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