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Collaboration: Cooperation, Collaboration, and Partnering

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Building partnerships in the public and private sector can be a challenging process. It requires patience, time, and leadership commitment. However, working with other agencies will benefit the library, its partners, and most importantly, the baby boomer population.

Developing relationships with community agencies and businesses that most likely serve baby boomers will allow library staff to expand their horizons, become more informed, and be alert to trends. Best of all, library services for older adults can be integrated into the greater community of services and increase the library’s potential for reaching more baby boomers.

For the purposes of this chapter, the words partner and partnership will be used to describe the relationship between libraries and community agencies. In reality, multiple models or stages of coalition building exist. Feinberg and Feldman provide an excellent overview of the coalition building continuum.

Networking is the first step in coalition building. Networking facilitates communication among individuals, requires a minimal level of interaction and allows for agency information exchange. Coordination, the next stage, involves two or more agencies combining efforts to serve a common audience. For example, the library may develop a special “Keeping Fit as You Age” bibliography for the baby boomer customers of the local YMCA.

Cooperation is a higher level of commitment by the agencies that results in better delivery of services. As an example, the public library may provide workshops on opening a new business at the local Job Corps office. The Job Corps office benefits with new services for its customers and the library reaches a new audience. A partnership takes the relationship further, usually involving projects that are new to the partners and some level of financial responsibility on the part of each agency. Partnerships require a great deal of communication and trust. An agreement between the parks and recreation department and the library to jointly sponsor training for their employees regarding effective services for baby boomers is an example of a partnership. Collaboration is the final step in coalition building. It involves a formal relationship and a commitment to a common goal that can only be achieved by working together.

The lines that delineate these stages are not firm or easy to draw. In fact, libraries will shift between the stages at different times with different partners. The stage in which the library is operating is secondary to the fact that coalition building is having a positive affect on services for baby boomers throughout the community.

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  • Montana State Library
  • P.O. Box 201800, 1515 East 6th Avenue
  • Helena, MT 59620-1800
  • Phone: (406) 444-3115
  • Fax: (406) 444-0266
  • msl.mt.gov