Creating and sustaining a partnership between your library and another community organization can be a feather in your professional cap; both the entities meet their goals, you get to shine in the eyes of administrators, and future possibilities seem endless.’  Then…Something changes.’  Communication fades.’  The project that went so smoothly one week/month/year ago seems to suddenly be covered in obstacles.’  Cue hair-tearing and a bevy of emotions connected to what we think should be happening.’  Should I have written more email?’  Less email?’  Should I have set different goals?’  Should I just wait and see if things get better?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, guilt or fear of failure needn’t keep you from an eyes-wide-open assessment that could lead to the end of the partnership or project.’  Linda Braun’s recent YALSA Blog article on how to fail offers particular insight: “…at the end of the process look at what worked and didn’t work and then decide next steps. What were you looking for in the partnership and did you achieve that – why/why not?”

If you are faced with the decision of whether or not to end a partnership, here are some considerations:

  • Were my original goals clear enough that it’s easy to see when something is or isn’t working? Use strong outcome statements and include data if necessary to avoid making an emotionally based decision.
  • Do I have the resources to take this partnership in a different direction or to continue on with little result? If you are barely finding enough hours in your day as it is, working to resurrect a project could lead to burn out.
  • Is there someone else in my organization who could adopt this project? A partnership could turn into something larger (or into something that doesn’t represent your original goals) and you may need to pass it off to a different team or department.

There are two relatively recent experiences in my job where partnerships ended.’ ‘  Our Library Linx program has a circulation-based rubric to measure school success with the program, and if a school misses the benchmarks for 2 successive years they are removed from the program.’  This is clearly expressed in documentation for schools currently involved in the program and shared with the schools who hope to join Linx in the future.’  It is painful to release a school from the partnership, but our clear expectations help back up the decision.

I struggled for years to create a partnership with a nearby after-school service provider; in the end my boss advised me to call it quits as this wasn’t equally benefitting both organizations and my frustration had mounted to an unproductive point but I felt I should continue.’  Does this mean I’ll never speak with them again?’  Definitely not—but it does mean I’ll go into any future conversations prepared with outcomes and a better idea of shared goals.

Partnerships are an incredible way to enhance library services and experiences for teens; however, if something isn’t working, we should feel empowered to make a choice that frees up resources for the next great thing!

About April Witteveen

I am a Community and Teen Services Librarian with the Deschutes Public Library in beautiful Central Oregon. I love both outdoor (hiking, camping) and indoor (knitting, fermentation) adventures.

One Thought on “Let it Go…the End of a Partnership

  1. Thanks for writing about the ending of partnerships. We always encourage people to form partnerships and give tips on how to make them successful but seldom address what happens when things go south. This is a great post!

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