Building Partnerships Success Stories
As these stories from WebJunction members show, everything from Head Start to horticulture can make for great partnerships for your library. The key is that the relationship be mutually beneficial and advance the mission of both partners.
Get a Head Start
Head Start programs can be natural partners for libraries. Richard O. Smith, Branch Manager of the North County Branch, Caroline County (MD) Public Library describes what they have done:
We've had great success partnering with Head Start in regards to Easy book circulation and programming.
Our small branch is fortunate in that we share the same community center building as Head Start. The programming, storytimes and puppet shows started as soon as we opened. I initiated the obvious idea and Head Start gladly took advantage of it. Some years later, I approached Head Start and emphasized the importance of reading and books to the educational development of pre-schoolers. It didn't take much to sell the idea as they were looking to partner with other community organizations in an educational venture.
All three Head Start classes now have their own organizational cards and our Easy book statistics have increased considerably since this effort began. Everyone benefits from it. A growing number of Head Start children are Latino and now their parents are library customers as well. I attribute that to the partnering.
Kim Hicks, Director of the Madisonville (TN) Public Library shows how even basic outreach can lead to positive feedback to funding bodies:
I think the community partnerships I am most proud of are our outreach programs. We have gone to daycares for the past 6 years, but after our state library stopped bookmobile services, we tried to pick up the slack. We go to 11 facilities each month and rotate an avg of 50 materials to each of them (We literally load crates of books and av into our trunks). We go to daycare centers, head starts, senior facilities, Boys and Girls Club and the Girls Group Home. This is staff and time expensive, not to mention the time I spend writing for and implementing grants to keep buying more materials, but it is worth every penny and then some! I know that we are touching people's lives each and every day through this program. A nice side benefit is that all of our funding bodies have a grandchild in daycare or a mom in the nursing home or at least a constituent who does and they hear feedback about our program quite a bit.
Went to a Garden Party
Conrad Rader of the Niles (MI) Public Library shows how trying new things can pay off:
I recently attended a videoconference organized in my area by our local public television station that asked the same question. Agencies represented there were public broadcasters, museums and libraries. What I discovered was that the interest in partnerships is out there, but the biggest problem is finding 'matches', organizations that are compatible in mission and intent to accomplish a partnership.
For myself, our library has aggressively pursued partnerships in conjunction with our programming activities. We try to match each of our programming events with a community partner with a related mission. We approach our identified potential partner and offer them a place at our table. An example of this is inviting one of our local gardening clubs to become the sponsor of our day-long "Garden Party" a workshop of gardening related speakers and activities. The library provided coordination and resources, and the garden club provided their name and willingness to volunteer to help. The result was very successful with attendance at the event reaching well over 200, up almost 100% from the year before. It has resulted in the garden club taking a larger role in the planning and execution of the event, while the library provides a venue and financial support. We have also added a new event this year, a flower show. This is just one example of a successful partnership that we have fostered in the past year. Other partnerships have been with the local community theater company, the Downtown Development Agency, the local tourism council, several local area merchants, as well as the Volunteer Center and other local non-profits.
Inviting people to the library for events increases the profile of the library and creates image retention in the minds of people who may not have had that image of the library. We make the library the center of the community by creating events and programs that people want to attend. It is working as several people have approached me with suggestions for presenting programs in the library after seeing something that impressed them.
One other key is not to be afraid to try new things. We have never done a flower show in the library and it is shaping up to be a bit of a challenge in terms of material safety, judging regulations, and exhibit integrity and monitoring, but we're going to do it anyways.
Taking Care of Business
Partnering with-and providing services to-local businesses works for Jean Workman, the Director of the F D Campbell Library in Bessemer (PA):
For our Summer programs, we have involved the businesses in some of our programs, with a hike rally and a bike rally when the students had to visit the places and were given some prizes. We sponsored a coloring contest and the students received the pages at the area businesses but brought the finished picture back here. We extend the same services to the businesses, school groups or Bessemer Borough as an individual, i.e. copy services or computer use. This library has good rapport with many of the businesses here and that may be because there is just a better attitude in small towns. Small libraries have a place in the scheme of things just like small businesses do. We deal in service and caring to the people.
