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Building a LibraryAware Community: Building Long-Term Partnerships

Post by Nancy Dowd
Posted March 29, 2013 in

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How many times have you had a local business support your library with a donation while its employees never use your services? 

Do your community's leaders or library volunteers say how much they love the library but when push comes to shove, can't articulate why? 

You are not alone.

All too often libraries do a great job of starting associations but lack the follow through to develop them into long-term relationships. Every time an organization, business, or volunteer offers to help your library it is a new opportunity for you to get to know them and for them to get to know you. 

It is essential they know your library's story: what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for. A good policy is to make sure that story is integrated throughout your printed materials but here are some ways you can personalize it:

  • Library tours. Certainly tours of the library are great but why not include a "behind the scenes" tour too? Giving people a glimpse of your staff to see how the library really works paints a fuller picture, one most people don't know about. 
  • Open houses. If you are partnering with a company, consider hosting an event for the employees. Consider hosting a tech zoo, private readers' advisory services, research classes, or any other event that would interest them. 
  • VIP mailing lists. Make sure you keep your supporters informed about your events and services. When we developed LibraryAware, we started to see the power of having patrons opt-in to receive emails based on their interests. You could segment your community partners the same way. Don't forget to take the time to learn about their interests and reading preferences so you can make reading recommendations. The more you know about them, the more you can make the connection between their needs and your offerings. 
  • Share stories. Nothing has as much impact as a success story. It is worth taking the time to collect customer experiences and turn them into strategic stories. Don't forget to tell your staff's stories as well. Any time your library has helped someone in your community succeed, it is a story worth telling.

If you are successful, you will become champions for each other. And that is an excellent foundation for any long-term partnership. 

Nancy Dowd is the Product Lead for LibraryAware. Her passion is helping libraries connect to their communities.