Why is It Important to Collaborate?
Many libraries encourage staff to participate in opportunities for the library to actively engage in the community outside library walls…with good reason:
- Collaborations can enhance the library’s ability to serve your community and make library services more visible and valued. By establishing relationships with varied people from different community groups whose purposes align with the library, including local agencies, religious organizations, local schools, and parents groups that share the library’s goals and philosophy, the library can increase its knowledge of the community and its needs while expanding the library’s sphere of influence. By working across traditional boundaries, the library can deliver better service, value, and outcomes for your library’s customers, stakeholders, and communities.
- Working collaboratively opens up possibilities and enables libraries to share and conserve resources, reach new audiences, and expand services and programs. Collaboration allows libraries to provide more than they could alone.
What are the Benefits of Collaboration?
Successful collaboration can have many benefits including:
- Maximizing the power of participating groups through joint action and building human capital and community support
- Avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort or activity
- Sharing talents and resources
- Providing superior quality services
- Developing and demonstrating public support for an issue, action, or unmet need
- Increasing funding and grant opportunities
- Expanding programming and outreach by reaching new audiences, creating and enhancing programs and services
- Assisting with marketing library programs and services or heightening awareness of the library
- Increasing staff job satisfaction and a better understanding of their roles in a broader perspective
- Fostering cooperation among grassroots organizations and community members
- Being visible not to just those who are library patrons but also to those who can provide funding
- Taking part in community meetings, city council meetings, etc allows the opportunity to voice the importance of libraries and form partnerships that might not have been formed otherwise
- Creating community connections
- Accomplishing more than any single organization could
How Libraries Can Develop Collaborative Partnerships
Some Good Examples of Partnerships
Partnerships can range from short-term agreements to share a venue and the associated costs of a single program, to long-range arrangements between government agencies or businesses to provide ongoing services. Examples include:
- Sharing technology skills and technology costs with neighboring libraries or community groups through consortiums or committees
- Collaborating on shared program development and promotion such as computer training classes, consumer health information or resources for new immigrants
- Sharing the expense of employing a technology trainer, web designer or tech support person
- Disseminating local expertise and information
- Sharing the expense of purchasing and maintaining technology among several small libraries
- Training and funding partnerships
- Partnering to build and share audiences
- Fostering political alliances
- Working with local and state agencies to provide business development workshops and research
- Providing career centers for locating and applying for employment opportunities online
- Cross-promoting of events
Who Are Compatible Library Partners?
Collaborations start with relationships; it is all about interactions between people. Common interests can be a great starting point as well as personal connections that already exist through the library board, trustees, staff and volunteers. Each community is different, and every library serves different constituents. Look locally to find complementary organizations. Many libraries find collaborations successful with national organizations that have local affiliates. Other partnerships include those with libraries of same type and other types, museums, schools, healthcare organizations, community groups, literacy councils, businesses/chambers of commerce and economic development organizations.
For a helpful list of possible partners, check out our “Compatible Library Partners Chart” tool.
So…What Valuable Assets, Resources and Attributes Does the Library Bring to Collaboration?
Resources can be either tangible (funds, facilities, staff or customers) or intangible (reputation, goodwill, connections or useful information). Libraries are often valuable community collaborators; however, many organizations don’t always immediately think to include them at the table. Libraries shouldn’t just be at the table. They should own the table. Invite the community to your library and share with them some of the key benefits of collaboration, as outlined here.
- Brand and reputation: The library’s enduring standards of inclusiveness and accessibility are valued by other partners. Public libraries represent the common good as trusted and credible institutions. Libraries often have a proven track record of delivering what we promise, and partners will value our participation. Businesses want to support specific causes and be public with their support to give their companies identifiable personalities, showing that they support the community and the people in it. Libraries can help them connect to customers, investors, employees and the community.
- Neutral institution: Libraries are perceived as fair and ethical with no political agendas and with support of democratic ideals.
- Information clearinghouse: Libraries provide help with research and data collection.
- Community center and meeting place: Libraries offer programming and community linkages.
- Service orientation: Libraries provide good customer service.
- Promotion of lifelong learning: Libraries provide many learning opportunities and tools.
- Economic development: Libraries provide career assistance, business resources and support community and neighborhood development.
- Infrastructure: Libraries can provide publicity, space, project supervision and research expertise.
- Staff involvement: Library staff are committed to serving and supporting their community.
- Strong skill base: Libraries are often leaders in the area of information technology, particularly in the area of content development and management. The information skills of staff are relevant in a variety of environments.