Chelsea has grown to be a bustling town of nearly 12,000 people, between Ann Arbor and Jackson. The town’s early success drew on its close proximity to the Michigan Central Railroad, agricultural and manufacturing industries and as a result, the community enjoyed a comfortable quality of life. In more recent years, Chelsea has demonstrated its growth by voting to transition from a village into a city. Arts have become an important part of local culture, with downtown galleries, the Chelsea Center for the Arts, and of course, Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theater Company. The Jiffy Mix silos of the Chelsea Milling Company are a familiar landmark and continue to be a draw for both local and out-of-town tourists.
The Chelsea District Library’s service area: The Chelsea District Library serves Chelsea city residents, as well as residents in Dexter, Lima, Lyndon, and Sylvan Townships, and residents in the Chelsea School District, which totals out to about 14,000 residents. Our service population is a diverse mixture of professionals, seniors, young children, teenagers, farmers, and families. When we target our programs and services to our community of users, we take into account the diverse composition of our library population. The library’s annual budget is set at $1,397,998 for 2011. The library had been located in the old McKune House Hotel, a building that was donated to the citizens of Chelsea for use as a public library in 1958. You can see the exterior of the old building in the center of this photo. In 1999, after the community voted to make the library a District Library, plans began to improve the library. Construction and renovation of the building began in late 2004 and the library moved back downtown in 2006. BSL 2008 – WHAT IS That? In 2008, the Library was selected as the Best Small Library in America by the Library Journal, a trade journal for librarians, and received a cash award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of the award.
Libraries are natural partners for businesses and community organizations; the library already has a dedicated public following. The library is already the place where people come to for information—information is our product and that’s one of the ways that the public has branded the library. It’s vital to note that library patrons are coming to the library in greater numbers than ever before; the economic crisis has increased the use of public libraries. Libraries attract a very diverse population; we’ve seen it at our own library—everyone comes to use the high-speed internet access, regardless of socioeconomic status. We’re a community institution that strives to be a welcoming place for everyone. The library is an ideal place for diverse parties to come together as partners, particularly since the library is a neutral place where groups or individuals from all different perspectives can connect.
Over 20,000 people visit the Library each month. Programming is very important at our library – we do an average of 46 programs per month and over the course of a year, over 14,000 people attend our events. An average of 9 programs per month are done in partnership with a local business or organization. That’s over 2 times per week that we are actively partnering with organizations in our community.
We’re an anchor thanks to our physical location – we are right on Main St. and we have some of the only green space immediately downtown. This makes us a prime location for outdoor music and arts events and we’re easy walking distance – less than a block – from great Chelsea restaurants and cafes. Free parking is plentiful and easily located because we bridge the residential and commercial districts. These things come together to make us an active downtown location and in some cases, a natural partner.
Sounds and sights location—with its greenspace, the library is one of the prime Sound and Sights locations. Visitors can bring blankets or lawn chairs and enjoy a performance; other downtown locations are on streets or sidewalks and don’t invite lingering as much as a lush, green lawn does. Library Comedy Showcase--informal partnership between library and Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase. Owner of the comedy club provided comics and an MC at a reduced cost, and the comedy club received free publicity for upcoming acts; both established and rising comics had opportunities to refine and perfect their act. Hometown holidays location—with a steady stream of visitors for the Hometown Holidays festivities, the library is a natural partner and location for events. Events at the library contribute to the success of the Hometown Holidays event by offering another reason for visitors to spend more time downtown. Farmers market—from May to October, the Chelsea Farmer’s Market takes place in the municipal parking lot adjacent to the library. It’s a central location and many people visit the market before the library opens, or after completing their library errands. The farmer’s market isn’t a direct partnership; the library isn’t directly involved and the city owns the parking lot where it takes place. The market requires ¾ of the library’s immediate parking area, so we are a de-facto partner; the library lot is centrally located and so many people combine Saturday morning shopping with their library business. It’s a dual reason for residents to come downtown and support local farms and entrepreneurs.
Good partnerships make both partners stronger and more dynamic. The relationship between two or more partners must be reciprocal if it is to be sustainable and both partners need to feel they are gaining something. Partnerships also result in more opportunities for public events that are too complex or expensive for one organization to do on its own. Partnerships can also help organizations become more active; a library might contact a local group to see if there’s any interest in taking part in public events, for example, giving the group much-needed publicity. Also, these unique programs and services fulfill a need in the community and a library service gap by combining expertise and skills with the library’s forum for events. Partnerships with libraries also give area organizations opportunities to gather community feedback or opinions on projects or initiatives.
