Working on the SPELL (Supporting Parents in Early Literacy through Libraries) project at the Denver Public Library, we had lots of partners and learned how to make partnerships effective. Here’s a link to a list of the partners involved: My big takeaway? The most critical piece is Trust!
Three Ways Trust Matters.
- Trust with your Team. Everyone that you work with needs to know and understand your work with partners. And support it. From directors to coordinators to library paraprofessionals and volunteers. When the whole team knows the value of your outreach and partnership, then you are supported and can move forward confidently. Often Friends of the Library organizations will offer support of your partnership when you make clear the goals and the value. So up and down the ladder, be a communicator of your work.
- Trust with your Partners. This means you know your partner and know that you are both committed to the goal. Both organizations understand exactly what each is going to do and how you are going to reach your objectives together. This can get muddied when staff changes or when there is a shift in priorities for either party. Having a clear (and preferably written) understanding with the partnering organization is immensely important.
- Trust with the Families and Children. Making a difference for your community means that you not only are reaching out to children and families, but you are listening and hearing their real concerns and issues. We are all bombarded with messages every day and for our library families to hear us, it is enormously helpful to be introduced by a partner that they trust. That connection helps you to be trusted by these families. And that trust is critical to being heard. However, don’t expect that the trust families have for your partner are instantly passed to the library. You still have to earn that trust. When your entire organization and the partner organization are all aligned to offer the help and support families need, then you are well on the road to earning that trust.
There’s lots more insight into reaching parents and families of children from birth to three at the SPELL website. In particular the two videos on the home page really give a sense of the impact of the project in sharing early literacy messages to communities through partnerships.
Carol Edwards is a member of the Liaisons for National Organizations committee and a youth librarian at the Denver Public Library.