Partnerships are important for public libraries: this helps them stay relevant in the digital age. From their origins, public libraries did not form partnerships, in some cases they were just trying to survive. More public libraries should form partnerships, this benefits everyone: patrons, libraries and the other partner whether it be another library, school, or a business. Public libraries that form partnerships will not be just one entity anymore, together they will have more resources available to them that they did not previously.
Partnerships between Libraries
The Manchester City Library has formed partnerships with local public and college libraries in forming a consortium, called the Greater Manchester Integrated Library Cooperative System (GMILCS). This partnership did not form overnight, but was a long process, tracing it roots back to 1984. GMILCS allows patrons to use their library card at other participating libraries: common borrower card. This allows the community access to more materials and resources that they could not access previously. Patrons can visit these participating libraries, and check material out with their library card. If, patrons do not want to go to these other libraries, materials can be sent to their home library.(43) Eleanor Croteau (circulation clerk at the Manchester City Library) recalled when the first Harry Potter book came out, both children and adults wanted to read the book, and the hold list (people who reserved a copy of the book) was very long. GMILCS was a valuable resource to have, lessening waiting times for popular materials. When public libraries pool books together, there are multiple copies in the system, giving patrons quicker access to materials. This is still true today, when a new movie is released, that is based on a book, many patrons want to read the book before they see the movie. Some recent examples are Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, and A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. (44)
Another partnership that public libraries have used: The Interlibrary Loan (ILL) System. Public libraries across the country are able to share resources, meeting patrons’ needs/wants. The Manchester City Library uses ILL in conjunction with the GMILCS consortium. This means patrons in the GMILCS libraries have access to a wide array of materials. This partnership is a valuable resource to have especially when public libraries hold book discussions. Public libraries that hosts these book discussions are able to provide each of their patrons that participate with their own copy of the book, without having to share.(45)
Partnerships with Unusual Materials
Public libraries can offer a variety of materials, not just books and audiovisual materials. Kathleen Norton (a librarian at the UNH Manchester Library) said “a librarian must be attuned to the needs of his or her population. Do your users want more public computers; do they want to check out cake pans? Do they need an umbrella or a bicycle pump? The purpose of a library is to lend an item to someone free, it can be anything!”(46) The Manchester City Library offers patrons some unusual materials that they can check out. Patrons can check out paintings for 60 days with many different options to choose from, including prints to photographs. Some of these prints include famous artists’ works like: Georges Seurat (A Sunday on La Grande Jatte), Vincent Van Gogh (Sunflowers and Café Terrace at Night) and Michelangelo (section of The Creation of Adam: the hands). Another unusual material that patrons check out is a telescope. The New Hampshire Astronomical Society has partnered with several public libraries in New Hampshire, by providing them with a telescope. The Manchester City Library is one of these libraries. In providing the telescope to the libraries, New Hampshire Astronomical Society hopes “to help foster scientific literacy, stimulate an interest in astronomy, and provide people who have never looked through a telescope the chance to experience the excitement that comes from discovery… Placing the telescopes in local public libraries instead of just schools, allows greater general access to the scope since they can be put into circulation just as a book.” Patrons who could not afford a telescope, now have the opportunity to use a telescope free of charge. This partnership is beneficial to everyone involved.(47)
Partnerships benefiting Children
Public libraries have partnered with different organizations to benefit children and their families. These partnerships promote learning, whether its reading or doing a fun activity. One of these partnerships that benefits children is between the schools and public libraries. During school breaks, including the summer, some children do not read and lose what they have learned in school. As a way to combat that, a partnership was formed between the Manchester City Library and the Manchester School District. During the winter break, students were asked to keep a reading log, to keep track of their reading. Students’ reading level was broken down into different sections from preschool/elementary to middle school. There were 402 students who participated in this program. Beside the partnerships between schools and the library, local businesses such as Barnes & Noble and Pizza Hut, donated prizes for students who complete the program. This partnership shows the importance of community support for children and the promotion of literacy.(48)
Besides partnering with schools, public libraries should partner with organizations to support children and their families. The Manchester City Library has done that by partnering with the TD Charitable Foundation and the Howe-Terragni Family to provide an early literacy collection, which patrons can borrow. Some of this collection includes board games (to help with grammar and reading comprehension), science specimen centers (to develop skill in science and classification), and different theme boxes (shapes, wild animals, five senses, etc.). Some of these theme boxes are popular with teachers, being able to use them in the classroom.(49) “For most Americans, traditional library services remain a high priority,” which includes storytime. Eighty percent of Americans believe that public libraries are important for children.(50) Storytimes are important for public libraries, because they can have a positive impact on children. The Manchester City Library hosts several different storytimes in the building, as well as partnering with organizations to bring storytime to other locations. One of these partners is the Mall of New Hampshire Kidgets program. The partnership provides a storytime and craft for all ages. Another storytime partnership is with the Currier Museum of Art. This partnership provides an early exposure to art for preschool children.(51)
The concept of reading to a dog has caught on at public libraries, this takes the fear out of reading for some children that have that problem. The University of California-Davis performed a study in 2010, on reading to a dog, these are the results:
“Children who read to dogs improved their own reading skills in comparison to children who did not read to dogs, based on results of the Oral Text for Comprehension Test. This program involved reading to dogs once a week for ten weeks. Children who read to dogs also reported a greater enjoyment of reading than children who did not read to dogs.”(52)
