The Importance of Partnerships & Collaborations in Libraries

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Running a library, whether public or institutional, requires much more collaboration than the typical patron may expect. Librarians are information professionals who can analyze data, develop and implement strategies, and much more. To make a library successful, librarians must also establish mutually beneficial partnerships between their institution and the community.

Effective collaboration between libraries, individuals, and local organizations can dramatically change communities. Collaboration benefits both libraries and communities by:

  • Establishing partnerships that meet the needs of their institution and community.
  • Allowing libraries to expand their patron base and build stronger relationships with individuals in the community.
  • Helping bridge the gaps of divisiveness that are harmful to communities.

An active library

Image ALT text: An active library.

How Does an MMLIS Degree Prepare Students for Professional Collaboration?

The Master of Management in Library and Information Science degree (MMLIS) teaches students much more than how to master the Dewey Decimal System. In fact, an MMLIS degree at the University of Southern California prepares students with the strategies necessary for succeeding as leaders in the fields of library science and information management. In the MMLIS program, students learn modern leadership techniques that are tailored to today’s evolving library environment. In addition, the program also thoroughly explores business, management and leadership skills enabling graduates to work across a wide variety of information centers.

A job in library science is much different now than in the past. Innovative technologies have changed the processes and daily operations of many libraries. For graduates to succeed in this field, they must be able to effectively utilize these technologies. Becoming proficient with these technologies will also allow students to succeed in a variety of other careers in the broader field of information science.

USC’s Master of Management in Library and Information Science online program is unique because the University of Southern California offers the degree through one of their nationally top-ranked, Marshall School of Business. By combining their library and information science studies with management and business theory, students can be prepared to lead teams and programs wherever their careers take them.

The MMLIS curriculum encompasses all the skills necessary to be an effective librarian. Students will learn how to develop collections, manage databases, conduct research, use information technologies, and develop effective partnerships with partners & communities. In the business supplement to the MMLIS program, students will develop management skills through practical applications of their studies. Require them to work in teams, communicate effectively, and manage complex projects.

The Master of Management in Library and Information Science program provides graduates with a broad spectrum of opportunities. Graduates are prepared to work in environments ranging from their local libraries to large institutions that manage collections of valuable literature that date back centuries. Graduates can become Chief Information Officers at highly respected organizations, or they can put their analytical skills to use as business researchers. USC’s MMLIS program enables graduates to succeed in whichever career path they choose.

How the LIM 599 Course Prepares Students for Successful Collaboration

One of the central classes in the MMLIS & LIM Certificate programs is LIM 599: Partnerships and Collaboration in Libraries. As a source of information and a meeting place, libraries are the centers of their communities. Being a librarian means connecting with the community as a neighbor and a professional. LIM 599 teaches students how to establish partnerships as well as collaborate with local governments, non-profit organizations, private businesses, and others in order to thrive within their communities.

To positively influence their communities, MMLIS students must first learn how to formally collaborate to achieve detailed goals. Library professionals often need to work with community residents and stakeholders to assess the needs of the community and find ways to satisfy these needs. To formalize the professional nature of this collaboration, students need to know how to develop contracts and measure the results of their decisions.

LIM 599 teaches students the theories of partnership and collaboration as well as teaches how to think critically about organizational policies, services, and trends. The course also teaches future information professionals how to evaluate the potential consequences of both private and public partnerships. By evaluating how and why particular partnerships have succeeded while others have not, students learn how to analyze risks and rewards, manage scarce resources, and respect public policies as they develop collaborative initiatives that benefit the library, the partnering organization, its stakeholders, and in turn the community as a whole.

Students in LIM 599 learn not only from textbooks and articles. In addition to studying the relevant literature, students also explore real-world cases of collaboration, learn from a variety of guest speakers, and discover how to implement intervention technologies. Drawing from their robust education, students will be prepared to foster sustained dialogues with collaborators and use substantive evidence to make informed decisions.

At its core, the course aims to explore the benefits of professional collaboration by illustrating how librarians can improve their communities, by creating resources that improve library-community collaboration, and by teaching students how to utilize tools that facilitate effective collaboration. Over all, the course aims to teach students how to be critical of every perspective (including one’s own) while remaining open-minded.

The Importance of Collaboration Between a Library and its Community

“When school librarians hear the word ‘collaboration,’ their minds may immediately drift to a meeting room with a small group of educators, calendars in hand, planning a multifaceted research project complete with product examples, presentation dates, and ideas for a new Pinterest board,” says Ashley Cooksey of American Libraries Magazine. “But collaboration doesn’t always happen that way.” Collaboration between libraries and communities depends on building relationships with the community’s public and business sectors.

With whom should libraries form these relationships? As Peter Struzziero of Public Libraries Online notes, “We have strong partnerships with our local school department and our senior center . . . It’s a great relationship to have, but in a lot of ways it’s the low-hanging fruit. They are our natural allies in town, but it’s important when possible, to go a step further.” In addition to the relationships that develop almost naturally between schools and libraries, library professionals can also connect with city departments, local businesses, non-profits, and more.

As an example, Struzziero mentions how his library collaborates with a local art gallery by promoting the gallery’s exhibits, which strengthens their relationships with patrons who are interested in the arts. Struzziero’s library also reached out to a local veterans association and offered the library as a space for the veterans’ annual Purple Heart ceremony. With this simple gesture, the library strengthened its relationship with local veterans.

However, collaboration is not limited to merely providing advertisements and programming. Chris Burns of Public Libraries Online suggests that “The question libraries need to ask when considering new programming is: how do we get our communities and stakeholders to not only understand this is happening, but also to be active participants?” While emails and posters are certainly necessary to communicate information about programs, libraries can have a more meaningful influence if they collaborate with community members to develop events and programming. This collaborative process ensures that the community is interested in and engaged with the programming.

Connections with libraries can benefit communities during a time when divisiveness is rampant. “Because public libraries are typically well-respected and trusted fixtures in most communities,” says Gretchen Kaser of Public Libraries Online, “they are an excellent arena to help bridge the gaps between different demographics and community organizations.” Bridging these gaps requires library professionals to be aware of their community’s needs and to engage in collaborative efforts that meet these needs and bring people together.

This kind of collaboration, in addition to strengthening communities, will also benefit libraries. “By networking with other groups,” Kaser says, “you may begin to attract a new patron base or draw in residents whose library usage has waned over the years. Such connections offer a tangible positive to your community, which in turn provides good public relations and reminds your residents why the library is still relevant. These partnerships are also likely to improve your library’s relationship with the governing body and other local organizations, a feat that can never hurt when it comes to advocacy.”

Did You Know?

Libraries can strengthen their communities’ economies. Though it is true that the free services that libraries provide do not bring in significant income, as free and open spaces, libraries serve as offices for telecommuters, provide internet and computer access to people seeking employment, and often offer classes that help patrons find work. In fact, according to the American Library Association, 73 percent of America’s public libraries help patrons complete job applications and prepare for interviews.

By helping community members achieve financial stability, a library professional can stimulate the growth of a community’s wealth and thereby strengthen its economy.

Libraries are much more than a place to check out books. They are centers of knowledge, community, and culture. With a Master of Management in Library and Information Science degree from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, students will be prepared to collaborate with local communities and build relationships that benefit everyone. Learn more about USC’s unique MMLIS program and how you can bring together effective business practices and the information sciences to build community-changing institutions.


American Libraries Magazine

Public Libraries Online (Struzziero)

Public Libraries Online (Burns)

Public Libraries Online (Kaser)

American Library Association