Libraries are a very trusted source of information and at the same time they are at the heart of the community, connecting people. As we’ve mentioned in our first article, partnerships with other public institutions and private organizations represent a great way to create a community space. But there is also the possibility to create partnerships with other libraries and offer a more attractive service to users. In this post, we will walk you through two ways libraries can collaborate and attract more visitors.

1. Collaborate with other libraries from the region and offer a combined library service

Sharing information and knowledge is a core objective of a library but often the users want access to all kinds of resources that the library might not have the possibility to offer. So why not bring together the services from two or more municipalities?

It can have various benefits for the users and the local government as well, such as the access to a bigger number of book collections or digital resources, the shared knowledge and lots of money saved by purchasing the resources together. There are also a few challenges when planning to collaborate with other libraries, such as the different library systems used, the different services implemented or the diverse ways to act and gather information. To overcome these, libraries must cooperate and set together a coherent strategy with common goals.

Collaborate with other libraries from the region and attract more users

What library to choose to collaborate with?

Usually, libraries in the same area find it easy to collaborate. Ian Anstice creator of the Public Libraries News website shares 29 examples of British public libraries working together. For example, LibrariesWest is a consortium of seven public library services in the South West of England that serves a resident population of more than 2.1 million people.

The residents can use their membership card in any one of the libraries to borrow, return, renew and reserve items and access a joint catalogue of around 2.5 million items. According to LibrariesWest website, the partnership started out with a relatively narrow focus only sharing the LMS and the Bibliographical Services Unit, but it is now a more far-reaching collaboration with a common mission, working in other areas such as staff training and marketing communications. By sharing of staff and other resources, it provides better value for money and financial savings. Read more about this case here.

2. Collaborate with all the libraries in the country and offer the same system nationwide

Most people still prefer reading printed books, but they also want access to various databases and now more than ever before they are on a constant move and want access to information from everywhere.

So why not pool the country’s materials to offer the broadest possible library service nationwide? This way, all the library’s printed and digital book collections from every local municipality across the country would be combined and the patrons would have access to all the country’s resources from one place and one library card. Interesting, right?

Collaborate with all the libraries in the country and attract more users

How to create a national strategy?

Ireland already started implementing such a strategy back in 2014, so let’s take this as an example. This service is an initiative that was started by Libraries Ireland group and is managed by the Public Library Authorities. The initiative is part of the Public Libraries Strategy 2013-2017 and its main objective is to enable users of each county library service to use the services of the other counties. This means shared technology, organization structures and procurement for all the libraries in Ireland. For this, the government contracted a single library management system provider and they set an objective that by 2017, all libraries join the program and move to the new system, uniting their resources under the same mission.

There are many benefits when implementing this kind of strategy, such as one single national membership card for access to all public libraries, national access to the digital library, a national database of resources and the possibility to return the books to any branch in the country. Lots of benefits along with an innovative service, right? Certainly, trying to connect all libraries in a country is also a complex endeavor with many implications and challenges and it entails a strong cooperation from each library – so it’s a big commitment.

To learn more about the opportunities and challenges libraries can face when collaborating, we’ve talked with Ian Anstice, the well-known writer of Public Libraries News website. Stay tuned for our blog post next week and get more insights on different ways to attract more users to the library. Find us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our blog to receive new library insights directly to your e-mail.

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