Guest Blogger

Talkin’ ’bout Collaboration

splcCollaboration. You know it’s good; you’re probably doing it. But are you taking the time to talk about it? In the holiday spirit of sharing, the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation encourages you to share the results and impact of your collaborations with your administration, stakeholders, and community, and with your professional peers as well.

Most of us may feel too busy to take the time – and we may think our experiences are no big deal, that they won’t be interesting or instructive to others. And certainly, we tend to keep our experiences to ourselves when they don’t meet our own high expectations.

But you may be surprised at who else would benefit, and how they will respond!

My colleague, author and educational consultant Cherie Pandora, and I surveyed Ohio public and school librarians in spring 2014 to learn about their collaborations, and how and with whom they share their results.

Our respondents offered up a fabulous array of collaborative projects and practices, including book clubs, Skype author visits, storytimes for kindergarten students, help with research assignments, sharing book collections and online research resources, and working together on summer reading lists. Some public libraries lend books via interlibrary loan, while others provide Book Looks for teachers, or share the 3D printer from their tech center or Makerspace, or host out-of-school social events for students.

We asked our survey respondents what groups and individuals they told about their collaborations:

• 92% of those who collaborated told their colleagues at their workplace.
• 64% told their direct supervisor.
• 45% told their school superintendent or library director.
• 45% shared with the local community (parents and students; library patrons)

Far fewer communicated with the school or library board, or with the professional library community. And very few reached out to local media, organizations or businesses, current or prospective funders, or elected officials.

Most librarians didn’t share the results of their collaborations beyond the network of their immediate coworkers and supervisors. Several respondents commented they wouldn’t get much more out of it than a “pat on the back.” But others who did share more widely gained significant benefits, from increased program attendance to enhanced community awareness of the library’s services. Annie Ruefle at St. Joseph Montessori School noted that “Parents always seem to like [it] when they discover their children are engaging with a wider community, and school administrators love [it] when their school extends beyond the school walls.” According to Becky Sloan at E.H. Greene Intermediate School, sharing the results of collaboration “convinces people that we are making the most of all our resources and informs them as to what is available outside of our school.”

Collaboration can even result in significant, high-level notice or additional funding when librarians make powerful stakeholders aware of their collaborations. Connie Pottle at Delaware County District Library reported that “the Library Board was surprised and pleased to hear about the ways we work with the schools. The Superintendent for the city schools is more aware of what the library offers and thinks of us for grant possibilities.” Kristi J. Hale at Washington-Centerburg Public Library wrote: “I was invited to work on an OELMA (state school library association) conference workshop; we have used this close relationship in support of a grant proposal; we have been able to show Ohio legislators that we are working closely together.”

The benefits are two-way – both sharing your own experiences, and learning from others. According to Elaine Betting at the Lorain Public Library System, “Reading about how other libraries make [school visits] work with staffing issues and difficult school schedules gives us ideas for new approaches or variations in offered programs.”

If you’re collaborating, please tell your local community and fellow librarians about it. Some ideas:

• Write a guest post for the ALSC blog or another library blog, or an article for a local newspaper or a professional journal.
• Propose a presentation to a local or national conference.
• Consider taking video at your collaborative events and posting to YouTube or TeacherTube.
• Easier yet, leverage Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook to spread the word about your projects. Post a status about the joint school/public library book discussion group. Snap a photo of the librarian-to-librarian booktalk session. Talk about the enthusiastic students who gathered for the pet care seminar at the public library.

Strategic communication about collaborations benefits advocacy efforts, creates positive PR opportunities, and contributes to the library and education professions. In addition, it allows you to shine; you deserve to brag about your efforts and to reap the rewards of “talking ’bout collaboration.”

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Photo credit: Portrait Shoppe
Photo credit: Portrait Shoppe

Today’s guest blogger is Janet Ingraham Dwyer, posting on behalf of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation (SPLC), of which she is a member. Janet is youth services consultant at the State Library of Ohio. This post is based on “Talking ’bout Collaboration,” an article written by Janet Ingraham Dwyer and Cherie Pandora for Ohio Media Spectrum: Journal of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, Vol. 66, no. 1, Fall

One comment

  1. Jennifer

    I have to remind myself a lot that little collaborations matter too – it’s ok if I’m not doing some big initiative or something. Arranging for all the fifth graders to come to the library for a pre-summer magic show, being the first field trip for the summer school kindergarteners, those are important too!

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