. Another term used to describe the library was “Delight Place.”
Debbie Reese, an expert on Native American Literature, was recommended as someone who might have ideas about reaching out to this culture. Another suggestion was ALA’s Tribal Round Tables Section.
In response to the question, are there any outreach scenarios that did not work? The response was that we need to evaluate our efforts periodically and adjust our schedules.
At the New Canaan Library they are working on revamping their work with Meals on Wheels and are considering offering a book menu.
The Tully Free Library has just started a virtual farmers market where you can place your order and pick up the produce at the library.
In Chicopee, MA, the library is selling books at the weekly farmers market.
The questions we have to ask are: Is the library the center of the community? What do we want the library to be and how do we move forward to that vision?
We need to make our libraries known.
We should probably also think of collaborating with for profit organizations.
The New Canaan Library has connected with a local coffee shop. White Plains Library has collaborated with one of the city’s malls on programs at the mall for children.
But collaboration also takes time. How do we do this and continue everything else we do in the library? This needs to be part of the strategic or long range plan.
MA requires that anyone receiving Federal grant monies has to have a strategic plan.
Perhaps libraries should consider different ways to staff some of the public reference desks to allow for more outreach. Stetson University in FL did a large study of their reference desks.