Partnership with the Chelsea Area Garden Club to bring a popular speaker to the library. The Garden Club approached the library to see if we would bring Scott Kunst to speak. The speaker’s fee was out of our budget, but the Garden Club offered to cover a portion of the total cost. This program was extremely popular—standing room only. Not only did the Garden Club help us to design a program that would interest community members, but the partnership ensured that approximately 20 club members attended, helping us to reach the high attendance.
The Library’s oral history projects contributed to bringing the Chelsea Area Historical Society out of a period of hibernation. The library arranged for two local historians to conduct oral history interviews with local residents. These historians, as members of the Historical Society, asked that their work be attributed to the Historical Society in order to raise public awareness of the Historical Society and to cement its identity as an active organzation. In previous years, the Society had been completely dormant, with just 1 r 2 members, neither of them active. The library acted as a catalyst for the Historical Society’s transformation into a once-more active organization. The library’s partnership with Transition Town Chelsea, a local chapter of a national organization committed to creating sustainable communities, results in wider-reaching, more in-depth programs. The library hosted a partnered program for Earth Day this past year; Henry Pollack, author of A World Without Ice, and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, spoke at the library, an event that would have been challenging for Transition Town to arrange on its own. The library has a space for public lecture programs, audiovisual equipment, as well as a budget for bringing speakers to the community.
Library users may very well represent a demographic that a business or organization isn’t currently reaching. Opportunities to partner give business and organizations a chance to promote themselves in a public venue—as a sponsor for an event, for a unbiased, objective presentation/lecture given by a representative of the business/organization. For events that are sponsored by various partners, the sponsorship and subsequent publicity advertises each participating partner to their respective audiences. This not only heightens public awareness of each partner, but each partner’s participation practically guarantees that they will market the event to their individual audiences. And since libraries represent literacy, lifelong learning, and equal access, showing support for an organization with these goals can be a positive public relations move. Supporting the local library is never a bad idea.
We have plenty of partnerships with existing business and organizations – we reached out to the Chamber to find out how to help support entrepreneurs and encourage new business growth. Partnership with SCORE and SBTDC – Chamber, meet with chamber, attend events Part of a group connecting libraries with business service organizations Workshops, new audiences, skill-building, counseling
Partnerships have to begin somewhere and starting simply is the logical place to begin a partnership relationship. Find some small way to get involved and see if there is interest/need/benefit to increasing involvement. Partnerships aren’t a marriage. This isn’t a long-term commitment, so don’t let that type of thinking prevent you from exploring the possibilities available to you. Likely a permanent partnership isn’t the best for either of you – but an established relationship and partnership history can open the door to shared annual events, increased participation in community events and of course, regular communication so you can both stay aware of opportunities where teamwork would be advantageous.
Our largest and most comprehensive partnership is with the Chelsea Center for the Arts, a nonprofit arts education organization a few blocks from us. Our central location and the alignment of several of our main goals have helped us to connect to create and present annual, multi-location events in the community, and we’ve received grant support to continue our partnership. The Artist-in-Residence program is rather unique program for a public library, especially one our size. It revolves around identifying an artist to involve and engage with the community - teaching programs, visiting schools, sharing their skills and passion and enhancing the culture of the city. The Midwest Literary Walk is an annual event bringing together authors and poets at venues throughout Chelsea’s downtown. The walkability of our town is a major asset here and the charm and convenience of our historic downtown is a major draw. Our partner the CCA helps to plan and organize the event, but we partner with art galleries, cafes, bookstores and whoever else is interested to serve as venues for our readings and open mic events throughout the day. Last year we had nationally known poets and nearly 300 people attended, spending the day in our downtown. The Chelsea Community Foundation recently awarded us a 2-year $25,000 grant to fund the Midwest Literary Walk and the Artist in Residence program.
Jeff Daniels is arguably Chelsea’s best known resident and his award-winning theater, the Purple Rose Company is a huge aspect of Chelsea’s identify as an arts community. Incidentally, they live across the street from us. Locale put us on each other’s radars, but we each had something the other one wanted. We want interesting FREE programs that will draw in crowds and they wanted an audience in a casual space outside their theatre on which they could test out new materials. The process is called greenhousing and it’s a major component in the final phase of new script development. We schedule these events a few times per quarter, doing about 10-15 per year according to their needs and our shared availability and we routinely pack in 60-80 people per event. We’ve recently received a grant to fund our continued partnership in this way.
One Room Schoolhouse was an exercise in content creation and a chance to connect with and preserve the stories of an older generation about a quintessential Chelsea experience that children no longer have.
