Outreach and Partnerships

By Tina Schmidt / Douglas County Libraries, CLEL Steering Subcommittee Co-Chair 

Every other month, CLEL members are invited to come together for Member Meetups. Held virtually, these hour-long sessions are a way for members to connect with colleagues across the state in a casual, conversational atmosphere with topics driven by member survey results. This member meetup was July 27, and we discussed Outreach and Partnerships.

Outreach and partnerships are vital to libraries who are trying to reach those marginalized patrons who can’t easily access the library.  We may be talking about students whose parents don’t have the time available to bring their children to the library.  Sometimes, transportation is a barrier. There may be some neurodiversity issues or physical reasons people can’t get to the library building.  As librarians it is important that we are looking for those reasons why patrons aren’t able to access our services.  Outreach and partnerships throughout the community can solve some of those problems.

During our Member Meetup this month we discussed some of the partnerships we would love to create in our community if there were no barriers.  Most of us stated that we would love to do more outreach in the local schools.  Some other organizations mentioned were DonorsChoose, Lunch Lab, and Developmental Pathways.

  • DonorsChoose is a United States-based nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects.  
  • Lunch Lab provides free lunches for children during the summer months.
  • Developmental Pathways is here to provide support and services, coordinate care, and expand their offerings by partnering with community organizations. They strive to serve all ages, from birth to aging, and they want to ensure that all individuals with disabilities in their community receive support.
  • Local College and Universities

During the meeting we also discussed some of the outreach we are currently doing or would like to do:

  • Preschools/Daycares
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Loteria in the park
  • Anywhere in your community where there is something going on and people will already be there.  For example, in Castle Rock, Colorado there is a Douglas County Fair Parade and Douglas County Libraries are always represented in the parade walking and handing out swag.  Visibility in the community is very important.
  • Laundromats
  • Ball Fields in the summer
  • Bookmobile at community events

Next we talked about some of the barriers to outreach and partnerships. Overwhelmingly the group said staffing was the main barrier.  Not having enough staff to go out into the community to build relationships was a concern for everyone.  We also discussed community members calling multiple times to different branches asking for staff from the library to attend events.  This can cause confusion and multiple people showing up for the same event.  One participant said their library district has one form that community members fill out on their website to clear up any confusion.  This seems like a great way to streamline requests.

Finally we discussed how librarians can find the gaps in their community:

  • Colorado Children’s Campaign – Kids Count – As a data-driven advocacy organization, the Colorado Children’s Campaign recognizes that accurate and reliable information is essential to the development of sound public policy. Producing, gathering, and analyzing reliable data about children and children’s programs – disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and income where available – is their expertise. Sharing these data in easy-to-use formats with those who care about kids is a critical part of their mission. 
  • United States Census Bureau – Learn about America’s communities through their data profiles. They cover 100,000+ different geographies: states, counties, places, tribal areas, zip codes, and congressional districts. For each, they cover topics like education, employment, health, and housing just to name a few.
  • Shift Research Lab – They provide reliable, unbiased data, research and capacity building to social change organizations that are committed to improving communities across the metro Denver region.

Outreach and Partnerships are incredibly vital ways for libraries to connect and provide for their communities.  Start by looking for the gaps in your community.  Prioritize which connections will make the most impact with the amount of staff you have available. Go out into the community and partner with organizations to let your community know that the library is there to help in any way they can.

Here are links to resources that will provide more information:

Let us know what other topics you’d like to discuss at upcoming Member Meetups by completing our 2023 Member Survey by August 20!