Community Partnerships for Special Libraries

A survey of literature on community partnerships for special libraries yields results as diverse as the field itself. While there are many types of special libraries, here I would like to focus on outreach efforts put forward by health, art, and government document libraries.

Health Libraries

Opportunities for health libraries to work with communities are myriad. Acc0rding to Wood, Siegel, and Dutcher, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has put forward initiatives to promote the well-being of members of the Native American community. In 1996, NLM assessed its support of this community and found it to be lacking. In the years since their support has rapidly expanded.  One such program provided health science library internships to Hispanic and/or Native American library students. Another popular program has utilized powwows as a forum to demonstrate Medline Plus and other online health resources (Wood, Siegel, and Dutcher, 2005).

A further example of community partnerships initiated by health librarians exists in the area of disaster preparedness and response. Featherstone states that to some, the connection between LIS professionals and disaster management may not be immediately apparent. In reality, rapidly obtaining and evaluating the right kinds of information is vital to disaster efforts.  Libraries have responded to disaster situations by helping patrons fill out government relief or other assistance forms. They have also worked with shelter facilities to establish makeshift libraries, and compiled information to be distributed by call centers (Featherstone, 2012).

Art Libraries

Art Libraries have historically supported the visual and textual research needs of art students. However, Leousis reports that one program at Washington University in St. Louis took a more business-oriented approach. The art librarian partnered with the director of a design and research studio to develop a workshop and guide which advised art students on how to obtain grants and other funding post-graduation (Leousis, 2013).

Gluibizzi states that an additional way for art libraries to reach out and forge new community relationships is by collaborating with museums. Such a relationship was envisioned between the Ohio State Libraries and the Columbus Museum of Art. The two institutions worked together to design an exhibition and outreach program to jointly showcase respective collections which complemented one another. The initial plan was shelved when the partners failed to secure a grant to fund it. However, strengthened relationships between the library and museum persisted (Gluibizzi, 2008).

Government Document Libraries

An interesting community opportunity for government documents collections is to expand their efforts to reach young patrons. According to Adamich et al., the El Paso Public Library created a Government Documents Children’s Collection and located it in their Children’s Department. The display featured resources oriented toward kids, parents, and teachers. The program led to increased circulation for these materials and greater awareness of the Government Documents Department at the library. At the National level, the Federal Depository Library Program has created programs to engage kids, as well. In 2006 a Government Documents Kids Group was founded. This team promotes the use of government document titles by, “making presentations to groups of children and professional organizations, writing articles, creating websites, and organizing an annual Constitution Day Poster Contest.” (Adamich, Childers, Davis, and Faria, 2012).

Summary

In closing, special libraries have a wide variety of avenues to reach out into communities with innovative programs. A review of such initiatives reveals exciting opportunities to promote unique collections and both attract and serve users.

References

Adamich, T., Childers, M., Davis, K., Faria, J., & Satterfield, A. (2012). The gov doc kids group and free government information. IFLA Journal, 38(1), 68-77. doi:10.1177/0340035211435324

Featherstone, R. (2012). The Disaster Information Specialist: An Emerging Role for Health Librarians. Journal Of Library Administration, 52(8), 731-753.

Gluibizzi, A. K. (2009). The world of outreach: one art librarian’s perspective. Library Review, (2).

Leousis, K. (2013). Outreach to Artists: Supporting the Development of a Research Culture for Master of Fine Arts Students. Art Documentation: Bulletin Of The Art Libraries Society Of North America, 32(1), 127-137.

Wood, F. B., Siegel, E. R., & Dutcher, G. A. (2005). The National Library of Medicine’s Native American    outreach portfolio: a descriptive overview. Journal of The Medical Library Association, 93(4), S21-S34.

For Discussion:

How might primary school children benefit from the use of Government Document collections?

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4 responses to “Community Partnerships for Special Libraries

  1. For government of/by/for the people to work, the people have to know what is going on and participate. Introducing kids to government documents at an early age can help prevent a situation where kids have a semester of government class in high school and then go off to college and are expected to start voting. Pew published a study earlier this year that shows young adults are currently not less likely to be politically engaged than older adults, which is great (http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Civic-Engagement/Summary-of-Findings.aspx). The other important factor is being able to educate yourself about various candidates and issues, and introducing kids to gov docs seems to me like a great way to teach kids early about how and where to find reliable information and that there are options other than googling. For this to be effective, it would have to be done well, but I think there’s a lot of potential there for good things to happen.

    • Rebecca, I agree that an early introduction to these collections open up kids’ eyes to a whole body of authoritative material. Thanks for the link. And it’s a great point that knowledge of these resources could be beneficial to young voters.

  2. I think it is great to have government documents for kids. What better way to teach children about the government and how it works.
    In a different note, we have a reciprocal agreement with one of the medical libraries in town. This is great as some of the medical books are pretty expensive and the public library cannot afford to buy them. By being able to refer them to the medical library and telling them they can check out books, it is a real service to our customers.

    • Amy, I enjoyed reading about the cooperative program you mentioned. This sounds like an outstanding local partnership for a special library.

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