This is not the blog post I imagined writing when I signed up to do it months ago. And I am pretty confident in assuming that your work lives and professional aspirations are also significantly altered. In addition to trying to stay healthy or recovering from this deadly virus, many of us are furloughed, nervous about our next paycheck or capacity to work, or embarking on work we never imagined would be part of our day.
It also may not seem like the time for developing partnerships. Or reading a blog post about developing partnerships. However, as we rebuild and recreate how we serve our communities, while also trying to remember what day of the week it is, other organizations and entities are also in the process of reimagining how they can start back up. And none of us has enough resources to cover all of the needs.
Now more than ever, it is a good time to turn to community partners and combine our efforts.
I was reminded of this in the first days of my community shutting down. Thanks to great leadership within our city’s youth services team, a mix of community agencies and organizations came together in a virtual space to update each other. Everyone looked a bit dazed and barely had time for the meeting, but I remember someone saying out loud, “I’m worried about our youth.” It was a grounding statement in the midst of the chaos. We all were worried about them and we realized we could do more to address that worry by being smart with our resources.
Those resources may be limited for some time. However, that has never stopped youth services professionals, who regularly make fun activities out of scraps of paper and glue.
You can take steps towards this effort with a simple check in. Call or email an agency or organization serving youth and tell them you want to help add the library’s resources to their efforts. They may not know you can teach youth how to use a library database or check out eBooks, or have a virtual or call-in book chat with them. They may not realize you have virtual services at all.
Partnerships can vary from small collaborations, to more extensive services. Here’s a few examples that Sacramento Public Library has contributed to since March:
- Provided leftover summer reading prize books as giveaways to city emergency lunch sites for youth. Families drove through to get meals for their children and also got books to keep them reading.
- Twice a week, youth services librarians do virtual Zoom visits to a group of emergency child care centers set up by the City of Sacramento for children of essential workers. The visits are projected on screens at each site and library staff can see and interact with youth at multiple sites at once as they read stories and share songs and games.
- The Library partnered with the local transit authority and the city to address the lack of internet access to help create Wi-Fi buses that move around the city, parking for a day in different locations.
Regardless of the size of the initial effort, I have seen that partnerships built from good will often grow beyond my expectations because so much trust results from the initial work. There are also huge benefits that come when community partners get a better idea of what libraries do. They shift from being passive supporters to advocates who can speak to our value, which is something we will all need more than ever.
So, as we all start over, let’s form new links in the community and build the groundwork for all sorts of future efforts to grow and blossom.
This post addresses ALSC Core competencies I, II, III, and V
Donna Zick is the Early Learning Specialist with the Sacramento Public Library and serves on the Building Partnerships Committee.