Last month I introduced a yearly Personal Service Priority Plan” for making decisions around Outreach, Programming, Strategic Audiences, and Collection. Already, I have had several opportunities to implement this strategy in specific situations. Here is what the flow of this decision-making process looked like regarding a potential community partner:

The “Mission and Core Values” section of The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action suggests, regarding Collaboration, that “Libraries leverage the resources/talents of all Partnerlibrary departments as well as non-library institutions and establish community partnerships around teens’ needs and interests.” As I decide which potential organizations with which to form partnerships, I can use that Core value as a basis for action, then use my own Personal Service Priority Plan to cull down the possibilities and choose an action plan based on the needs of my community.

In this case, a literacy nonprofit that works with my local school has asked me to partner with them to support students in their program. Awesome! Great! Now: should I pursue this, and how should I approach it?

According to the Core values set forth in the “Futures” report, I should establish community partnerships around teens’ needs and interests. This organization works directly with youth up to age 14 who are reading below grade level. OK, so yes, I should consider this partnership.

nonprofitNow, what will our partnership look like? Here are the 2016 “Outreach” priorities I have set for myself:

  • Potential partner is clearly defined
  • We are aiming to serve/reach a similar or overlapping audience
  • Collaboration has measurable outcomes
  • Whenever I (or library staff) attend an event there are dedicated times to interact directly with youth/parents/families
  • Appropriate staff attends events based on needs of anticipated audience (determined through discussion with supervisors and regional resource sharing)

So how will this potential partnership plug into these 5 personal priorities?

  • The partner is the literacy nonprofit and my specific point of contact is the site coordinator. So the partner is clearly defined.
  • The partner works with children through age 14 and their families. So we serve an overlapping audience.
  • We have discussed the following elements for our collaboration:
    • The partner, who works directly with youth in the schools, will work with my staff to get public library cards into the hands of students who don’t currently have cards. We can measure this outcome by looking at how many students are in the program, how many students turn in new card applications, and how many of those applications result in brand new library cards. This is a measurable outcome, so yes, I should pursue this element.
    • measureThe partner wants to offer “extra credit” assignments to youth in the schools if those youth come to a public library and complete a scavenger hunt. This would get youth to our library and make them more comfortable talking to library staff. We could measure this by having an evaluation on the scavenger hunt sheet that asks “is this the first time you’ve been to a public library? Is it the first time you’ve been here in the past year? Would you feel more comfortable talking to staff at this library after talking to them today?” These are measurable outcomes, so yes, I should pursue this element.
    • The partner also wants me to create monthly booklists for them of materials from my library collection that enrich the collections they are using with their students. However, the materials they use are proprietary and matched with each student individually, so there is not a straightforward way for me to create the types of booklists they have in mind. At this time we cannot determine a way for me to evaluate whether or not my booklists would actually enhance student literacy in this organization. So no, I should not pursue this element.
  • The partner works directly with students as part of school time. They have a heavily scheduled specific curriculum. If I were to attend a session of their program, I would not have much of an opportunity to interact with students or speak directly to them. So it is not a priority for me to attend an event with this partner.
  • I have already determined that it is not a priority to attend an event with this partner, so I do not need to identify appropriate library staff for events. However, it will be useful to ask circulation staff and world language staff for help when working on the library card drive and creating evaluation questions in the languages spoken by students and families in their homes.

I have now identified a partner, created an action plan with measurable outcomes, and set up an easy way for me to report on my work and to evaluate the collaboration at the end of the year to see if it’s worth continuing.

About Kristina Darnell

Kristina is a youth services librarian at the Seattle Public Library.

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