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Public Libraries Need Partnerships

by on December 5, 2022

During my tenure as a public librarian, I have encountered many enthusiastic and progressive colleagues who have ambitious ideas to help their communities, but often their libraries are not able to incorporate these plans due to lack of funding or staff. Partnerships can help your library to reach these goals in many ways including additional funding, informational programs available to share, new programming ideas and lesson plans, and more. Professional organizations are a key way to follow trends and to learn best practices, but can cost additional money in order to get the best that they have to offer, but also offer a host of materials that do not require membership to utilize. The American Library Association (ALA) is the national group for library professionals and, even without membership, librarians are able to gather data and statistics, learn best practices, and contact other librarians from around the country. Job seekers can use the ALA website site to find library specific jobs or to do research on job requirements and current pay scales. Library advocates can discover issues that affect libraries as well as advocacy information.

ALA also supports a multitude of useful subgroups such as the Public Library Association
(PLA), the Programming Librarian, or I Love Libraries. Each of these organizations or websites also provides free materials. PLA created the Every Child Ready to Read program that revolutionized
early literacy efforts as well as Project Outcome, which provides materials for tracking impact
within the community, and Digital Learn to teach digital skills. The Programming Librarian
doesn’t just offer lesson plans for programs, but also has free webinars and I Love Libraries
provides a lot of information that supports libraries such as a library savings calculator, which
allows librarians to put a dollar amount to the savings and resources provided by the library.

Each state also has a state library and archives. Their aim is to effect change at the state level
and many public libraries are familiar with state aid, but they do offer other forms of
support from grants to training opportunities to webinars. Find your state library association
here. I also recommend investigating resources from other state associations, which can provide
new ideas for new initiatives. For example, the Pennsylvania
Library Association has an initiative, PA Forward, that discusses the five literacies that all
libraries support.

Government websites are also very helpful; some of my favorites include the U.S. Government
Publishing Office, Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government, Money Smart Week, and the National
Network for Libraries of Medicine. I also recommend checking out other educational
departments in the government, such as NASA. NASA provides educational displays, speakers
(who can Skype for free), lesson plans, and live coverage of events such as the Great American
Eclipse in 2017. Acquiring eclipse glasses for the event was expensive and challenging for many
libraries, but NASA had a live feed that I televised for patrons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are an excellent source for statistics and health information.

There are many literacy groups that are natural partners for public libraries. I have included national groups in this post, but there are many regional and local literacy groups that could make strong partners for public libraries. The American Literacy Council has a lot of resources that work with readers of all ages. I have worked with the National Center for Families Learning on a grant project for Camp Wonderopolis and found them supportive to work with. Reading is Fundamental is a well-known program in the United States, but other groups that work with children’s literacy include Reading Rockets, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Children’s Literacy Initiative. There are many groups who have missions along the same lines as the public library. These groups can provide financial support, lesson plans, training, information and statistics, and displays. I have included links to many useful websites, but within your state, county, and community are a few more potential partners for your library:

The Smithsonian Institute
Lego Lesson Plans
Lego Master Educators
Society for American Archaeology
Harwood Institute
National Institutes of Health
US Department of Agriculture
STEM Resource Finder