Libraries Building Strong Community Partnerships

Megan Knapp /

[Image credit: Monkey Business Images Ltd/Thinkstock.]
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” (Henry Ford)

As trusted centers of the community, libraries are in a unique position to attract potential partners, and to provide resources and benefits to organizations with common goals. In a time of diminishing funds and increasing demands, partnerships are essential to meeting community needs, and to sustaining an active and engaging environment for customers.

[Reader Poll: Which of the factors on our list is most important in creating and sustaining a successful partnership? Take the poll.]

Do you know the names of the businesses just outside the library walls, and those of the business owners? Are there some who would want to donate goods or services in exchange for promotion in a library flyer, or at the front desk? What about the fire fighters on your block – have they read at a storytime, or provided free blood pressure checks in a related discussion about healthy habits? Can you find other local organizations that would be a natural fit to lead or act as a guest speaker at a library program session (anything from knitting or comic book stores, to 4H clubs, hobby shops, bakeries, or banks)? Business and art groups are forming connections locally, and libraries are a great tie to both. Out in the neighborhood, you may find new partners or presenters for library activities, and great personalities to advocate for the library.

Closer to home, libraries are great partners to other libraries. Are you already partnering with local schools and school librarians, or with academic libraries in the vicinity? In a Health Happens in Libraries webinar on Prioritizing Patron and Partner Engagement, the positive connection between medical libraries and public libraries is explored. The project team leads an interactive session on how libraries can integrate best practices into local health information service priorities.

As in any business partnership, trust and complementary skills or goals are important in library partnerships, as well. Partners should also share a mutual interest in supporting the community. In the webinar, Community Connections: Break with Tradition!, presenters share fresh ways to connect your library with the community. Discover how new connections can lead to programming and events that promote health, literacy and entertainment for the whole community. Learn about efforts that extend the library’s marketing reach, build library support, and strengthen community relationships, all at little or no cost.

Getting started with a new partnership can be as simple as asking a question:

  • “Could you provide refreshments for an upcoming community meeting at the library?”
  • “Would you like to present to a small group on the types of devices available for reading eBooks?”
  • “Can we add your name to our sponsor list in exchange for a small donation to buy materials for a teen after school activity?”

Whether you are just beginning a new partnership, or you’re interested in ideas on strengthening an existing relationship, find resources on WebJunction to guide efforts around partnership and collaboration, including types of organizations to partner with, and tools and pointers to support your work.  

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