Disruptive change has enabled a shift in how librarians are working with community partners in the provision of collaborative public programs to become more of a conduit to community information.

With our change in management style we now have a more “Make it so” attitude – to boldly go and seek new contacts and ideas! This has given us more:

  • Free reign over who we approach and the type of programming we can try.
  • We have more of a “go try it” attitude at play, try it and see if it works – if it doesn’t we take it as a learning lesson and adapt or reconsider.
  • This means us going out to the community more and taking part in community meetings. Under our prior Management structure it was just managers that attended such meetings. Now with more staff creating partnerships with other agencies action can be more immediate and timely to current needs.
  • However, librarian involvement may cause disruption with desk schedules and meeting schedules within the library, taking our library role out on the road means we can’t always be available in the library for daily routine and back-up.

You’d think that it would be much easier to do programming with partners but it has its challenges:

  • What the library envisions from a partnership might not be the same as what the partner has in mind. The program originally planned might morph into something very different.
  • It can be a challenge to ensure the library is a key stakeholder in the relationship not just a venue.

Some examples of successful recent partnerships are with:

  • North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission in Health and Wellness Programs and in Culture & Music series
  • North Vancouver Community Resources with Democracy Café’s
  • Vancouver Coastal Health with Health Matters Talks
  • North Shore Multicultural Society, Training Innovations and Work BC with New Immigrant Job Search Clubs, and again recently with
  • North Shore Multicultural Society with a Refugee Resettlement on the North Shore Panel Discussion, and also with
  • School District 44 with un-conference EdCamps and so on.

Our jump in and try it kind of approach can lead us to ideas taking on a life of their own as with our Truth and Reconciliation evening.

Last June one of our auxiliary staff members was in Ottawa and attended some of the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, she found them moving and impactful and wanted to bring the energy back and build upon it.  The TRC recommended that all Canadians read their Report to get a better understanding of residential schools and their legacy in Canada.  Widespread education about these topics is a key call to action from the report. Now -Reading and education – that’s a perfect fit for the library! She suggested we run a pledge program, where people could pledge to read the report over the summer –like an alternate type of Summer Reading Club! We then took this idea further and proposed an event at the end of summer where people could come together to discuss and reflect on what they had read. We made the report readily accessible and displays and pledge forms went up at our three branches and people got engaged.

We created a web pledge form and with a partnership with Reconciliation Canada and the North Vancouver Museum and Archives our small discussion event blossomed into major event. The result was very emotional and impactful as people shared their stories.

Keeping the momentum going we also partnered with our local school district to promote, and partly facilitate, the UBC Massive Open Online Course, Reconciliation through Indigenous Education.

Then Edmonton Public Library heard of our TRC program and asked for details so they too could replicate.

So, one small idea can blossom into something much more especially when we use partnerships. The process is messy, it’s disruptive to work flow, staff time and planning, but when it goes well it is so worth it!

This type of community partnering has been a long time in the making for me and it’s great to see this now happening at NVDPL. Many years ago (and I mean many) I wrote a paper for the

South African Library Association on Libraries being the HUB of the community and their focus being community driven. Now being young and enthusiastic back then I even suggested we change our name to Communikon to reflect this! A few country changes and several years later I still firmly believe we should be at the heart of the community but changing our name? – maybe that would be too disruptive!

Return to Under the Hood

Links to panelist speaking notes:

Andrea Freeman, Manager of Welcoming Initiatives

Jennifer O’Donnell, Digital Services & Resources Librarian

Sabina Burnett, Circulation Assistant, Capilano Library

Ashika Debba, Circulation Supervisor, Lynn Valley Library

Krista Scanlon, Collection Services and Evaluation Librarian

Paul Taylor, Branch Librarian, Parkgate Library

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