If you love libraries—and I suspect there are at least a few of you who do—you know that one of the most exciting moments for library lovers is when a new or remodeled library opens or reopens its doors for the first time. I would suggest that it’s a seminal moment that can serve as a foundation for what we’re going to do together today since it’s a culminating moment: the visceral display and celebration of intense levels of community collaboration. That’s why we’re going to start off with some images, taken from Flickr, of opening day at the newly-constructed Bayview Branch Library here in San Francisco on February 23, 2013—just a couple of months ago.
There were speeches….
There were ribbons…
There were reminders that colleagues from other City/County Departments were involved…
These guys certainly couldn’t wait to race through the security gates to check out all the new offerings available to library users…
Lots of entertainment…
… and, at the center of it all, the joy and celebration and acknowledgement of what a key role collaboration, community, and partnerships play in all that we accomplish together. Which, of course, raises, the question we’re going to try to answer together today: How do we create, nurture, and sustain the community partnerships that allow us to get things done? Let’s step back a bit and look at a couple of wonderful forces of nature that can lay some foundations for us here.
Any of us who take the time to look at our surroundings rather than always racing off to our next commitment have certainly enjoyed that splendid sight of a murmuration of starlings. The amazing way that those thousands of birds swarm together without ever seeming to run into each other is a stunning example of coordinated action. Collaboration is like a force of nature: beautiful to observe, seemingly difficult to orchestrate…and based on lots of individual steps that produce something none of us could have individually produced.
Of course, none of us ever see that level of coordination and collaboration among humans, right? Not going to happen in our lifetimes!
It’s not as if we could ever get large numbers of people to find joy in working to produce something that is not only pleasing in and of itself, but that actually produces the sense of pleasure that comes from working effectively with others…
… like the celebration we’re having this week as part of our 2013 National Library Week celebrations, with the ongoing theme of “Communities Matter @Your Library.” Any discussion of community partnerships and getting things done needs to start with recent ALA presidential initiatives—the kind of example that can guide us in our own efforts to create community partnerships that get things done.
In 2012, we had “Empowering Voices: Transforming Communities,” which built upon the advocacy initiatives of previous ALA Presidents. “Empowering Voices” was Molly Raphael’s presidential initiative that focused on engaging our communities to advocate for libraries and their value, based on factors that matter to communities and their leaders.
Maureen Sullivan, our current ALA president, has continued the theme with a presidential initiative built on “the Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities.” Those of us who were able to attend the January 2013 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle had the opportunity to attend four interrelated interactive workshop-presentations. During the time we have together today, we’ll explore some of the ideas and resources that came out of those sessions. But for now, it’s enough to say that we’ll continue to have ALA support on our efforts to create substantial and meaningful community collaborations for the foreseeable future since Barbara Stripling, Co-Chair of Molly Raphael’s Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities task force a couple of years ago, will be serving as ALA President for the 2013-2014 year. The fact that she facilitated a discussion on how to engage communities to advocate for libraries and their value based on factors that matter to communities and their leaders last year while serving on that task force tells us this is not something that is going to vanish anytime soon. Nor is it something that any of us has to do alone.
So, a key question to be addressed up front is: How to we begin to develop effective community partnerships? Let’s start with a mistake that I believe we often make when we begin trying to find ways to meet a need we have identified—and I’m not just talking about what we do in libraries; I see this in many of the organizations I’ve joined or worked with over a long period of time. Here’s the usual equation in terms of raising funds: We determine what we need We start looking around to see who has what we need and can give it to us or help us obtain it. We make a formal pitch—writing a grant proposal, obtaining a meeting to explain the need and why the target of our efforts might be inclined to give it to us, asking someone who knows the person or organization to initiate a contact on our behalf. And while I don’t see anything wrong with engaging in any of these steps, I do think it initiates the partnership—the collaborative process—later than it should. Instead of developing long-term partnerships that are already in place when needs arise, we look for partners only when we need them—and then hope that an unsolicited grant proposal, or a cold call to make a case for support, will move us past our latest challenge.
We’ve all seen examples of how small, medium, and large businesses support libraries within a community, and we’ll be sharing ideas about others during the webinar today. We can see another one on this slide, noticing that the partners included Dr. Pepper, Snapple, and the McCormick County Library. We’ve also seen plenty of partnerships between libraries and schools, libraries and nonprofits such as community museums or afterschool tutoring programs, and libraries and some of the business associations that are familiar to us in our own communities.
