I love being part of the library world. It’s such a great opportunity to talk with fellow YALSA members about what they are reading, what they are doing in their libraries, to discover ways libraries are using technology to build audiences, to see how missions and functions shift, and so much more.

But sometimes my best ideas come from the non-library world. The New York Public Library is part of the HIVE Learning Network NYC, a sort of think tank of cultural institutions brought together to develop new learning pathways and exciting education practices for youth across New York City. With a focus on digital media literacy, youth interest driven programming, and collaboration, it’s an amazing opportunity to network with a wide range of youth service advocate who help me build better youth activities at my library and push me to think beyond the traditional library structure.

Without HIVE NYC, it would have been a much bigger challenge to transform local history materials into an interactive social justice game experience. Global Kids, a youth leadership program with a social justice focus, brought their invaluable game building experience to combine with the library’s vast collection to produce a game narrative.

Without HIVE NYC, it would have been more difficult to discover DML, the Digital Media and Learning Conference that focuses on technology, innovation, and education. Attending DML helped me think differently about the types of programs I was building, and connected me with Maker Spaces, web makers, and more.

Without HIVE NYC, my spring programming slate of hacking, making, and programming would be much more sparse.

These collaborations have been vitally important to help me build better programs and stronger after school learning opportunities for the teens in my system. Getting outside of the library world helps me look at my collections, facilities, and even communities in a different light.

So, how might you be able to build a new collaborative community?

  • Reach out to local organizations. Check in with your local theaters, museums, art galleries, and community recreation centers. Find out what extended day programs your school library is offering.
  • Focus on what you might be able to do together, rather than how you can capitalize on their existing audience. This can be a tough one, since we’re constantly looking to increase the numbers of the library – people in, people out, programs offered, program attendance, etc. Great partnerships and collaborations take time to build, so while the numbers may be small at first, you’re cultivating potential new programs and connections.
  • Facilitate meetings between your partners. Arrange opportunities for everyone to show off what they can do and what they are excited about. It might spark a new program idea for you, or help you see where you can supplement an activity with the resources you have at the library. Having a host activities scheduled can keep it from becoming a non-productive lecture session.
  • Brainstorm together! Rather than build out your ideas for funding and then go hunting or a partner, collaborate from the start. Bringing in an outside perspective can help make your proposal stand out as something new and innovative. It can also help you see new pathways for your programs to take.

Libraries are proudly and rightly identified as community centers. By reaching out to all possibly community partners, it’s possible to foster stronger ties amongst organizations, create even more innovative programming, and build a broader base of library users and advocates.

About Chris Shoemaker

I'm a YALSA Past President. I blog about YA programming, technology instruction for people interested in teen services, and YALSA governance stuff. I like baking and dislike humidity.

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