The Manchester City Library has partnered with the Reading Educational Assistance Dogs, to provide children a chance to read without judgement. This program is available for all ages, and three different dogs participate in this program, including Cody an Australian Shepard Mix, Hazel a Chocolate Lab, and Cookie a Smooth Collie.(53)
STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) has become a popular trend in the last few years. Public libraries should adapt to meet this growing trend. The Manchester City Library has developed programs to meet this need, including science afternoons. This program provides children exposure to science through simple experiments. An off shoot of STEM is Maker Space, which the Manchester City Library provides also. The Manchester City Library has partnered with Barnes & Noble: to have Maker Space called Maker Monday. This program is run twice a month, once at the library and once at Barnes & Noble. Some of the activities include snap circuits, CreoPop 3D Pens, and Ozobots. This program is geared for ages 7 to 12. (54) Youth librarian David Basora remarked “having things like makerspaces in libraries encourages creativity, gets people in the door, and shows them new things.” (55) The Association for Library Service to Children (part of the American Library Association) has worked with Lego Systems Inc to provide Legos to public libraries. “Through this project LEGO is provided 750+ libraries nationwide with a physical toolkit…Each toolkit included over 10,000 LEGO bricks.” The Manchester City Library is one of these libraries. Lego Lab is held twice month and it is one of the most popular programs for children. The children can see their Lego creations on display when they come to the library.(56)
Public libraries should be a place where families can come together and have a fun time. The Manchester City library has partnered with different organizations to provide family-oriented programs. During the summer, the Manchester City library hosts these programs once a week for five weeks, called Family Fare. During Family Fare, families can experience many different programs including wild encounters (animal program), musicians, and magicians. These programs allow families to have fun and experience something new that they might not be able to afford.(57)
Partnerships and Current Events
Public libraries should be attuned to current events, by providing the best service to their patrons. When the solar eclipse occurred in August 2017, many public libraries gave away free solar eclipse glasses to their patrons. The Manchester City Library was one of these libraries, partnering with the SEE Science Center to offer the glasses to anyone, not just patrons. During that time, many people called the library, or stopped to ask about the solar glasses. With the great demand, the glasses soon ran out. The Manchester City Library created a display about the solar eclipse, providing materials that patrons could check out, if they wanted to learn more about the solar eclipse. This display showed the path that the eclipse would take, and Manchester was not on the direct path. States on the direct path included “Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia,” and “South Carolina.” If patrons did not have the chance to get solar glasses, the Manchester City Library streamed a live feed of the eclipse, so patrons could watch the eclipse safely.(58)
Partnerships benefiting Seniors
Public libraries should offer a variety of programs, to meet the needs of the community including all ages. Having children’s programs is good but having programs or classes for senior citizens too should be a priority for public libraries. The Manchester City Library has adapted to meet this need. The library offers a service to patrons that are home bound. Staff selects materials that the patron wants, then brings it to their homes.(59) Also, the Manchester City Library has partnered with Birch Hill Retirement Community, to offer their residents a book discussion.
Another service that the Manchester City Library has to offer to seniors are classes in technology. As librarian Susan Harmon stated computer literacy is taught in schools now, leaving many adults, including seniors behind.(60) Some seniors are not able to see their children and grandchildren on a regular basis, being able to connect on the computer would be helpful for them. Technology is not going away, helping seniors with computer literacy should be important for all public libraries. The Manchester City Library has partnered with the William B. Cashin Senior Center to provide classes in computer literacy. This partnership was formed in late 2016, offering group classes and 1-on-1 sessions in computer literacy to seniors.(61)
Partnerships and Bookmobiles
Bookmobiles were popular in the early 1900’s, but now they are making a comeback to public libraries today. The idea for the bookmobile was developed to advance patrons’ access to library materials who could not make it to the physical library.
“The first bookmobile in the United States took to the roads in the early 1900s. It was a horse-drawn carriage taking stacks of books to rural parts of Maryland. The librarian who started that program for the Washington County Free Library system, Mary Titcomb, described the bookmobile program’ success: ‘The book goes to the man, not waiting for the man to come to the book…’ For many of these isolated parts of the community, bookmobiles helped encourage access to literacy and connect families with books in a way never before possible.” (62)
Bookmobiles were used to helped during World War I and World War II. The American Library Association started in World War I “the ‘A book for every man’ campaign aimed at getting books into the hands of American soldiers.”
During World War II, the American Library Association partnered with Red Cross and the USO for the Victory Book Campaign. These organizations gathered reading materials for American Troops overseas.(63)
Bookmobile circa 1943
After World War II, bookmobiles were still used, the Manchester City Library started its own bookmobile during the 1980’s. Due to lack of funding the bookmobile was stopped in Manchester. But with renewed interest in the bookmobile, it will be starting again in Manchester in the summer of 2018. The original developer of the Manchester’s bookmobile, Wendy Perron (English Learners Liaison: Manchester School Distract) will be a part of this project again. Besides partnering with the schools, Member’s First Credit Union and St. Mary’s Bank will be donating books to the bookmobile. There are sponsors that are fixing a van for the bookmobile: adding shelving, and paint. The library staff, teachers and reading specialists will man the bookmobile. Librarian Karyn Isleb said
“YWCA summer program wants to be a stop. We are going to go where the kids are this summer. Books will be distributed in a ‘book swap’. Kids will take a book home and then when the van comes back, they can bring it back to get a new book. Or if they don’t bring it back, they can still take another one. The goal of the Bookmobile is to get books into the kid’s hand and keep them reading. We don’t want to see the ‘summer slide’ in their reading skills.”(64)
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