If you’re in a large metropolitan area, you are probably aware of the possibilities available for working with local sports teams. In Florida, for example, the Miami Dolphins have partnered with the State of Florida Library system. In San Francisco, the Giants have had a supportive relationship with the San Francisco Public Library summer reading program.
For those who are not in large metropolitan areas, there’s no reason to despair: you, too, probably have some local heroes—the small local sports team, the television personality or radio station announcer, the person whose use of the library made and continues to make a difference in his or her ability to do what he or she is doing—who could benefit from a partnership with you and those you serve. You might be thinking how difficult it is to approach those people even in the best of times, and might be very effectively imagining words of rejection before you even prepare to make your first approach to establish a relationship with that person or that organization. That’s one of the first things we have to change—by building relationships well before our moment of need arises.
If we start looking at what we can be doing to meet those organizations’ and people’s needs based on what they tell us when we give them an opportunity to talk to us, we’ve taken an initial step that is far less difficult than we might imagine. And it begins with reimagining the potential results. Carl Grant, former president and chief librarian for Ex Libris North America, provides an extremely concise and useful summary of what he believes are key components of successful partnerships between libraries and businesses: Clear and shared goals are established. Risks and rewards are real and shared. There is a defined time frame for the partnership. Agreements are in writing. *A Partnership for Creating Successful Partnerships Carl Grant Information Technology and Libraries, March 2010 http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/lita/publications/ital/29/1/grant.pdf
Beth Dempsey, in an article for Library Journal a few years ago, documented the fact that libraries continued to attract significant levels of support at the local community level in spite of one of the worst economic situations any of us had ever experienced. Part of what she reminded us was that “engagement builds trust.” [“ Strategies from 2008 for an even tougher 2009” By Beth Dempsey -- Library Journal, 03/15/2009 http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/community/buildingandfacilities/854321-266/library_referenda_2008_libraries_build.html.csp] Here’s a key point she makes: “ Engagement builds multiple points of contact to gather feedback to create new programs that address community issues and ongoing opportunities to talk about that outreach. Just as important, those contacts are channels for quickly reaching and amassing an army of volunteers.” And that’s one of the major take-aways from our time together today: if we engage members of our extended communities on a day-to-day basis—not just answering their questions or quickly helping them find or learn what they need and then racing moving on to the next person who needs our assistance—we’re building something significant. We’re building relationships. Those relationships—the sort of relationship where all parties benefit—are the gold standard. They are not that hard to cultivate—but we do need to be attentive to the opportunities that come our way to develop them. And we need to think as much about what our potential partners gain from the relationship as what we gain from them.
One of the many foundations that will serve us well is to think of ourselves as consultants for our organizations and for our communities. We need to be the sort of consultants who, through the very nature of their work, have a steady stream of information coming our way to help us identify key needs and ways to meet those needs. It’s important, then, for us to be aware of what we bring to our community and how important it is for us to connect those benefits to what we can our partners can accomplish when we work together. When we really listen to what our onsite and online users tell us they value and what they need, they’re helping us do our initial homework. Think of all the goodwill—and potential for bridge-building—that came out of the Motorcyling Librarians statewide “Biblio Turismo” tour in 2009 that we see here. It was an effort to raise awareness of county libraries in New South Wales, Australia. “ The Motorcycling Librarians at the end of their tour hosted by Gosford City Library in New South Wales, Australia, which saw public librarians from across the State visiting and raising the profile of country libraries along the route of Mudgee, Parkes and Blayney and Katoomba, departing Gosford on 5 November. Blue Mountains Library was pleased to be the last stop this public library event, Biblio Turismo 4: the ‘Bat Out Of Hell Tour.’ “ Katoomba was the last stop of the Tour, on Saturday 7 November  with afternoon tea being hosted by Blue Mountains Library at the Carrington at 4.00pm. Vicki’s husband, Paul Edmunds, rode to meet the crew at Bathurst Library so he could escort them to Katoomba. The photo shows Paul (Blue Mountains), Alan Flores (Gosford Library Manager), Ross Balharrie (Manly Library) and Alan Arnold (Campbelltown Library).” Whether we’re interacting with them by phone or face to face or online, or whether we’re seeing them as we walk along the streets of the cities and towns where we or see them in local markets and other businesses, or on a motorcycle tour, we have a great opportunity to plant the seeds for collaboration through the simple act of listening to what they tell us about their unmet needs. When we step up to the plate and offer to fill those needs, we’re beginning to establish the sort of relationships that later allow all of us to get things done by partnerships where everyone brings whatever they have that can help us reach whatever goals we’re trying to reach.
