The following criteria and key activities form the basis of successful partnerships between libraries and community-based summer enrichment programs.
- 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 value in the partnership.
- Staff members who are outreach- and partnership-minded and know that pursuing a successful partnership can require tenacity, enthusiasm, and dedication to that partnership.
- Staff members with strong planning and communication skills.
- Adequate staffing levels.
- Longevity (many partnerships improve over time as staff members become increasingly familiar with one another, and one another’s organizations).
The more criteria 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. Other factors will help the partnership succeed, 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 can ensure the partnership’s success if most of the key criteria listed above are not present.
Key Actions and Activities
- Planning and Communication: Start planning as early as possible and keep key stakeholders informed about any developments. When communicating to students and parents about the library partnerships, send those communications jointly from summer program staff and library staff.
- Orientations for Summer Program 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 can become library advocates, helping and encouraging kids to use the library.
- Library Cards: 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 accessible to the community. Another option might be to issue your partner with an organizational card that will let program staff borrow books on behalf of their students.
- Summer Reading: Showcase your 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 meet their reading goals. If kids are not regular library users, you may have to “teach” the summer reading program to them 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 everyday habit; asking kids to tell you about their progress; and arranging for library staff to make repeat visits to the program site with incentives and programs to help motivate the kids to read.
- Enable Students to Visit the Library: If they haven’t visited before, this introduction can be a great step towards encouraging kids 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. If it is difficult for kids to walk to the library, work with your partner to try to arrange for transportation.
- Focused Attention: Give students focused attention and support so that these students, who typically are non-users, are encouraged to return.
- 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 outside of the library and as part of their community. If kids can’t get to the library during the summer, provide library cards, programming, and summer reading materials out at the site. Encourage your partner to participate in the library’s online summer reading program if you have one.
- Connect Library Programs and Resources to the Curriculum at the Summer Program Site: This connection will enrich the library experience for students and help them see how the library is relevant to their lives.
- The Whole Family: Plan events for the families of participating students. Your impact will be greater if you can introduce the whole family to the library.
- Tell Your Story: Record program outputs, measure whether program outcomes have been achieved, and take photographs (remember to get signed photo releases from your subjects or their parents). Promote your partnership to show your impact in the community and gain support for your work.
- Maintain the Partnership: Explore how you can maintain the partnership during the year — both for continuity and to help you develop a stronger relationship with your partner.