Most successful partnerships don’t happen overnight. They can take time, sometimes even years, to develop. Partnerships that begin simply can grow into something wonderful when they are cultivated and given time to blossom.
I’d like to share a success story from my library in Knoxville, TN. As two government agencies that serve many of the same community members, the Knox County Public Library (KCPL) and Knoxville Area Transit (KAT), have worked together casually for many years. The central library and many library branches are located along KAT bus and trolley routes. As a resource to our patrons, KCPL provides space for KAT to display brochures and maps of these routes, and public transportation makes it possible for many of our patrons to travel to the library.
Source: Knoxville Area Transit
A couple of years ago, the partnership between KCPL and KAT began to really grow into something special. When making a change in bus service near one of our library branches in 2015, KAT staff approached the branch manager about handing out materials to library patrons to get the word out to the neighborhood. The manager agreed to the request, but on the condition that KAT staff visit during the storytime that day as a guest speaker and read a book about buses while they were there. The library does this similarly when a firefighter or health department nurse attends storytime.
The book reading at the branch went so well that the two departments worked together to create a full-fledged preschool storytime program that is presented by a KAT service delivery specialist at libraries throughout the county on a regular basis. The storytime includes reading age-appropriate books about riding the bus, a pretend ride on the bus, and music. This past summer the KAT specialist reworked the program for a wider age range and presented it as part of the library’s summer reading program. A city bus was parked at the library and families got on board for an interactive reading of Matt de la Peña’s Newbery Award-winning Last Stop on Market Street and a singalong of “Wheels on the Bus” accompanied by the bus driver turning on the windshield wipers, beeping the horn, and lowering and lifting the suspension on the bus. (Read more about the summer program in this article from the local Shopper News.)
In the summer of 2016, the ongoing relationship between the library and the transit department resulted in a truly unique experience when we collaborated with our local PBS station for “Read and Ride with Daniel Tiger.” The central library hosted the event where children met Daniel Tiger and rode around downtown Knoxville on a KAT trolley while listening to stories. The event greatly exceeded everyone’s expectations with a thousand people attending!
Both departments, the public library and public transit, have benefited from this partnership. KAT has been able to reach members of the community who aren’t familiar with public transportation, and KCPL has been able to provide special, informative programming to its young patrons. And it all started with a simple storytime visit!
Erin Nguyen is the Children’s Services Manager at the Knox County Public Library and currently serves on the ALSC Building Partnerships Committee.