Let’s stop long enough to apply what we’ve been discussing here: What key needs could you be filling in your community now? What partners exist for you to meet those community needs? What needs could those partners be filling for the library? (Remember, this should be completely circular, so the “library’s” needs should really be community needs when you get right down to it. If all we’re trying to do is find ways to keep ourselves going, we’re missing the chance to match what we offer with the community need that our services fill.)
I recently had a chance to watch one of my favorite 14-year-olds in action at a very fast-paced game of indoor soccer. When the match was over and her team had won by a score of 6-1, she came up to me to ask if I had been completely bored since I’m not a big sports fan. “ Not at all,” I assured her. In fact, I explained, what she and her team had just done was what I admire in the work that many of us facilitate and do. Her team had won because the individual members didn’t go after the easy scores. They worked seamlessly to position the ball on the court where they knew they had the best chance of scoring and then, as a team, scored those points. The other team, in contrast, simply kicked the ball as far down the court as possible every time one of the team members gained possession. The result was lots of movement and no points. Their only point came at the beginning of the second half of the game, when they uncharacteristically moved more methodically, passed the ball back and forth to advance toward the goal, and then scored in a way that made all of us cheer regardless of which side we were supporting. And that’s what we’re going to keep in mind as we move into this section of the webinar.
Let’s build upon what we’ve already discussed by returning to that ALA presidential initiative I described earlier. ALA President Maureen Sullivan is helping us, with the “Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities” that received so much attention in January at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Seattle, to choreograph the sort of community partnerships we want. She returned to the theme in her American Libraries column in the current issue of the publication. [http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/columns/presidents-message/community-building] “ Last September,” she writes, “ALA announced the launch of a new national initiative called ‘The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities.’ This groundbreaking program signals a new partnership between ALA and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. Initially supported through a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the goal of this multiphase Presidential initiative is to provide thousands of libraries of all types with the tools and training needed to help their communities find innovative solutions through library-led community engagement.”
Her column includes her brief recap of the panel discussion she moderated with “public innovators including Rich Harwood, founder and president of the Harwood Institute; Tim Henkel, president and CEO of Spokane County (Wash.) United Way; and Carlton Sears, past director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County in Ohio and certified coach with the Harwood Institute. “ They identified aspirations and anticipated results of the Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities Initiative and described their own transformation experiences,” she says, and that’s a great reminder that one of the resources we walked away with was an awareness of Harwood’s latest book, which is a fabulous resource that can actually be downloaded free of charge from Harwood’s website: http://workofhope.theharwoodinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/The_Work_of_Hope.pdf More information about the Harwood Institute is available at http://www.theharwoodinstitute.org/.
Maureen also writes about the ALA Midwinter “Libraries Transforming Communities” session led by Peter Block, bestselling author of Community: The Structure of Belonging: Peter “facilitated an interactive discussion about the nature of transformation and the kind of leadership required to achieve it. He focused on how to create workplaces and communities that work for everyone in them, with the goal of making change through consent and connectedness rather than through mandate and force.” And that’s where this becomes personal. I’ve been a big fan of Peter’s for quite a while now, have been lucky enough to have a couple of brief conversations with him, and devoured his book Community: The Structure of Belonging right after it was published. It really is a seminal primer for what we’re exploring today. He uses engaging prose to talk about “The Fabric of Community,” what he calls “The Alchemy of Belonging,” and ends with what most of us in this crowd really appreciative: a final section of role models and resources that will give us as much as we care to absorb in terms of ideas about building communities, collaborations, and partnerships that are dynamic, sustainable, and productive.
Peter and his colleague John McKnight also offer us a ready-made online support group via their Abundant Community website [ http://www.abundantcommunity.com/] and the book that, alongside Harwood’s The Work of Hope, provides plenty of inspiration and the reminder that our communities offer abundant opportunities for getting things done through community partnerships. And note the specific search results I’ve highlighted here: there are wonderful anecdotes of library success stories for anyone who needs a bit of encouragement. It’s not hard to see why Maureen included Peter in on the Midwinter “Libraries Transforming Communities” action.