We had a very sunny reading garden that desperately needed some shade. It quickly turned into a community arts project combining the design talents of local architects and artists. There were some donations of time and material, but we largely financed the project ourselves or through the Friends of the Library and we used local builders and suppliers who placed signs out front to advertise their involvement. This space faces Main St. so it gets a lot of attention. Now it’s built and the partnership shifts to the CCA and the Gerald E. Eddy Nature Discovery Center who will sponsor nature themed tile-making programs so our pergola will be decorated by local kids and families. Engages local community with art project that makes outdoor library space more inviting Multiple partners Chelsea Center for the Arts River Gallery Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center Chelsea School District
Mission Marketplace is a fair-trade shop in town featuring organic treats and handmade goods from around the world. When the Library introduced an International Book Club focusing on books about distant places and foreign cultures, Mission Marketplace agreed to partner with the Library because the club echoes part of their mission. This is a low-key partnership. The club meets once per month and the shop provides coffee and chocolate bars. Sometimes they’ll bring a map of the area featured in the book we read. Sometimes some crafts from the area or a story about a merchant they work with there. Sometimes they just join in the book discussion. Sometimes they don’t show up at all! It’s low key, but the basic agreement of the partnership is always met. We add them in our marketing materials, they always make coffee and promote the club in the store and we are both very happy with it.
Connect. Find the right person at the library. Things have to click – it may be that the person you approach has a full plate at the moment and asking again in a month would make all the difference. Don’t be afraid to try making connections with multiple people. Try directors, department heads, librarians. Honestly share out what you can/will do and don’t just say what someone wants to hear. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – don’t let the partnership became an undue burden. Define what each partner is doing for this project and what those responsibilities are. Make it easy on yourselves by being clear from the start and covering all your bases. Do something. Repeat. Or don’t. One-time partnerships are ok. If it works, you’ll both be looking to each other again in the future.
Stronger Together: Public Library as Community Partner
Chelsea District Library www.chelsea.lib.mi.us Rachael Dreyer - Adult Services Librarian Sara Wedell - Head of Adult Services
Dollar Amount of Partnership Value <ul><li>In 2010, Library partnerships have helped to bring over $60,000 in grant funding to the community </li></ul>
Why partner with your library? <ul><li>Libraries are integral partners within a community </li></ul><ul><li>Already established as the destination for information </li></ul><ul><li>Traffic represents diverse parts of the population </li></ul><ul><li>Libraries are welcoming community spaces </li></ul><ul><li>Library can be neutral ground in a community </li></ul>
A hub of activity <ul><li>20,000+ visitors </li></ul><ul><li>46 events/month </li></ul><ul><li>14,000+ attendees </li></ul><ul><li>9 events with partners </li></ul>
Location is Key <ul><li>Our Library is an anchor of Chelsea’s downtown </li></ul><ul><li>Our green space and Main St. location make us a natural partner. </li></ul>
Boosting local organizations <ul><li>Chelsea Area Historical Society – hibernation to active partner </li></ul><ul><li>Transition Town Chelsea – expand their reach, host more in-depth programs </li></ul>Photo courtesy of Mike Muha
<ul><li>Added exposure for a business or organization looking to expand its reach </li></ul><ul><li>Mutual advertising - event promotion from each partner to their individual audiences </li></ul>Partnerships as mutually beneficial public relations
You + Library = Community Gain <ul><li>SCORE and MI-SBTDC </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Skill-building, business start-up counseling, entrepreneur workshops </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Chamber – business counseling </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We help to develop business skills—they can promote new businesses and gain new membership </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Results in economic gain for community </li></ul>
Partnerships can be as big or small as you want them to be <ul><li>One simple collaboration as a partner can create a balanced relationship </li></ul><ul><li>Partnerships don’t need to be life-long </li></ul><ul><li>Can also be stand-alone events </li></ul><ul><li>Can take the form of event series or regular sponsorship </li></ul><ul><li>Partnerships may evolve and even dissolve once the project is complete </li></ul>
Chelsea Center for the Arts <ul><li>Artist-in-Residence connects CCA, CDL and schools </li></ul><ul><li>Midwest Lit Walk connects CCA, CDL, downtown businesses, restaurants </li></ul><ul><li>Grant supported </li></ul>
Purple Rose Theatre Company <ul><li>“ Greenhousing” process tests out new material for script development </li></ul><ul><li>Using each other’s strengths </li></ul><ul><li>Grant supported </li></ul>
Chelsea Senior Center <ul><li>One Room School House documentary project </li></ul><ul><li>Grant funded </li></ul><ul><li>Annual class reunions </li></ul><ul><li>Continued partnership through regular programming/volunteer sharing </li></ul>