Last week we talked about finding your perfect community partner, the one who can make all your dreams come true. Once you’ve met a few potential partners and really gotten to know them, you may be ready to choose one and move forward on a shared program or project.
So you’re ready to embark on a micro partnership. You’ve done your community analysis, so you’re familiar with current demographic information in your area. You’ve considered which audiences you’d like to target to promote equity. Now all you need is a partner organization.
But how to choose? It’s a little bit like (very platonic) dating: who’s your perfect match?
In my last post, I talked about the importance of relationship-building in outreach and community partnerships. It’s not always easy to create the time and space necessary to figure out what a partner organization really needs from the library, but for a strong community partnership, it’s well worth the investment.
But “community partnership” is a pretty vague term. I should probably clarify what I’m talking about.
About four years ago, my little department (just one other Teen Services Librarian and me) decided to make a big change. We wanted to make outreach and community partnerships the central focus of our work. We weren’t sure exactly what that would entail, or how we should go about it. All we knew was that the Teen Center in our library wasn’t exactly packing in the teens.
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.’ ‘ Continue reading Community Partners: Teen Services in a Rural Library
Earlier today YALSA sponsored a Virtual Town Hall on how libraries and stakeholders can work together successfully to support teens. The event is a part of YALSA’s year-long National Forum on Libraries and Teens that is looking at the future of library services to adolescents.
Conversation at the Virtual Town Hall focused on four key questions:
Why are partnerships important?
What opportunities are a part of partnerships between libraries and stakeholders?
What do successful partnerships look like?
What’s required of libraries and stakeholders in order to support teens into the future?
Each session will focus on a specific theme and participants, that will include library staff and stakeholders from a variety of communities, will have the chance to help YALSA understand what teen library services will (and should) look like in the future.
Libraries build community partnerships. That’s something we do. Whether the partnership is to work with another community agency in order to harness that agency’s expertise, or to share resources of space, time, and so on it makes sense to work with other organizations in the community to support each other and extend what each can accomplish.
As Teen Services Coordinator for a large public library system, outreach has always been a significant part of my job. Most of this outreach takes place in our middle and high schools (there are roughly 132 in our service area). We partner with local schools for all sorts of events: booktalking, info lit workshops, early lit seminars for teen parents, back to school nights, and career days. When times were good, we had the staffing to accommodate nearly all requests from schools.
But times are not good. Our staff numbers are down; we’re cutting back in all aspects of service, and outreach is not immune. So the question becomes, where do we make the cuts? Which services survive?’ How can we get the most return on our investment? And, how do we measure the success of our current programs?
I think it’s important to consider several benchmarks of success when partnering with schools. We often look to the number of new library users we sign up, or the rise in circs on the items we booktalk. While those are valuable statistics, I think there is also value in the qualitative. Creating and maintaining good working relationships with school staff; reminding busy teens with a friendly face that the public library is an option; taking advantage of a built-in focus group to ask teens who don’t use the library how we can serve them best. What are we getting out of these programs that ultimately make us better librarians?
I don’t know what the right answers are. For my library, it seemed most vital to continue working with 9th graders as they begin high school. But, that meant that our middle school outreach was cut. We continue to take special requests on as they come in: when schedules allow, we accept; most we must decline.
And while I don’t know what the right answers are for each library system, I do know this: in a time when every dime is accounted for and each service evaluated by the numbers it can generate, we need to be aware of what we are losing from the programs we cut.
The program below is one of many featured on ALA’s online clearinghouse for school/public library cooperation managed by the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation. Visit the’ clearinghouse to learn more or share your own exemplary partnership!
Title of Program:’ Lunch Time Book Club Type of Program: Book Discussion Groups Intended Grade Level of Participants: Grades 5-8 Description of Program: The Basalt Regional Library District has funding for programming, but they are short on space and have a difficult time getting interested teems to remember to attend programs.’ The local middle school has little funding and less staff, but plenty of space and students available.