It’s been over a week since I attended my alma mater’s Graduate School Alumni Day. The theme for the event was “Community and Collaboration” and brought in students from all the graduate programs–including library and information science, social work, and management. The talks focused on how collaboration in the community can help to develop meaningful positive change.
While the idea of going beyond my familiar area of expertise can sometimes be uncomfortable, I also recognize that reaching out also holds the great potential for something incredible to occur. Trying something different can both demonstrate and help to foster change in a community. I saw a presentation about the D.C Public Library’s hiring of a social worker to work with the homeless population and library staff. Alums for multiple programs (library science and social work were both strongly represented) attended, and we were invited to discuss these complicated issues in mixed groups.
While it was challenging at first to reach out across experiences and disciplines, it was exciting to be involved in the discussion. I think it can be hard to find situations like the one described, but I believe it’s important to develop those relationships because they help to highlight challenges and begin the process of finding ways to address them. While the D.C. library’s still seeing where this initiative will take them, I think the decision to try this helps place the library in the community. By being involved in the community, the library both demonstrates its worth and helps to strengthen the community.
This talk made me wonder about community collaboration from an academic library perspective. As a new librarian, I have always been impressed with the outreach academic librarians do; I have read and heard about librarians seeking partnerships with academic departments as well as the writing centers or sports departments ( the example here was help sessions for athletes). It made me ask what else we could try to integrate the library into the community fabric. How do we create forums for interdepartmental and interdisciplinary conversations? How could we utilize our spaces and knowledge to form new partnerships?
What I’m trying to say that I’m impressed with what has come out of community connections, and I would like to see further explorations. Information is such an essential part of the world, and libraries have a great potential to be right in the center of so many questions. I can’t wait to see how libraries will continue to connect in their communities!