Thursday, December 20, 2012

Collaboration Pep Talk

 Thanks to Becky Arenivar, Program Specialist at the Prescott Public Library, for thinking up the idea (and doing most of the work) for this blog post!


Leah:  How’d you like to collaborate on a blog post with me?

Becky:  Sure!  How about a blog post about collaboration?

Leah: You mean, collaborate on a blog post about collaboration?

Becky:  I think we’re having a Yogi Berra moment here.  Why not?  The idea of collaboration can be kind of overwhelming - maybe we can make it seem more friendly and feasible .  I know that my first thought when someone says libraries should do more collaboration is, “yeah, and I SO have time for that.”

Leah:  Sure, I know it can take time, but there are so many benefits!

    • It’s a great way to find out more about the needs of people who don’t usually use the library, and spread the word to non-users about the library’s resources
    • It spreads the work and expenses around
    • It gives you opportunities to connect with other people in your community who share some of the energy and enthusiasm that you do about youth (sometimes in a library where you are the only youth services person, this can be a life-line!)
    • Partners bring their own audiences and members with them to programs
    • It makes it possible to think big now and then

Becky:  What a great list!  Still:

    • It’s hard to find the time to search for partners/activities/opportunities
    • Collaboration usually entails longer planning timespan--you can’t be so nimble when you have everyone’s schedule and input to consider
    • Collaboration means giving up control over some aspects of my programs and services--and sometimes partners impose restrictions or requirements that cramp my style

Leah: So, what’s a librarian who wants to collaborate, but has precious little time for it, to do?  I know collaboration tends to be on our to-do lists, but keeps getting pushed down as more urgent items get added to the top.

Becky:  Let’s think of examples of collaborations that illustrate how library staff can become collaborative without a huge amount of extra work.  The first one I think of is my SLP Storytime collaboration with a local daycare center.  I take 5 storytimes to their 3-4 year olds and they bring their elementary-age children to our weekly SLP events.  It’ doesn’t take a lot of extra time or planning and it’s a win-win for both of us.  Not only does it increase our event attendance, but daycare kids go home and tell their families how great the library is.

Leah:  I know about several libraries who cooperate with a local clinic’s Reach Out and Read program, simply by providing the clinic staff with information about the library to include with the free book they give out.

Becky:  Do you do an annual firefighter storytime and have a fire truck come to the library for the kids to see?  That’s collaboration!

Leah:  And if you are going to do an outreach project, like trying to better serve kids on the autism spectrum, you are going to save yourself time by getting in touch with the school district, support groups, birth to three, or others in order to get a better idea about what the kids in your community need.  I know some librarians who have pulled together some terrific things to serve families affected by autism by simply starting conversations with caregivers and providers.  

Becky:  Don’t forget the collaboration we naturally do when we chat with parents and other library users, find out what their needs and desires are, then use their input to help us create or improve programs, not to mention the collaboration librarians do by sharing information and ideas.  I don’t know what I’d do without all those creative and enthusiastic librarians on PUBYAC, ya-yaac and Pinterest!

Leah:  Yes, there are lots of ways that everyone is already collaborating, so give yourselves a pat on the back for that.  It doesn’t always have to be hard, and remember that even when it takes time, more often than not it yields lots of dividends!

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