Health is a big topic in libraries right now! Librarians collect, produce, and promote health and wellness resources. Libraries were creating health and wellness programs long before the pandemic, though. Reading itself has been a source of joy and health, cited in the early 1900s as an alternative to the saloon. Today libraries offer programs including reading groups, exercise classes, mammograms, and blood sugar testing. They might hire or partner with social workers to provide direct help connecting vulnerable populations with the resources that they need.
Some examples of successful partnerships include programs with:
- a hospital or MD practice to give non-invasive physical exams, including breast cancer screening, blood draws, etc., and host educational events
- a social work program at a university, or through a public or private provider, to bring social workers into the library to meet with clients.
- a Farmer’s Market or local food coop to create community gardens, and invite in guest speakers for educational events on health, nutrition, gardening, and beekeeping
- a yoga studio to provide a space for new yoga teachers practicum space, providing free yoga classes for people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford membership at the studio (and library workers)
- a financial aid service, including the AARP, for tax or other financial planning services. Money, after all, is the cause of a lot of stress!
- there are so many others!
How to Form Partnerships
If you have never formed a partnership before, here are a few pointers, along with some recommended readings:
- Who – This might not be difficult, because sometimes people come to the library to suggest partnerships. This means different things to different people/groups, though. Does the potential partner just want to use the library’s space for their programming, or is there a potential for meeting the library’s mission as well? Remember your library’s mission, and figure out if it has the potential to be mutually beneficial. If, on the other hand, you are seeking a partner for a specific program or to meet a goal concerning an issue that you have noted in your library and community, write up the issue and be prepared to make a pitch to the county health department, local doctors and hospitals, clinics, etc.
- What – Be specific: what can the library offer in the partnership? How do your missions work together? Write up a contract stating what each partner will contribute to the project, including people (time), money, space, etc. How will you advertise the program/event/etc.? Who will be responsible for advertising it?
- When – How long will the partnership last? When will you review the partnership and decide if revisions are needed? Include all of these things, including an evaluation plan, in your documentation.
- Where – will the activities take place at the library, or at the partner’s location?
Attached is a worksheet that I’ve used for my class on Community Partnerships that you can freely use and adapt for your own purposes. These sections are due throughout the semester; the culminating assignment is a two-page preliminary IMLS grant proposal, which includes the components in the worksheet.
Partnerships with University Extension
This is the video about partnerships through MU Extension. All Land-Grant universities have an Extension office that serves the state, connecting residents across the state to university resources.
WebJunction: Community Partnership and Collaboration Guide.
- Coleman, M. & Connaway, L.S. (2019) “Public Libraries Respond to the Opioid Crisis in Collaboration with Their Communities: An Introduction,” Collaborative Librarianship 11 (1): https://www.oclc.org/research/publications/all/public-libraries-respond-opioid-crisis.html
- Whiteman, E. D., Dupuis, R. Morgan, A.U., D’Alonzo, B., Epstein, C., Klusaritz, H., et al. (2018). Public Libraries As Partners for Health. Preventing Chronic Disease 15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd15.170392
- Schoefield, A. (2019). Social Workers and Librarians: Why we are BFFs.
- Simon, M. A., O’Brian, C. A., Nava, M., Dahdouh, R., Wafford, Q. E., Mack, S., & Holmes, K. L. (2021). Public Libraries as Key Partners for Advancing Health Equity. American Journal of Public Health, 111(1), 40–42.