[Originally posted on mylibraryis.org/blog]
I really just wanted to host the Skylab from the Peoria Riverfront Museum. That’s all.
And how can you blame me? Have you seen it? It’s this giant inflatable dome and, once inside, it’s a planetarium.
Anyway, it turns out, there’s a space requirement. And, at 25 by 25 feet, it’s not a small requirement for a rural library. Of course, I can’t meet that requirement, so I can’t host. And, somehow this comes up in conversation.
“You know you can host events at the senior center, right?”
This is, turns out, how the best partnerships are formed.
After an initial meeting with the senior center and the preschool, the topic of intergenerational programming came up. The senior center was interested in reaching more people in the community and the preschool was interested in providing other opportunities for their children and families. They thought the library would be a natural fit and I wanted a giant planetarium.
More than that, of course, we were doing hundreds of programs throughout our communities that would fit these audiences. For example, we already have senior citizens coming to the library to color and to knit and to drink only slightly horrible coffee. And of course, we have story times and a myriad of special guest programming and educational events to students and our youngest patrons.
Thus, a marketing effort was born. With the addition of a kickoff and a finale, both held at the senior center, we mutually solicited mostly existing events hosted by us and other partners in our community to be listed on a special calendar. This required minimal effort from any of us aside from some clever branding and, an amazing thing happened.
I presented it to a business meeting. And they loved it. And they wanted to donate!
In two years, we’ve been able to double our participation throughout the summer months. We’ve received hundreds of dollars in donations and been able to provide prizes and programming outside of our regular budget.
I don’t know if this works for everyone. I don’t know if everyone has such an open space and people eager to host other events. But I do know that it starts with talking to people. We serve very small towns and, yet, we have Rotary and we have Chambers of Commerce and we have Business Associations. I’m a member of all three. Sometimes I don’t know why, and then, a business becomes interested in an event and wants to participate.
It’s worth a shot. In the end, you too may wind up with a space large enough to host your own planetarium shows for an hour or two. You might not even have to pay for it!
Joel Shoemaker is a member of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee. He currently resides in Metamora, IL and is the Library Director for the Illinois Prairie District Public Library.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: V. Outreach and Advocacy.