I’m certainly not going to hide the fact that Making Cities Stronger is one of those rare reports that absolutely fascinated me the first time I read it shortly after it was published, in 2007. It continues to be wonderfully timely in spite of all the economic changes we’ve seen since it was produced by our colleagues at the Urban Libraries Council. http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/1001075_stronger_cities.pdf Right from the beginning, it helps us begin building the case for the potential partners we have in our communities—and it puts the case in their terms, citing something that benefits them rather than being completely from the library’s point of view. You can’t read the line in the report about how “researchers in the field of economics are beginning to identify child development investments as the most cost effective strategies for long-term economic development” (p. 7) without feeling a sense of pride about how tangibly libraries and library staff contribute through programming for children. It creates an obvious opportunity to connect our programming with the benefits to local businesses and makes us want to see which of those business (commercial as well as nonprofit) entities wants to support those efforts which so clearly pay off for all involved. You can’t read about how Coney Island Hospital supported the Brooklyn Reads to Babies program (p. 9) without wondering what untapped resources of that level would leap at the chance to work with you to produce measurable results in terms of drawing more children into a place that better prepares them to survive and thrive in the communities they one day will serve or manage as employees, entrepreneurs, political leaders, or artists. You can’t race through that story about Providence Public Library’s partnership with CVS/ pharmacy Charitable Trust (now CVS Caremark Charitable Trust) to produce the free nine-week Cradle to Crayons initiative without wondering what you might be able to do with them, with other similar businesses, or with other charitable foundations from your local community foundation to those connected to large national businesses that are tremendously interested in the communities they serve.
The economy wasn’t in great shape back in 2007 when Making Cities Stronger was published, but libraries already were “answering the call to provide greater workforce support with enhanced job information resources, workplace literacy programs, improved technology access, and staff dedicated to employment services” (p. 14). With more demand than ever for this sort of assistance from the unemployed members of our communities and the knowledge that businesses within our communities will always face a need for well-trained, highly skilled employees, we can be building upon what we have successfully been doing. It’s up to us to identify and approach the visionaries and community-centric members of our cities and towns to see what we can be doing now to lay the groundwork for better times. And we need to be doing it on their terms, not just ours, for that’s the heart of effective partnerships.
Turn away from your computer workstation, mobile phone, or tablet for a moment so you can physically or mentally look out your window. Look as far as your mind will carry you to see who is actually doing well in your community. And think about something you could be doing with them to help develop the sort of workforce they are going to continue to need for the foreseeable future. Now let’s keep looking beyond our windows and think about what we might be learning and emulating from the best of our colleagues who have produces the sort of large- and small-scale partnerships that should be inspiring us rather than making us think “Oh, they can do it, but we don’t have those sorts of resources here.” Think about Peter Block and John McKnight’s belief that our communities have an abundance of resources in the people who comprise them. Think about the creative energy that comes from a partnerships that produced YOUmedia for the Chicago Public Library and are now extending that model around the country with the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Let’s take it back down to one more from-the-heart example produced by a colleague here in the San Francisco Bay Area: Darcel Jones, branch manager at a Contra Costa County Library facility that sits on the grounds of a local school. If you want the sort of great community partnerships that don’t require much money but do require lots of creativity and energy, you need a Darcel. She decided, several years ago, that one way to engage her community while she was still in San Francisco, was to have a Valentine’s Day celebration centered around chocolate. Adapting an idea from colleagues at the Solano Public Library in Northern California where a chocolate-tasting event for children had been offered for several years, she attracted nearly 100 children, adults, and seniors to a “Chocolate – Food for the Gods” program at a San Francisco Public Library’s branch, and she has continued to refine the project in her current position in Contra Costa County. The program is designed to teach participants about the history of the cocoa bean and how chocolate candy is made. It offers a hands-on lesson, taught by a local confectioner that she enticed into participating. And she continues to give library patrons of all ages an unorthodox way of having a memorable encounter with chocolate: they use hammers to break small pieces of chocolate off of 10-pound blocks so they had something to carry away. That, to me, is the spirit of collaboration—the sort of effort where everyone wins.
