Influence: Programs and partnerships

Programs and partnerships provide the opportunity for libraries to strengthen communities.

View from behind of band playing in a library space
Green Square Library, image provided by City of Sydney 

The popularity of library public programs and events continues. The enthusiasm with which libraries and their staff have embraced the role that public programs play in building connected communities, is matched only by the eagerness of the community to participate. As populations grow, so will the demand for creative spaces, public programs and events, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds.

Libraries need to collect and analyse relevant data, such as user surveys and program evaluation forms, to identify, understand, improve and meet user needs. To continue to meet demand and ensure programs and events are tailored to community needs, it is likely that libraries will need to increase their partnership approach to programming.  

Bringing new members

Programs introduce the library to potential new members. The popularity of traditional sessions like ‘Baby Rhyme Time’ continues, as do programs that promote culture and facilitate active involvement of library clients with the development of the library. For example, a library might promote a multicultural festival by holding bilingual story time sessions, cultural book exchanges or themed author talks. Youth audiences might be interested in watching or performing in band nights. ‘Click, clack and yack’ or ‘knit and natter’ sessions are popular in many libraries, bringing together a diverse range of people to knit or crochet and chat.

Promoting community involvement

Forming partnerships is another way libraries are promoting community involvement and providing a broader scope of services and information. Partnerships can include local education institutions such as TAFE, schools, community colleges, and U3A (University of the Third Age). Increasingly, the emphasis in public libraries is towards community support and therefore libraries may work with youth services, literacy foundations and retirement villages. Partnerships can also be a cost-effective method of providing much needed resources for a public library, by pooling and sharing resources. TAFE courses are sometimes run in public library IT areas. University and TAFE students can be available to assist in IT literacy and homework help.

Youth orchestra in Tamworth Library
Youth orchestra in Tamworth Library

Co-located or joint use libraries

Partnerships can extend even further to co-located or joint use libraries. A joint-use library is one where two or more distinct users are served in the same library premises, such as a combined school and public library. A co-located library has its own distinct space within a wider complex or set of buildings. It may share a foyer, meeting rooms and amenities with other tenants, however the public library functions are managed separately to the other functions within the complex. 

In NSW it is increasingly common for public libraries to be co-located with other facilities such as local government service centres, community centres, museums, galleries or community health centres. This can lead to efficiencies of staffing, shared areas like foyers and meeting rooms, and savings in overheads. Increasingly, co-located libraries are the result of partnerships between local councils and developers. These sites can provide a living and learning village, a one stop-shop for learning, innovation and collaboration, socialising and rest, and business.  

Flexible spaces

Space is being increasingly occupied by informal social activities as well as facilities for structured group activities. The physical implications of these programs and partnerships include an emphasis on flexible spaces. This may include meeting rooms, training rooms and multipurpose spaces that can be accessed out of library hours.

Youth and children’s areas require greater flexibility to cater for large groups and diverse activities. General areas of the library, such as foyers and lounge spaces can be re-arranged for performances and displays, allowing the library to serve as a venue for events and exhibitions. Consideration should be given to acoustics, flexible ceilings and floors (wiring, display, lighting), as well as movable shelving.  

The rising popularity of programs and partnerships is another indication that despite the growth of digital and online resources, the physical library is very relevant and increasingly in demand as a social space.

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