Put Yourself Out There
The Woonsocket Harris Public Library found that hosting in-house events drew some people but that they reached many more by leaving the library and meeting the community where they were. They reached out to partner organizations and attended over twenty-five community events during the project window! This lead to more interactions and a stronger sense of community for the library. You can also solicit feedback and suggestions for deeper and new partnerships. Partners may share a common goal with you, but may not realize that the library can provide something they need. Reaching out to non-profits, local businesses, universities or even other town or city departments can result in new partnerships, and often one community partner can connect you to more.
Successful Partnership is a Two-Way Street
The most successful partnerships will benefit both parties, adding value to each organization. Cross-promoting events is a simple example of the mutual benefit of partnerships, but benefits can go deeper than simply sharing a space and an audience. Successful partnership allows both the library and the partner to expand their mission or reach new audiences. Providence Community Library partnered with the local zoo and the RI State House to create 360 degree videos of locations to enhance their summer reading program, while simultaneously providing increased awareness of those institutions to the community.
Seek out Experts
Finding partners who are subject experts, whether those experts are free or paid, can alleviate considerable stress and time as librarians do not have to scramble to learn new skills or lead programs on topics about which they are not experts. Surveys of program attendees at the Greenville Library showed high levels of satisfaction and eagerness for additional programs when expert presenters were tapped to deliver garden related programs. Libraries that worked with expert consultants also credit their expertise as a major factor in their success, as in the case with Warwick Library’s partnership with RI Virtual Reality.
Expect Some Loss of Control
Despite the many benefits of community partnerships, bringing in outside partners on projects will mean that you will lose a certain amount of control over your project. Scheduling programs can be difficult when juggling multiple partners, and you run the risk of cancelations or no-shows when you have programs run by outside groups. Both Greenville and Providence Community Library, for example, had to alter their project timelines to accommodate their partners’ schedules. Also, if you rely too heavily on a partner to provide services or training, make a plan to sustain the project if or when they are no longer involved.