Partnerships between libraries and community-based summer enrichment programs benefit
- children and teens who are enrolled in community-based summer programs,
- families of the youth enrolled in summer programs,
- library staff and summer program staff.
Literacy and reading
Reading just five books in the summer can prevent summer learning loss, and reading and literacy are key components of high-quality summer enrichment programs.
- Librarians know that free voluntary reading, which is at the heart of the library summer reading program, is the best way to improve reading and language development and develop lifelong readers.
- Libraries offer fun and creative summer reading programs, developed by trained professionals, that encourage kids to set and meet summer reading goals.
- The summer partnership can engage youth in the library’s reading programs, provide them with reading logs, books, library cards, and help summer enrichment programs prevent summer learning loss.
An introduction to the library
Many of the youth who are enrolled in the summer enrichment program are not regular library users. By introducing these children, teens, and their families to the library, the summer enrichment program will provide them with lifelong opportunities and free access to:
- a safe community space where information and resources are available to all,
- books and the internet,
- family literacy programs that help people of all ages reach their potential as workers, parents, and community members,
- information literacy training,
- high-quality programs for children and teens,
- homework help,
- resources to help families live and thrive,
- professionals who are trained to help community members find the right information at the right time.
A strong community network
Library staff and summer enrichment staff serve the same families in the same communities. They strive to meet similar goals and are often part of the same professional networks. By developing positive working partnerships during the summer, staff can develop ongoing mutually supportive relationships through which they can:
- share ideas and experiences and learn from one another,
- become advocates for one another’s work,
- draw on one another’s resources,
- provide a better service to the community.
Preparing to Partner
- Summer spirit: Successful summer programs are creative and vital and are developed according to principles of youth development. Successful partnerships will embrace this spirit, with all partners focused on meeting the needs of the youth and families that are at the heart of the program.
- Be informed: Understand and know your partner. Research their mission, goals, and activities. Find out about their organizational culture so that you have a sense of how they work. Are they part of a bureaucracy with rules, regulations, and systems they must work within? Are they informal with a flexible and spontaneous working culture? Help your partner learn about you, and prepare some background information to give to your partner when you meet.
- Time to plan: Start planning your partnership several months before summer begins so you have time to get to know one another and plan effectively. All partnerships need time for ideas to percolate, for resources to be assigned, and activities to be planned successfully.
- Involve staff: Involve staff in planning the partnership and let them know about the reasons for partnering so they understand the value of the partnership and have buy-in, and so that the partnership stays relevant to your organization. As a starting point, use information in the section “Why partner?” to let staff know why you’re partnering.
- Make the connection: At the start of the partnership, bring key staff members together face-to-face and ensure that all decision-makers are informed and on board. Successful meetings will involve representatives from all levels of the partnership, from the staff who work day-to-day with the community, to the decision-makers who guide the direction of the project. You may not need everyone at all meetings and as you progress involving too many people may mean that meetings lose focus. However, an early face-to-face introduction and idea-sharing is vital to getting new partnerships started.
- Be prepared: Before your first meeting, think about how you would like to partner. What can you bring to the partnership and what would you like your partner to contribute? How will the partnership benefit the community and both organizations? Be ready to hear what your partner thinks about these questions and get input from staff.
- Good communication is the key to every effective partnership.
- If possible, nominate one person to liaise with your partner to help streamline communications.
- This person should be able to report back reliably to your own staff.
- Ensure that the right people are connected with the right people and that everyone has up-to-date contact information. This includes making sure that the site coordinator knows which librarian to contact and vice versa.
- Early on, establish your shared goals for the partnership and be sure that everyone is committed to them.
- Always be clear about your expectations and what you can and can’t give to the partnership. Listen to your partner so that you hear what their expectations and level of commitment are.
Come to the table with a solution-oriented approach, and try to be creative when attempting to surmount any challenges.
- During meetings, be respectful of other people’s time; arrive promptly and keep discussion to the issues at hand.
- After meetings, follow up with a brief email confirming what you heard during the conversation to help ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Stay in regular touch with your partner and provide updates to your partner, staff, and colleagues on how the partnership is progressing.
- If you see challenges arising, be sure to communicate and discuss them right away so that you have time to solve any problems.
- Be friendly and approachable and make time for your partner so that they feel comfortable contacting and talking to you.
- Remember to communicate the results of your partnership to stakeholders and the community at large. Take photos and video to help tell your story effectively, and develop a strategy for disseminating your results.
Setting and Meeting Expectations
- Communicate your expectations clearly, listen to your partner’s expectations, and if you have differences, be prepared to try to find the middle ground.
- To avoid confusion as the partnership progresses, it can be beneficial to draw up a partnership agreement early on. This might be as simple as a memorandum of understanding about the terms of the agreement and shared goals, or a list of expectations and activities.
- Wherever possible, keep to the plans and timelines you set with your partner. If you need to alter your plans, be sure to give your partner as much notice as possible.
- Always remember that life happens, and when you’re working with another organization you need to be flexible and be ready to give-and-take.
- Be responsive to your partner and respect the time commitments they are making.
- Thank and acknowledge your partner, both privately and publicly, for the contribution they have made to the shared project.
- Make time for a debriefing to discuss what went well and lessons learned.
- Publicize any great results from your partnership.
- Keep your partner up-to-date with what’s happening at your organization; get on your partner’s mailing list and stay up to date with what they’re doing.
- If you both saw value in the partnership, make plans to continue working together. Librarians and summer enrichment staff often continue to serve the same kids and families through the year. The most valuable relationships will be those that continue through the year, and develop and deepen over time.