Library Nonprofit Network
A Library Nonprofit Network (LNN) promotes interactive relationships between locally available services provided by nonprofit organizations, the local public library, and the local community. The purpose is to make locally available resources more accessible, and to encourage constructive relationships between the library, nonprofits, and the local community. The mechanisms for doing this are varied and include a directory listing of nonprofits, and regular social contacts between resource providers and the library.
Libraries are valued for their skills in information gathering and dissemination, and nonprofit organizations are valued for the content and services they provide: both are valued for their commitment and active concern they have for the local community. Pairing these two is both useful and practical: Libraries have the potential to make culture and services more visible, and nonprofits enable individuals to better satisfy their needs and desires.
As environments change, the library needs to go where community residents are headed. Awareness of community vulnerabilities and resource allocation could become increasingly important should social and economic conditions significantly change and people become increasingly reliant on local resources.
We could say that preparing for the future means managing the process of change as much as managing the effects of change. This means looking at process as well as program: not just thinking about what the responses to significant issues should be but also thinking about how we can prepare when we don’t yet know exactly what the future will bring.
As part of a PtPN, a directory of local resources enables the process of interaction between the library, nonprofits, and citizens, which in turn influences how resources can be better managed. All it takes is a shift in how information is managed, and for the public library, that means shifting how it understands the reference part of what they do.
Today, the reference librarian should have a new purpose: to make locally available resources more visible and develop relationships between nonprofit organizations, the public library, and the community. The position of the reference librarian should become the central go-to function for the local community, a kind of “information booth” representing not just traditional reference information but also information on resource availability within the community.
The LNN is about human relationships as much as it is about connecting resources. The process of managing these information relationships should be part of an ongoing library-to-community activity.
A community network does not end with a listing – it begins there: Libraries become familiar with the local people who make up nonprofits, nonprofits become more familiar with their library, and new insights into people’s needs and wants can emerge.
The secret ingredient of the LNN directory is interaction, which can occur by:
- Initiating contacts with local nonprofits to inform them of the directory listing
- Assisting nonprofits in attracting volunteers through displays or presentations in the library
- Enabling collaborative efforts with nonprofits, such as events and work-group meetings consisting of their invited representatives
Over time, interactions can produce unique collaborations that mix resources with people in new ways (More on this later in Work-Group Meetings). For a library, developing relationships with those who are active in the community should be as important as making resources easier to access. These interactive relationships may not be apparent at first, but may produce creative and beneficial results as time goes on.
The collective view of a community’s resources can also add to the attractiveness of a community, how a community is perceived by outsiders: A community offering a more complete view of available resources and a better connection to them, can appear more attractive to visitors and those considering moving there.
The LNN is a win-win-win situation, benefiting the library, nonprofits, and the people who are the community.