Ask An Agent: How Do You Partner with Parks and Rec Center?

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! Our volunteer Agents are on the job! Here’s what they have to say this week….

Question: I have a very touchy situation I’m dealing with. I am a teen librarian for a city with a very strong park & rec department (LOTS of teen involvement). The Library I work for does not want a relationship with park & rec due to fear of the city melding the two departments together. This happened in a couple cities near us, with bad results (park & rec director running the library but not putting library needs high on the priority list). However, I’ve spoken with the person who works with teens at our park & rec office and she has approached us a couple times about collaborating on different things. I would love to see this happen, as we all serve the same population, but not sure how to go about it. I even have teens where one friend/sister/brother is volunteering with them, and the other with us at the Library. Has anyone else had successful partnerships with their park & rec department? How did you go about it without angering those in the library who were against it?

Kari (Virginia Beach Public Library) says:

We do not work hand in hand with parks and rec, but we do utilize each other for resources.  For example, we were in need of scooters for an upcoming program so rather than spending money on scooters, we borrowed them from the parks and rec department.  When P&R has a community event where they are looking to add an educational vendor, they typically call on our department to set up a table at the event and they allow us to promote our upcoming events while we are there.  We have also taken library programs to the after school groups around the city.  If you approach it as a “we’ll scratch your back, if you’ll scratch ours” sort of approach it may help those who are apprehensive.  This will also keep it from seeming like one department is doing everything for the other.  If done in the right way, working with your parks department can be very beneficial!  It may also help boost your numbers for programs if you work together to market your programs.

Regina (TSU Agent) says:

I can’t understand how a city could decide that the two departments should be under the same leadership. That seems like such a weird reason to avoid partnerships.  I think as long as the library has unique and exciting programming and materials that serve its teen patrons, I can’t think that collaboration would be anything but amazing for both organizations.  Collaboration is something we’re trying to get more libraries and community organizations to think about and put into action, so I’d say this “problem” is an opportunity for awesomeness.  My library has a pretty good relationship with our park district.  We recently sponsored a Jim Gill concert at their block party, and they’ll be giving us park space this summer for our teen color war and parkour demo.  We never had anyone in the library who was against collaboration. Our biggest issue was getting our two departments to respect each other’s calendar and needs.  In the future, we’re hoping to do some larger things, like co-sponsoring our summer kickoffs, and I’m also hoping to have a Park Staff vs Library staff event to show a unified front to our patrons.

Christie (TSU Agent) says:

While not having to deal with a city who wanted to merge the library and the parks & rec department, I have worked in a city that has had the library within a community building (library, parks & rec, police front, community rooms), where there were tons of politicking and community confusion- why do I need a separate card when y’all are in the same building? Why do y’all not just watch the kids?

First, do you know who within the Library is against a general partnership on programs with the Parks & Rec? If you know who you’re working around, it helps, trust me. Point out that the library has programs utilizing other city departments without issues (police, fire, water & utilities), and go in with a full plan for both sides, not just the library admin- you’d be surprised with how many rumors get over to the “other side” just as much as the Library. Show them that what you’re planning, what you’re doing, and how your partnership  is enhancing and improving on what the city can offer the teens in the area, and make sure to underline that the library’s programs would be *free*- that is our selling point and one that made the biggest difference. What started with my library with a smattering of library programs turned into the building’s (library and parks) weekly teen night, plus partnerships on every holiday and celebration under the sun, making us the place to be for most of the families in the neighborhood.

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