Key Criteria and Activities for a Successful Partnership
All partnerships are different, depending on the needs and resources of everyone involved. However, there are certain criteria and key activities that form the basis of every successful partnership between a library and a community-based summer enrichment program.
- A personal/professional connection between at least one staff person in each partnering organization and a clear communication channel (if necessary, a single point of contact)
- An understanding and respect for one another’s organizational culture, practices, procedures, capacity, and intentions and goals for the partnership
- Staff members who see the value in the partnership (on both sides)
- Staff members who are outreach- and partnership-minded and know that pursuing a successful partnership can require tenacity, enthusiasm, and dedication to that partnership (on both sides)
- Staff members with strong planning and communication skills (on both sides)
- Adequate staffing levels (on both sides)
- Longevity (many partnerships improve over time as staff members become increasingly familiar with one another, and one another's organizations)
Not all criteria must be present for the partnership to succeed, but the more factors that are present, the more likely it is that the partnership will be a success. Partners should recognize and acknowledge missing criteria, as each will require accommodation in making the partnership ultimately successful. There are other factors that will help the partnership: e.g. shared organizational goals, similar organizational cultures, funds to support the partnership, similar service populations, and staff members who are dedicated to their organization. However, none of these will make a project successful if most of the key criteria listed above are not present.
- Start planning as early as possible and keep key stakeholders informed about any developments.
- When communicating to kids and parents about the library partnerships, send those communications jointly from summer program staff and library staff.
- Include a library orientation for summer program staff as part of your planned activities. This will help ensure that program staff:
- have library cards;
- are familiar with the library;
- know about the summer reading program and its underlying philosophy of free voluntary reading;
- can help kids use the library and encourage them to use it; and
- become advocates for the library
- Arrange for students and their families to get library cards. It is important to make it as easy as possible for kids to borrow books and take them home. Many children aren't able to get an adult to sign their library card application forms. In Santa Clara County, the library does not require parent signatures on older children's library card application forms, which helps make their materials more accessible to the community. Another option might be to issue your partner program with an organizational card that will let program staff borrow books on behalf of their students.
- Showcase the summer reading program. The value of public library summer reading programs is well-established. Enroll students into the summer reading program and encourage them to read and meet their reading goals. If kids are not regular library users, you may have to "teach " the summer reading program to them, for example, by:
- instituting regular free reading time at the program site;
- doing book talks and helping kids select books;
- encouraging and enabling kids to make free, voluntary reading an every day habit;
- asking kids to tell you about their progress through the reading log when they visit the library or you visit them;
- arranging for library staff to make repeat visits to the program site with incentives and programs to help motivate the kids to read.
- Give students focused attention and support so that these non-library regulars are encouraged to return.
- Enable students to visit the library. If they haven't visited before, this introduction can be a great first step towards encouraging them to become regular library users. If possible, arrange for students to visit when the library is closed to the public so that you can focus your attention on them.
- Arrange for library staff to visit the program site. It is invaluable for library staff to get to know the kids in their environment and for kids to see librarians out of the library building and as part of their community.
- If it is difficult for the kids to walk to the library, work with your partner to try to arrange transportation for them.
- If kids can't get to the library at any point during the summer, provide library cards, programming, and summer reading materials out at the site. If the library offers online sign-ups and/or an online summer reading program, enable the summer program site to participate this way.
- Connect library programs and resources to the curriculum at the summer program site. This will make the library experience richer and more relevant for students, and will help them see how the library relates to their lives.
- Plan events for the families of participating students. The impact of your partnership will be much stronger if you can introduce the whole family to the library.
- Record program outputs, measure whether your outcomes have been achieved, and take photographs (remember to get signed photo releases from your subjects or their parents).
- Tell your story! Promote your partnership to show your impact in the community and gain support for your work.
- Explore how you can maintain the partnership during the year -- both for continuity and to help you develop a strong relationship with your partner.