Let’s think about what we’ve encountered through the “Libraries Transforming Communities” initiative, the ULC report, and the Abundant Community book and website, and let’s think about the economic, educational, and social needs you’re either meeting in your community or are seeing others meet. The goal here is to walk away with ideas you can begin or continue developing to you, too, have greater community partnerships in place
When we offered a full four-week version of “Community Partnerships” in fall 2011, we talked a lot about assessing community needs, evaluating successes in building community partnerships, and incorporated those discussions into an exercise documenting the successes that came out of the course itself. It was Cathy Maassen, Youth Services Librarian for Skokie Public Library, who provided a couple of wonderfully inspiring responses before the course had even come to an end. (You can see her on the right-hand side of this picture as she and a colleague celebrated a fund-raising success achieved before she took the course.) The first: “ I called my sponsor for Winter Reading who is charge of marketing for the local hospital. Last year to get them on board, I changed Winter Reading to require an exercise component – take out an exercise DVD or a music CD and dance – fairly simple. She was happy with it and at the end of last year agreed to support us this year. I was planning to just send her an email and confirm that but decided to call – to expand the relationship and have it grow. So I talked with her awhile and told her how many parents were excited, (sometimes kids that are big readers aren’t necessarily into exercise so it got some kids to move)…so, an hour ago she called me and wants to expand beyond Winter – on the earlier phone call I had said Winter was more low key than summer – she wants the hospital to sponsor Radio Disney to come here this summer to kick off our reading program! She wants to advertise on her end as well as ours and has already set up meeting for me to join her and Radio Disney to discuss the plan. Thank you, you gave me more courage to talk options and to really say I’m giving them an opportunity. I was saying the words but on this phone conversation I felt I actually believed them.”
As the course was coming to an end, she provided her second success story: “ Last year, the Double Tree in connection with an International Beauty Pageant had given us 5 free hotel nights to be used as a raffle prize. The international pageant is held in Skokie and they wanted some photo ops so we let the pageant contestants join us in a princess ball. It was a huge hit with the pageant people and all our little princesses. We agreed to do it again next summer. The hotel was stepping back from the pageant and said they were not going to give us the free hotel nights. I contacted the hotel directly by email yesterday and pretty much told them that they may want to rethink this – I remember in one of the reading you mentioned naming sponsors already on board – so I did and asked why you would want to be left out. I sent them a letter from one of last year’s winners thanking us for the opportunity to have a fun local vacation. The new marketing director called me today and said of course she wanted to be on board and yes they wanted to be known as a community supporter. Thank you – this is so much fun!” Checking in with Cathy this week to be sure she didn’t mind having her story told again, she provided a very encouraging update: After losing a financial supporter that had been in place for many years, she recently “had to scramble to find new donors, but I remember you talking about just going ahead and asking, and I saw it as a new challenge rather than a failure. It works, I have some new donors to replace [the previous donor], and we’re ready to roll for a new summer reading program.”
There’s an important point to be made here: When you see partnerships as a circular process that parallels the planning and implementation stages of any project roll-out, you have a model that produces the sort of success Cathy produced: We start by assessing needs—ours as well as those of our partners. We then design and develop projects and partnerships that meet the needs we have identified. We implement those projects in collaboration with the partners we have. Then we look back to see what worked and what didn’t work, keep our partners involved in that process, and keep the circle intact by continuing to involve partners in ways neither we nor those partners could have anticipated at the beginning of the original cycle. That’s the sort of thinking that probably contributed to Cathy receiving a “Library Staff Member of the Year” award from the North Suburban Library System in 2009 for “outstanding work in Youth Services,” and it’s the sort of thinking that carries us past whatever residual fears we have about building partnerships and reaching out to those partners for financial assistance.
