Delaware Libraries Community Resource Exchange
Delaware Libraries Community Resource Exchange ALA Virtual Poster Session Community Central
Question or problem
"Public officials don’t believe that libraries are involved enough in solving community issues."
It was in the spring of 2008 when the Delaware Division of Libraries (DDL) staff became aware of this quote from the new OCLC Funding study. A first glimpse of the study was highlighted at PLA’s Turning the Page Symposium sponsored by the Gates Foundation in Annapolis, Md., which was attended by DDL staff. At the time, the economy had begun a rapid decline, and competition for library funding was increasing. This economic reality, combined with the perception that libraries were not a resource for community solutions during difficult times, created the catalyst that moved DDL into action.
We know that during an economic downturn, library use increases. This increase in usage creates the perfect opportunity for libraries to serve as a hub for connecting individuals and families with needed community resources. Our goal was twofold:
- To coordinate a statewide collaboration of agencies and organizations that support families quickly and effectively during times of financial difficulty, and
- To secure needed library funding by proving to public officials that libraries are involved in solving community issues.
Environmental context of the question or problem (such as public libraries, academic libraries)
The effort was spearheaded by the Delaware Division of Libraries / State Library, in partnership with Delaware libraries. The solution primarily involves public libraries and the Delaware Academy of Medicine library. However, all libraries are invited to participate.
Organizational context of the question or problem (internal services, outreach, community analysis)
The solution created to meet our objectives was the Delaware Libraries’ Community Resources Exchange— a program for connecting people, services and support. Through the Community Resources Exchange, Delaware community leaders, agencies, and non-profit organizations are invited to share ideas and explore synergies to extend limited resources and deliver needed services and support to Delawareans during tough economic times. The Exchange also raises awareness that libraries are ideally situated to provide a conduit for connecting those in need with those who can help.
Approaches to address the question or problem
The Community Resources Exchange is coordinated by DDL and focuses on five critical areas:
- Basic Needs: housing, food, utilities, clothing, transportation, and financial literacy
- Children and Families: early literacy, family counseling, parent training, and stress management
- Employability: adult education, literacy, immigration and naturalization, and job placement
- Health: wellness, mental health, disability, and aging
- Miscellaneous: recreation, senior services, volunteerism, and legal aid
DDL developed several strategies for introducing the program to potential participants. A Community Resources Exchange Open House was held on June 5, 2008 in Dover. The event attracted more than 40 public service agencies and organizations from around the state, which were very enthusiastic about becoming Community Resources Exchange Partners. Many more contacted us who wanted to be involved but who were unable to attend that day. During the Open House, attendees had the opportunity to exchange information and capabilities with other service resources. A Resource Guide was created by DDL and distributed at the Open House. Included were organizational information sheets which identified each attendee’s mission, populations served, services and events. The Resource Guide also included an extensive list of library partnership examples to provide attendees with ideas for partnership efforts.<p> <p>A second component of the Open House was the Partner Showcase sign-up. The Partner Showcase is a full-day event where several Partners make presentations about their agency / organization to library staff from across the state. The goal is to give library staff an understanding of the organization, tools to help with reference inquiries in the five critical areas, and a contact at the agency.
After the Open House, a Partner ListServ was created, which was met with rave reviews. The Partners appreciate the mechanism for sharing their information, and the opportunity to learn about the initiatives of the other organizations. In many cases, partners find that they are serving the same population, yet are unaware of each other’s efforts or the possibility of joining forces to share resources to increase effectiveness. The advantage of libraries serving as the hub has been the connection for partners across the variety of disciplines, not only within their own specialty. On a local level, individual libraries are working to enhance the program within their libraries and local communities. Some of these efforts include:
- The reference librarians from New Castle County linked to the partner websites on their website, so that they can share the information with other librarians who were unable to attend the Partner Showcases due to staffing shortages and coverage issues.
- As part of a Library Associates Training Institute (LATI) project at the Seaford Library, brochures were compiled in a notebook by topic to organize them for ease of access. The brochures were opened and inserted in page protectors. Noting the date on the each brochure will help with weeding later on.
Going Forward. An additional goal of the Community Resources Exchange is a community-library-specific connection with Partner organizations to offer programs, training, etc. at the local level. Work is progressing in this area. We are also addressing the ongoing management of all of the partner websites, brochures, and fliers. This will support our planned January 2009 Merchandising workshop for librarians, which will include recommendations for displaying partner literature.
Outcomes (details on the effects of the approaches, including data, testimonials)
*When the dust settled at the end of the budget process in June 2008, state funding for libraries was sustained. This was during a climate of across-the-board 8 percent budget cuts.
- Two Partner Showcases have been held so far. The first was held in June, where seven agencies and organizations presented to Reference Librarians from around the state. The second was held in September, in which 16 agencies and organizations presented to librarians. We have a waiting list of partners who want to present, and expect that Partner Showcases will be held biannually.
- The list of Delaware Libraries’ Community Resource Exchange Partners is large and growing. It currently includes:
- Several libraries have set up local partnerships with area organizations. For example, at least one library in each county has accepted a collection bin for non-perishable food items for the Food Bank of Delaware. Several of the partners exhibited at the Delaware Book Festival in November.
- The evaluations of the Partner Showcases are all positive. Here is a sampling of questions/quotes:
Was the Showcase helpful?
“Many people ask for these types of services at libraries, now we have a better understanding of where to refer them and what the agency does. Learned a lot, every presentation was a learning experience.”“…do need a better way to organize materials at the library.”“I want to contact several people about coming to my library.”“This was very helpful. I look forward to the next session.”
Was the Showcase innovative?“Yes, for Delaware libraries to explore partnerships and collaborations in a unified, cohesive manner.”
Was the Showcase informative?“ Very – am ready to sign up patrons for some of these services.”“Absolutely. Already have program ideas and ways to increase partnerships.”