What to Consider When Entering into a Collaborative Process

  • Assess needs. It is important for you to really examine your community and see how the library can most meet the needs of its members. Evaluate your library and community goals, and incorporate existing strategic plans based on community needs. Envision what your library could be in the future to consciously make the choices to get you there.
  • Use appreciative inquiry to examine opportunities. What is working well? What services are most used and valued in your community. For example, are there long lines for computers or people wanting to share computers, such as teens or families? What could be done to support this service?
  • Build sustainability to support your programs and projects into the future.
  • Look locally for partners that will help make an impact. Collaborative efforts should center on finding an answer, making a difference or taking charge of a community issue.
  • Determine if there is strategic alignment. Will the collaboration help fulfill the library’s mission and goals? Find common ground between the library and community organizations that can help with implementation of library services and goals.
  • Focus on the cause and the people — whether it concerns literacy, children, unemployment, etc. Be careful to not get caught up in focusing on how the individual organizations could benefit, but on what you can accomplish together to serve your community members.
  • Specify shared goals and rewards that your partnerships will foster.
  • Use open communication; share timetables and have periodic meetings to share information with your partners.
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities in any collaboration.
  • Ensure the ability to make necessary decisions for situations that arise.
  • Consider what your library has to offer and how you can better reach out to your community.
  • Complete a SWOT analysis. Determine the library’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the threats and opportunities in the community.
  • Examine the implications of sharing resources.
  • Consider the chances of success for each partnership.
  • Create a memorandum of understanding for collaboration. Clearly communicate what is expected of the collaboration and what the responsibilities are. Use a detailed, signed agreement that confirms expectations in writing. Terms not to use, as they could denote a legal arrangement, include partnership agreement (this can imply equal liability and shared profits and losses) and also joint venture. Some things to include:
    • Summary of assets and needs identified
    • Description of target audiences and constituencies
    • Description of goals, objectives, purpose and shared agreements
    • Resources and equipment needs and how needs will be fulfilled
    • Defined roles and responsibilities
    • Milestones, timeline, what happens when
    • Key contacts and decision-making process and approval
    • Expected deliverables
    • Termination procedures: what to do if the collaboration doesn’t work out
    • Plan for program documentation and evaluation. What will success look like? What information needs to be gathered for evaluation, and who will be responsible?
    • Budget and funding sources and responsibilities
    • Plan for public awareness and marketing

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