If you’re familiar with or have already engaged in a strategic planning process or helped develop a marketing plan, you’re right where you need to be. And if you haven’t, it’s well worth your time to explore the process a bit with colleagues or through books and online resources that familiarize you with them. I’ll leave a few resources up on this slide while we dive into the process just a bit. The act of creating a strategic plan or a marketing plan obviously benefits from collaboration. If you draw members of your community into the process, you’re building support for whatever you ultimately decide to implement—as long as you don’t make the obvious mistake of drawing those community supporters in, promising to keep them involved, and then fail to stay in touch as you implement those plans. The processes, the plans they produced, and the partnerships they have initiated need to evolve, not just be completed and set on a shelf to collect dust. An article (Miller, Ellen G., and Patricia H. Fisher. "Getting on Your Community's Leadership Team." Georgia Library Quarterly 44.1 (2007): 5-8; http://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/glq/vol44/iss1/3/) from the Georgia Library Quarterly a few years ago included a section called “Getting Your Foot in the Door” (pp. 6-7). The writers offered suggestions that will probably make you cringe when you think about how little time you already have to do all that needs to done—including the basic challenge of keeping enough staff on service desks to provide at least the minimum level of service necessary to meet your own standards. But once you get past the “where am I ever going to find time to do this?” reaction that is natural to all of us and begin looking for opportunities to explore any of these options that make sense, you’ll find ways to draw these efforts into your day-to-day efforts that should produce results that make life easier—and better—for all involved. Here are several of their suggestions: Visit with community leaders, including the mayor, city council members, chamber of commerce director, local development organization members. Find out what economic development projects are underway and what information is needed. Join economic development, civic, and other appropriate organizations. Be prepared to spend at least ten percent of your working time in activities outside the library building. Implement supportive personnel policies and work plans that clearly spell out the expectations of director and staff time for community involvement. Take steps to assure that the director and board are ready to commit their personal time to developing relationships with leaders of economic development organizations and civic leaders. Involvement with these organizations may evolve into assuming leadership positions. Success begets success. The more that library directors, managers and trustees are out in the field, the more they see possibilities for new linkages”. Look within the library staff and the board to see who belongs to or is already involved in some way with community-based groups. Use everyone to gather information about community trends, changes, opportunities.
So far, we’ve spent all our time looking at that part of our constituency that we’re seeing face to face. We’d be ignoring a huge part of the picture if we didn’t at least briefly think about reaching out to our partners where many of them are active: online, through social media settings. They’re using a variety of tools to talk to each other, so it behooves us to at least be aware of what they post on their own sites, interact with them there when it’s appropriate to do so, and be sure that we are creating social media sites that invite interactions rather than engaging in the all-too-familiar and far-from-productive format of one-way broadcasting where we simply use these sites as another place to post our notices. Our colleagues at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library do a great job of engaging the community through Facebook, a digital library, and many other social media tools.
Buffy Hamilton did a great job of establishing her high school library on Twitter before moving on to her current position with the Cleveland Public Library.
A number of libraries and members of library staff are finding Google+ to be another way to tap into communities and build partnerships with colleagues.
And this screenshot showing that users are commenting on the Monterey Public Library reminds us that you don’t have to be working in a large library to have attracted comments from users on Yelp…or Pinterest…or Foursquare…or…well, you get the idea.
As we move into our final moments together, let’s start bringing this home by remembering that whether we’re online, face to face, or smart enough to blend both into a cohesive approach to our community, we have plenty of resources to draw upon. Jim Diers, like Peter Block and John McKnight (our Abundant Community colleagues), has a wonderful book that provides plenty of anecdotes about members of communities working together to achieve the goals they share. One of the finest moments in the book comes when he talks about how the City government office he ran in Seattle was first established, and those working in it took the attitude that their role was not to bring government to the constituents, but to listen to what constituents wanted and needed, and then find ways to make that government agency a partner is meeting those needs. The key is to listen, seek openings, and partner rather than falling into the old pattern of deciding what we think our communities need and then offering to fill those perceived needs.
We can’t remind ourselves enough that identifying prospective partners, building collaborative relationships, and sustaining those wonderful resources that exist in our abundant communities requires that we go where our current and prospective partners are rather than expecting them to seek us out or to be impressed and tremendously responsive when they only hear from us through an occasional grant application or a request to meet when we’ve identified a need we believe they can help us meet. It has to be consistent, personal, and sustainable—like anything else we treasure. Let’s look at one final spectacular example of building partnerships.
Here’s a dream come true for anyone who wants to build and sustain community partnerships: a successful collaboration between a library and a major vendor—Sacramento Public with Barnes & Noble—that no only benefitted library users by putting eReaders into their hands, but made the point to other current and prospective Library partners that this was an organization that delivers what it promises and makes sure everyone knows about it through coverage in the local media. The project was fairly straightforward: having obtain funds through the State Library, staff looked for a partner to bring eReaders to library patrons. Staff reached out to several vendors, and Barnes & Noble was the one to respond positively—because library staff already had a positive relationship with the company’s local community relations manager. They actually had their first discussion while going out together for coffee.