Warm Feelings in Cold Lake
At the Cold Lake (AB) Public Library partnerships flourish. Director Mary Anne Penner describes some of Cold Lake's work:
The Cold Lake Public Library is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, participates in Interagency Meetings and activities, is on the Executive of the Cold Lake Community Learning Centre, works in cooperation with all of the schools, playschools and pre-schools in the area and has established a good working relationship with the Seniors Groups in the area. Our business community supports in various ways throughout the year with donations for programs and activities.
Working with Cold Lake Community Services and their Parent Link project we have been able to establish Family Literacy Evenings, events and activities as well as Family Art Classes where a parent must accompany the child. These classes are full and a waiting list is full for the next set of classes.
Working with our schools we bring in Science Alberta exhibits and crates as well as Science in Motion exhibits as well as a wide range of Author Visits. We look after all of the paper work, act as hosts and the schools visit the exhibits or take the crates to the schools and encourage there students and teachers to utilize the resources of the public library. This has proved to be a win-win situation for the community as we have been able to bring in a wide range of exhibits and authors who are seen by a major part of our population.
Seniors Appreciation is a highly successful activity with our Seniors Lodge and Seniors groups in the community. This monthly day provides an outing for the Seniors in a welcoming environment where they can visit, learn something new, check out the library materials and be entertained by guest speakers, groups or crafts. Senior's Appreciation started out two years ago with five or six people in attendance and now has 50 to 60 people in attendance at the various activities. Staff and Seniors enjoy the interaction very much.
Cecil County Connects
Both small business and youth have been the focus of successful efforts at the Cecil County (MD) Public Library. Assistant Director Lee O'Brien describes two very effective partnerships:
The Cecil Partnerships for Children, Youth and Families (CPCYF) is a quasi-public, non-profit organization established by the Cecil County Board of County Commissioners to serve as the Local Management Board for Cecil County pursuant to the requirements of the Maryland State Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families. This board consists of representatives from many governmental, social service, educational and non-profit organizations in the county who are charged with advising county government in the allocation of resources and the provision of services for local children, youth and families.
In 1999 CPCYF invited a library staff member to serve on their board and several months later conducted a comprehensive needs assessment in order to guide the partnerships in setting priorities regarding the allocation of resources and the development of programs and initiatives. The number one problem identified was the lack of adequate youth activities in the county, especially after school. During the next year eight after school programs were initiated throughout the county. The Cecil County Public Library saw this need as an opportunity to provide an enriched learning program of literacy based activities and homework help to at-risk children attending and developed a "Books after the Bell" program providing mobile services to the programs. A survey has shown that this program has made a difference! For the past five years we have been working with these children and our partners to keep the program current, embracing the needs of students, parents and teachers.
Cecil Business Resource Partners
In 2003 we received an LSTA grant which established a Small Business Information Center (SBIC) in the library whose purpose was to provide information to small business entrepreneurs and to promote the library as a resource. As part of the service promotion, the library made a presentation to Cecil Business Resource Partners (CBRC) and suggested collaboration with that established group. The partnership consisted of the Cecil County Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Development Center, the Cecil Community College, the Susquehanna Workforce Network, Cecil County Office of Economic Development, and SCORE. As a result of our presentation and initiative we were invited to join the organization and have been working closely together ever since to promote local services and resources available to help people establish new small businesses and support established businesses.
The library has provided a variety of programs and services for small business entrepreneurs including personal appointments with those who wish to discuss business goals, information needs and problems. The library receives referrals from the business partners and often refers customers to partner agencies for further help with financial needs, workforce development, education, counseling, and development opportunities. Together, we enable business owners to become more informed, better prepared, and ultimately, more successful.
As these libraries show, every community is a rich source of partnership opportunities. And every effective partner is a potential advocate when the time comes to demonstrate your libraries impact on the community.
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This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License