Community Partners: Teen Services in a Rural Library

Taiko Drums

An interactive Taiko performance–forming new connections brings fresh knowledge to the library.

Rural librarianship can mean a small staff, but it can also mean a tight-knit community full of residents and organizations happy to share their knowledge. Working with other organizations and local experts helps maximize impact and expand services to new audiences without overburdening librarians.’ How do you find new partners? Leave the library!

Earlier this week, April Witteveen wrote an installment in the YALSA Blog’s Back to School series about making new connections within the school system. ‘ She recommends “stepping outside your comfort zone” which’ also applies to forming community partnerships. If you want to form a partnership to deliver new programming opportunities, step outside the building and strike up a conversation.’ ‘ Take a trip down to the farmers market, visit with business owners, or attend a meeting with a local organization. You might meet a person or group with’ special experience or knowledge that they are eager to share with local teens. For example, a relationship established with the Montana Taiko Drum Community recently resulted in an interactive performance at the library. It was a new experience for all, but we achieved several mutual objectives including enhancing a sense of community and developing cultural competence.

Snap circuits photo

AM radio made with snap circuits during a program facilitated by a local maker

Hobbyists can also help you develop programming in topics as diverse as your community. The maker movement is an excellent opportunity to call upon local knowledge. This summer my library borrowed a makers kit from the Montana State Library that included a Raspberry Pi’ and other fun technology that was largely unfamiliar to our staff of six. ‘ I reached out to a local makers group on MeetUp and found community members interested in facilitating programs on circuitry, Arduino, and MaKey MaKey. ‘ During our latest program, teens used snap circuits to build an AM radio–a result that may not have happened if I had designed the program on my own. Better yet, the maker group gained exposure, and we worked together to promote STEM education.

Forming new partnerships can bring programs and fresh knowledge to the library, but like all relationships, it’s a two way street. As you go out into the community, remember to listen. There are many ways the library can work with other groups to fulfill common goals.The’ Future of Library Service for and with Teens: A Call to Action‘ report has a section on forming and sustaining partnerships. The report asks librarians to consider “how the mission and goals of the library complement and extend the mission of the other community organizations” (p. 32). By sharing ideas and working toward a common goal, we can bring more to the teens we serve. No single librarian can know or do all things, but we are pretty awesome at connecting the community with resources. Our “portfolio” should include connections with other people, organizations, and mentors.

About Rebekah Kamp

Rebekah works as the Youth Services Librarian at the Belgrade Community Library. She enjoys designing innovative programming for children and teens. When not at the library, Rebekah is an outdoor enthusiast who loves spending time with her children camping, hiking, and exploring in Montana.

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