6 Super Strategies for Partnering with the Community

In these difficult economic times, libraries are finding it necessary to stretch their budgets, while trying to offer more services to the community. Often the library becomes the new “community center” in neighborhoods when families find their disposable income limited. This is a perfect opportunity to bring new people into the library and introduce them to all the fabulous services the library has to offer.  So how does the library continue to provide new programs for the community, while managing its own budget? Partnering with the community.

Businesses and other community organizations are also concerned about their budgets, so partnering with the library benefits everyone.  Here are some simple techniques to make it happen:

1) Bring in the schools:

Most libraries book talk at their local schools. In return, ask the school’s media specialists, art teachers, etc., what programs they could offer at your library. Teachers often need a community outreach project for their yearly review and this is an easy way for them to fill that requirement. Some ideas for perfect partnership programs include: book discussion clubs, an art class, a reading celebration night, where media specialists and librarians work together to offer activities around a theme (Caldecott awards, summer kick-off, local or state book awards, etc.).

2) Partner with local scout groups:

These groups earn many badges and awards, and often use the library as a resource. In return, ask if they would like to offer a program for the community. A princess tea? A storytime? A craft program? A matchbox truck convoy? A clean-up day?

3) Ask for resources:

Suppose you have a great idea for a program, but do not have money for the supplies or refreshments. Ask local stores or major distributors for donations of specific materials – it’s often much easier to get a donation of fifty rolls of duct tape for your duct tape wallet program, say, than a cash donation. In return, offer a thank-you in your publicity brochure and at the program.

4) Go outdoors with nature centers or parks:

Offer storytelling or storytime services to the park, and ask if they’d be willing to do a program for you. Many parks have rescued animals, or offer craft programs, which make a welcome addition to a library lineup. Again, offer a thank-you in your publicity brochure and allow them to publicize their own events while they are offering a program.

5) Bring in local businesses for programs:

Local businesses of all types have services they provide; it never hurts to ask if they can offer a program. The local waste management company can present a recycling program, a beauty shop can discuss make-up tips for prom season, fitness clubs can offer a sample class for tots, youth or adults, local martial arts groups often have demo teams, and more. The key is to think outside the box. The library offers visibility and free publicity for these businesses.

6) Grow your local garden of presenters:

Master gardeners, local cooperative extension sites, and garden stores are amazing resources for classes. Program topics can range from local pests and growing vegetables to beautifying your landscape. If your library has space, you can ask them to start a demonstration garden where the entire community can become involved and come together.

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