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Municipal Partnerships: Making the Most of Your City

Looking to start a new partnership to liven up your programming or outreach? You may not have to look much further than city hall. Many cities have departments that make wonderful library partners, and these partnerships allow us to show kids all that the community has to offer. At the Newton Free Library in Newton, Massachusetts, the youth services department had several partnerships with other city offices. Here, we’ll look at our partnerships with Historic Newton and the mayor’s office during our 2017 Build a Better World summer reading program.

Historic Newton

When I was tasked with planning an “around your neighborhood” storytime for summer reading, I started looking for a partner in the neighborhood to take over the activity portion of storytime. Historic Newton was a perfect fit. Historic Newton is a city organization that preserves Newton’s history through two museums and various other initiatives. They have education and engagement staff who are always looking for new ways to get out in the community.

I approached their manager of education with our theme and a basic outline of the storytime. We brainstormed how we could use Historic Newton’s resources and expertise to teach the kids something new about their city. We agreed that they would bring some artifacts that were familiar to the kids but different than what they have today. In the end, two staff members of Historic Newton brought some old toys, kitchen items, and maps of Newton to the storytime. One of the staff helped kids find their neighborhood on the map so they could see how it had changed. They also brought archival gloves and gave the kids a quick lesson on handling old documents and artifacts. The gloves weren’t strictly necessary for the items they brought, but they did give the kids a sense of the importance of preservation and a glimpse into museum work.

Fire engine toys

Newton Mayor’s Office

For that same summer reading program, we partnered with our mayor’s office on an end-of-summer raffle prize. Kids who wrote a book review over the summer were entered into a drawing for an invite to an ice cream party in the mayor’s office. We drew ten entries, and each winner could bring one parent and one sibling to the party as well. Our library had offered this prize for a few years and it was a hot ticket! The mayor’s office is a big, old, wood-paneled room with a gigantic desk and even a secret door in the paneling that only kids who had been at the ice cream parties knew how to find. Ice cream was donated by a local restaurant. It didn’t cost the library anything, gave the kids an inside look at their local government, and deepened the library’s relationship with the mayor’s office.

Kids sitting at the mayor’s desk

If you’re not already familiar, take a look at your city, town or county’s website or ask around to get an idea of the departments you might partner with. Joining forces with other city departments not only helps you mix things up and better serve your patrons, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to showcase to your fellow public servants what the library does. Creating a network of support within the local government does double duty as an advocacy tool for the library and a lot of fun for the families the library serves.

Amanda Bressler is the assistant director of the Albany Public Library (OR) and former Supervisor of Youth Services at the Newton Free Library (MA). She’s currently a member of ALSC’s Building Partnerships committee.

 

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.

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