Collaboration/Community Engagement

You have to admit, “Collaboration” and “Community Engagement” are buzzwords. I’ve heard them quite often, and I used to always roll my eyes at that. It’s more corporate jargon that doesn’t really mean anything. Most of my readings on collaboration, for class, was only reaffirming that belief. I had to read some of the Leader to Leader Journal and about some of James E. Austin’s ideas. The Global Business Network looked just like some sort of semi-scammy consulting website who would charge you loads of money for telling you that your business’s communication sucks. Skillful Means is another website I had to read–it looked trite and too generalized. Geez, can’t the guy actually post text instead of using pretty diagrams to obfuscate his points? It’s really hard to read the fancy script. I had to write it out in order to understand what he said.

The teacher for my class did tell us that we could look for more articles on collaboration, if we wanted. Of course I wanted to–I needed to read that actually made collaboration make sense, because subconsciously I know that the libraries will be stronger within the community with good strong collaborative partners. It’s kind of like having a Rottweiler as a friend–the city hall will be afraid of cutting the library’s budgets if the library has plenty of businesses on its side. I got lucky using Google Scholar, and found a great article, “Library Collaboration: What Makes It Work?” by Murray Shepherd of the University of Waterloo, written as a result of the 25th annual IATUL conference in 2004. (It’s not a very big article, don’t worry. )

I found the comparisons between collaboration, cooperation, and coordination particularly helpful in his publication. Sometimes the best thing for understanding a slightly foreign topic is describing what it is not in addition to what it is. Please read the article–it’s actually fairly decent. Maybe I will find more decent ones when I trawl the Internet! If and when I do, I’ll try to post them here with more thoughts. Right now I just finished my night shift, so I’m fairly out of it. (Obligatory culpa mea)

One more thought, though. Is it me, or does it seem like collaboration goes hand in hand with community engagement? Quite often, collaborating with other businesses/institutions means that some aspect of the project is going to directly benefit the community. Especially with libraries. Of course libraries directly benefit the community. It’s just with a little help from community businesses, libraries can do more for the community.

I’ve always wondered if branches could team up with grocery stores to provide goodies for library events for free in exchange for a “snacks and desserts sponsored by HyVee” line on the fliers. (Or Jewels, Dominicks, King Soopers, etc depending on where you’re from. ) That’ll help lure in more patrons to the events–especially if the sponsorship could be recruited for the major literacy programs to get people reading. Maybe there’s some adults struggling with reading English (illiterate or 2nd language issues), who might not come in unless the library offered free food.

Libraries can easily team up with the local School for the Deaf, sign language interpreter certification program, or Deaf Ed program, to promote English literacy to deaf folks. (Keep in mind, in many cases ASL is the first language, and English is functionally a second language for them.) Not every deaf person loves to read. I know I definitely was, and there are other people who really love reading, but not everybody does because it’s difficult to understand some of the idiosyncrasies of English. To make it easier for some of you deaf-impaired, let me provide a comparison. Some say that Japanese is to English as English is to American Sign Language. What I’ve noticed is that Latin structurally like sign language–the visual language plus word order flexibility. So ASL is to English as Latin is to English. Anyway…I’m digressing. I think more needs to be done to reach out to the deaf community, to bring them into the library. Ideally, a library where at least one staff member knows ASL fairly proficiently–but outside help is needed, and that’s where the collaboration part comes in.

Ooooh….I have so many ideas of possible collaborative projects for libraries! This fits in perfectly with part of my high school graduation speech. It’s more of a poem than a speech, but it’s still a speech.

It does not do well at all/To sit around and complain/Berate the results/previous generations have obtained.

(or lack of results, for that matter.) So when we sit around and wonder why this or that isn’t happening, it’s time to get off our duffs and do something about it. That’s my personal philosophy, and it goes great with my Irish stubbornness and temper. Just ask my husband–he can tell you firsthand how I get fired up about something (the poor guy.)

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