Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Characteristics of Successful Partnerships between Libraries, Schools, and Community Agencies

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Characteristics of Successful Partnerships between Libraries, Schools, and Community Agencies

Article excerpt

Introduction

Collaboration is constantly promoted as a valued activity for educators, librarians, and social service professionals. (1) Shared resources, as well as shared responsibilities, can lead to reduced costs and positive outcomes for a collaborative project. (2) For libraries, this could mean expanded services and greater visibility in the community. The proliferation of digital information means that no one agency or entity can hold all the necessary information needed by our society. In addition, we want and need to provide full access to all people, including those with disabilities, who live in rural or remote regions, or who have an economic disadvantage. The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) promotes the use of technology for sharing information between libraries and community agencies. LSTA funds are made available to state library agencies, with subgrants to public, academic, research, school and special libraries within each state. Appendix I provides an overview of LSTA projects during a two-year period. Primary goals are to provide extended library services and increased access to information for children and youth within their communities. This list of projects is only a portion of the 275 grants awarded nationally through LSTA. Other grants are awarded for collection development, technology enhancements, and collaboration between museums and libraries. (3)

The Powerful Partners Collaboration Grant is an example of a collaborative effort in educational outreach for youth and greater visibility for libraries in the community. The grant is one of several offered by the State Library of North Carolina and is an initiative of LSTA. Grant writers and recipients for Powerful Partners must be visionaries who can serve as leaders for the purpose of combining resources and efforts for the benefit of youth and children. Indeed, the use of effective strategies for successful collaboration is a qualifying characteristic for grant recipients. In the grant's guidelines there are clear directives for identifying a community need and providing services to meet those needs by forming strong, well-developed partnerships. (4) The creative energy resulting from these collaborations provides young people opportunities to experience a variety of resources, talent, and perspectives. In addition, community-based projects bring diverse perspectives that can strengthen the quality of the collection in the school libraries, and attract school children to public library services. Monies for these grants are dispersed from LSTA funds and are for the years 2000-2001 and 2001-2002. (5) A description of Powerful Partner Grants is provided in Appendix II.

State Library Federal Programs Consultant Penny Hornsby serves as the contact for Powerful Partners Collaboration Grant. In an interview, Hornsby reported that the operative word for Powerful Partners is "collaboration." To be competitive for the grant, the applicant must describe a project that includes elements of a successful collaboration. Guidelines for the partnerships include recommendations from the Wilder Foundation. The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation is a nonprofit health and human services organization that supports research and evaluation to strengthen individuals, families, and communities.6 One area of their research is focused on identifying which factors contribute to successful partnerships between public and private agencies.

The Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory was developed to provide an instrument for measuring success in the collaborative venture or as a method for predicting likelihood for success. It could also be a method for assessing readiness to begin a collaborative project. The items within the inventory are designed to be descriptive of effective collaboration, and prescriptive if scores from the inventory indicate weaknesses for a particular factor. Scores are calculated by simply figuring the arithmetic average for each response to items in the inventory. …

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