Sunday, January 11, 2015

Partnership Ideas for Cultural Heritage Institutions

When I began preaching about collaboration fourteen years ago it was not the normal mode of operation for most cultural heritage institutions. Even today, many small historical societies and others do not realize the value or the necessity of finding institutional partners. A few reasons for collaborating are that such partnerships give you more resources for programs and exhibits, more opportunities for grants, more heads for creativity, more power for outreach, and more voices to garner support. I am lucky to have open-minded colleagues in the town in which I have settled. In the past three years, we have formed a network of committees and partnerships that have made the work of librarians and other cultural heritage professionals more visible and we are moving forward with some great projects that boost our own goals, each other, and our community.

Collaboration 1. School district librarians - high school, two elementary schools, middle school
meet monthly to discuss the state of the libraries; developed a district wide vision for libraries; discuss programming opportunities. Our most recent endeavors included discussing challenges we are having with our new book catalog / exchanging holiday gifts from students to students. [*see the bottom of this post for more information about our gift exchange.]

Collaboration 2. Town librarians- [public library initiative!] public librarians representing services for all ages (4 librarians in total) meet with librarians from public schools and local private college to specifically discuss ways we can collaborate. We have formed a collaboration for summer reading programs and continue to work on this. Most recently we discussed grant opportunities. From this meeting, librarians have launched separate meetings to boost individual goals. For example, as the high school librarian, I meet with the college librarians to discuss how they can assist with research instruction. They have visited our school to teach classes in this area. This helps with our mission to create college and career ready students, while helping the private Catholic college meet its mission of helping its community. [I do realize that I am very lucky to have such a school with which to collaborate!]

Collaboration 3. Historical Society Curator, public library director, high school librarian - three colleagues meeting to discuss specific programming, with librarians also serving on Historical Society museum committee; historical society curator and public librarian attend weekly 50th anniversary committee meetings at high school when they can. I originally asked my colleagues to join me to help with the 50th anniversary celebration at my school. This collaboration has turned into working on a full-blown oral history project. We are beginning with a school related project and will use this project to launch a series of oral history events through the Historical Society. Yesterday, my two colleagues and I attended an oral history workshop together to boost our skills and further advance our planning for a spring event.

Collaboration is the way to go!

Collaboration 4. Science Museum and High School library - I reached out to larger museums outside of my town to see if there was potential for collaboration. A science museum in my state capitol responded that they were willing to help us explore potential programming partnerships. We are working to develop a "distance learning" facility in the high school library that will allow us to talk informally to science professionals around the world, but specifically to our partner museum. We may pursue a collaborative grant toward this end. We are exploring the possibility of building a satellite in our high school maker space with museum support. The museum is thinking of using this as a pilot project for other school partnerships.

I am always seeking more partnerships! It is virtually impossible to be successful as a cultural heritage institution in the 21st century without the help of our colleagues at other institutions. Sometimes, early on in developing relationships, it is difficult to convince others to join you. (For example, I reached out to five museums and four of them did not even respond to me.) Yet, the effort you make to find a willing partner is invaluable. As you can see, the partnerships in our town have snowballed. The community is recognizing our work, participating, and sometimes even eagerly awaiting new initiatives. I look forward to when our patrons begin to come up with ideas for collaborating with us. That is definitely on the horizon!


*Late in November, 2014 district librarians decided the two elementary schools would exchange book gifts and the middle school would give a book to the high school and vice-versa. With my prompting, my teenage students put their heads together to think of a book that the other school may not have or of which they may need extra copies. Since the high school has been operating a makerspace for some time and the middle school just started one, we decided to give the middle school a published pop up book with instructions how to make a mini-version 3D pop up book of their own.

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