To close out Step 2, we want to consider some of the detailed discussions you and your partners may have to have regarding roles, or who does what.
There is no one right way to set up and navigate the many different roles and relationships that together cultivate and grow seedlings.
That being said, considering these roles is critical because we found in our research that a stumbling block in many community partnerships centers around the navigation of roles among community partners.
For instance, one librarian told us that when she started representing the library in a community health coalition, “almost the whole first year, when we met I was asked to explain why the library was there. ‘What are you doing here? Like you’re not a member of the community care team?’ Those were not the words. It was that sort of questioning. To which I said, ‘Oh, uh, we are.’”
Part of navigating roles in asserting that library workers have a role in community-based work.
The images below illustrate what often happens.
People often ask librarians, “Can you distribute, market, or host something for me,” rather than asking “how can we work together.”
Similarly, librarians often feel they have to ask themselves “do I have the space, budget, or staff” to do this new initiative, rather than asking “who could I work with” to start this new initiative.
The work of nurturing seedlings with community partners can be a fraught process, full of landmines related to conceptions/stereotypes of libraries, librarians, and what it looks like to partner with a library.
To develop a seedling that is mutually beneficial for all partnerships, it is important for librarians to work hard, but it is also important to make sure that our labor is visible and appreciated.
Similarly, we want to work hard to make sure that all the contributions of our partners are seen and visible, appreciated and compensated (where necessary).
We will talk more about how to make this work visible in Step 3, which is focused on harvesting our bounty, or documenting and celebrating the fruits of our (collective) labor.
Here, though, the most important thing to keep in mind is transparency. Do you and your partners know what everyone is contributing? Do you and your partners have the resources they need to hold up your/their ends of the bargain? Do you and your partners have the trust needed to re-negotiate roles if something changes? Do and your partners have the open communication needed so that everyone feels like they have a voice in decisions related to planning, budget, and implementation?
Sometimes these conversations can go into complicated terrain, such as the topic of money.
- Many partners will willingly do the work for free, but sometimes offering to pay helps show value for their work and it can add motivation for the partner to continue to follow through on their commitments.
- Similarly, many libraries will willingly do the work for free, but sometimes the offer of payment to the library helps show value for your work and it can add motivation for the library to continue to follow through on its commitments to the partnership.
- There is no one right way to work collaboratively with your community. The key thing is to strive to have the trust, transparency, and communication needed to ensure there are no hidden agendas, invisible labor, or unsupported work.
Finally, these detailed discussions may also consider what each partner represents. In general, there are two types of partners: non-profits and for-profits.
Nonprofits/community organizations/city and county departments
- These organizations may often be able to work for free.
- Collaborations may involve supplementing what each department/organization has to offer to fill in gaps.
- We as library staff often may need to work harder to market the programs to help ensure bigger attendance/turnout, which helps spread the word about the business and increase their own sales, etc
- You and your library may approach partnerships with these different sectors in different ways.
Navigating the many different ways that you and your library may find yourselves working collaboratively with partners is a complicated process. There is no one right way for library workers to collaborate with others to nurture seedlings, or to transform ideas into realities. Instead, there are multiple paths to success. We want to alert you to the different configurations that may be possible, so that you go into this process with your eyes open, and attuned to the possibilities.