The project worked out so well that it ended up including training for staff and for the public, and allowed the library to purchase more eReaders than staff believed they would be able to obtain with the level of funding they had. You can learn a lot more about it by reading the documents posted on the library’s website.
Let’s be sure we don’t walk away from our time together today without turning dreams into action: What opportunities do you now see in your own community in terms of partnerships to be developed? What will you do within the next week to begin the process of building a new relationship or strengthening one that already exists?
We started off this session talking about a celebration—the opening of a new branch library—as an example of how community collaborations produce wonderful results.
We reminded ourselves, with that image of the murmuration of starlings, that well-coordinated efforts produce beautiful collaborations.
There was the idea that engagement fosters trust—so we need to be engaged with our community as much as possible rather than expecting community members to seek us out.
We had that reminder that ALA itself can, through initiatives like the current ALA presidential initiative, provide us with resources to foster the sort of collaborations we are seeking.
We saw an example of a resource that helps us identify and build upon the abundance that is not always apparent to us in our own communities.
We were reminded that we are some of our own best resources.
We saw that we can and should be reaching out to our partners in the online venues they inhabit.
And we saw plenty of examples of how we’re at the center of our community, with tremendous resources to offer in any partnership we pursue. Now it’s up to us to transform more of those dreams into a reality in which everyone is a winner.
Some wonderful broad-based books discussing how to foster a sense of community and collaboration…
A few books specifically for staff in libraries…
Your Library Needs Community Partnerships: How to Get it Done
A Conversation FacilitatedbyPaul SignorelliWriter/Trainer/ConsultantPaul Signorelli & Associatespaul@paulsignorelli.comApril 18, 2013Community Partnerships:How to Get It Done
Additional resources (1):Community and Collaboration in an Onsite-Online World:An Annotated Bibliography, by Paul Signorelli:http://paulsignorelli.com/PDFs/Bibliography--Community_and_Collaboration.pdf
Credits & Acknowledgments(Images taken fromlickr.comunless otherwise noted):Bayview Branch Library Checkout Counter: From Friends.SFPL’s photostream athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/friendssfpl/8530206036/sizes/m/in/photostream/Bayview Branch Library Opening Day Celebration: From Friends.SFPL’s photostream athttp://www.flickr.com/search/?q=bayview+branch+library&l=cc&ct=0&mt=all&adv=1#page=2Murmuration: FromAd551’s hotostreamat http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaddaamn/5196234319/sizes/m/in/photostream/Traffic: From ms sdb’s hotostreamat http://www.flickr.com/photos/shelleybrunt/496916533/sizes/m/in/photostream/Wisconsin: From UWMADAcrhive’s photostreamathttp://www.flickr.com/photos/uwmadarchives/6186274025/sizes/m/in/photostream/Will Work For Batteries: FromBernd’s photostreamat http://www.flickr.com/photos/bernd_ploderer/8643750443/sizes/m/in/photostream/Let’s Play: From South Carolina State Library’s photostreamat http://www.flickr.com/photos/scsl/6441701467/Knocking on Door: From EdenPictures’ photostream athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/edenpictures/6247800223/sizes/m/in/photostream/Handshake: From Sal Falko’s photostreamathttp://www.flickr.com/photos/safari_vacation/7496765660/sizes/m/in/photostream/Engagement: From Dunedin Public Library’s photostream athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/dunedinpubliclibraries/6786559115/sizes/m/in/photostream/Soccer: From Shane Pope’s photostream athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/shanepope/2402145715/sizes/m/in/photostream/Allstate/Cathy Maassen: From : From http://www.skokienet.org/files/images/gift_for_summer_reading.preview.JPGCathy Maassen with Summer Reading Participants: From Skokie Public Library’s photostream athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/skokiepl/3920045801/sizes/m/in/photostream/Help Wanted : From Brizzle Born and Bred’s photostream athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/6136653327/sizes/m/in/photostream/Question Marks: From Valerie Everett’s photostreamathttp://www.flickr.com/photos/valeriebb/3006348550/sizes/m/in/photostream/