Our positions in public libraries have never been more important and the work we do is needed now more than ever. To that end, I try to keep in mind the goals laid out in our 5 year strategic plan. This year I’m particularly focusing on our goal of partnership within the community.
Thanks to the clear divisions in our country, there has recently been a lot of talk about bringing people together. In the spirit of that call for camaraderie, I’ve been reflecting on the opportunities the library has to partner with others on programs and efforts. We have strong partnerships with our local school department and our senior center as you probably do. It’s a great relationship to have, but in a lot of ways it’s the low-hanging fruit. They are our natural allies in town, but it’s important when possible, to go a step further.
Take a step back and look at the different groups that operate in your town or city, whether official departments, community groups, not for profit entities, or even local businesses that might be willing to partner. Here’s a few relationships that we’ve worked to develop in our small Boston suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts:
Recreation Department –
In the past we’ve offered library storytimes and mobile circulation opportunities in the community pool space and also at a busy community playground. The local recreation department also uses space in our building to cover their programming needs.
On our site is a memorial garden that is open to the public. The local community garden club maintains the garden and they use space in our building for storage. They pay for the plants and we pay for the water. We also have agreed to split any further costs that arise. This small amount of funding and effort allows us to be regular partners with a large group of citizens in the community and often leads to joint programming and other partnerships.
Gallery of Art
We often work with our local Gallery of Art to promote their exhibits. This has strengthened our relationships with patrons interested in art programming and also has provided the chance to cosponsor events held at the gallery.
By far the most enriching partnership we formed in 2016 was with the veterans department in our community. We wanted to redo some of the lettering on a stone slab in front of our building, as the previous copper lettering was decades old and in need of a refresh. Since our public library is actually a memorial building, we thought it made sense to reach out to the veterans department agent to see if he’d consider a rededication ceremony on the day the new letters were installed. Not only did he love the idea but we had 80 attendees turn up for the event. Further, the agent contacted us the next week and asked if we’d lend some space for a Purple Heart ceremony to honor Purple Heart recipients later in the year. More than 50 people showed up that day, and we’ve determined that the library will now be the permanent home for the annual Purple Heart ceremony. Later in the summer, we nominated our veterans agent for an award at the state level. He won the award and the town government joined me at a ceremony to see him receive it. This has caused a great new relationship with our town’s veterans and it all came from a little idea. We will continue to look for these sorts of opportunities for partnerships and hope you can too.