Periodically, our department identifies other organizations that we believe would be good partners for the library. We then begin an interaction. Here is how it usually goes:
Us: We think you'd be a great partner. Want to help us with this project we're doing?
Them: Uh, I guess so.
[Minimal help is given] or [they stop returning our phone calls]
End of interaction.
A couple of weeks ago, the county's department of youth services contacted us about starting a partnership. Here's how the interaction went:
Them: We think you'd be a great partner. I noticed you have a project going on. I've thought of some ways to help. What do you think?
Us: Yeah, that would be great!
[help is given]
Them: Okay, here are some ways we can work our goals into your project. What do you think?
Us: Okay, sure!
Them: We have some other projects going on.
Us: Maybe we can help you!
See how much better that is? And it's all because they came to that first meeting saying "Here is how I can help you" instead of "Here is how you can help me."
Here are my takeaways:
1. Prepare. Be aware of current projects within your partner organization and take some time to think about how the library could support or enhance them.
2. Come prepared to give more than you take. Invest some time at the beginning of the partnership, and it will pay off later.
3. Bring your strengths to the table. By offering help, you're basically giving yourself a chance to demonstrate what you do well, thereby demonstrating your value as a collaborator.