November 22, 2017

The Lessons of Collaboration: Academic Libraries and Public Broadcasting

By Lynn Blumenstein

IMLS report documents community projects like Water Wise Utah

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  • Projects strengthen partnership skills
  • Utah addresses drought awareness
  • Michigan fosters civil rights legacy

A partnership between the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has been responsible for funding community collaborations with the aim of "cultivating the art of partnership." 

Twenty projects involving libraries, museums, and public television and radio broadcasters were funded between 2005 and 2006, which are profiled in a new publication, "Partnership for a Nation of Learners: Joining Forces, Creating Value." Among the community collaboration projects are two including academic libraries.

Participants learned valuable lessons about partnerships. The community need should be assessed first. It’s important for partners to to take the time to get to know each other, to remain flexible, and to communicate. 

Utah’s Water Wise project

The Utah Education Network (UEN) along with the KUED-TV, KUER Radio, the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, and the Utah Museum of Natural History partnered to create a "water awareness campaign" addressing the state’s seven-year drought. 

Five communities were the targets of the Water Wise Utah campaign to encourage water conservation, which included a travelling exhibit, more than a dozen TV documentaries, and enhancement of a fourth-grade school curriculum that covers the water cycle.

The Marriott Library added a Water Wise Utah section to its Western Waters Digital Library Collection and continues to work with UEN on several projects, including the Water Wise Utah web site. The site, launched in 2007, was the first time that all of Utah’s water resources were presented in one place online.

In terms of lessons learned, partners acknowledge they faced a major challenge in adjusting to their partners’ different cultures.The issue of water conservation also proved to be more controversial than expected. "We played a really important neutral role that allowed those groups to still contribute and share, but it took the heat out of it,” said Laura Hunter of UEN-TV.

Michigan’s civil rights legacy
The MATRIX Center for Humane Arts, Letters & Social Sciences Online at Michigan State University, together with Detroit Public Television and the Michigan Historical Center, worked together to create From Resistance to Rights: An Audiovisual Resource on Michigan’s Civil Rights Legacy as a way to boost social studies high school test scores.

The state’s civil rights history records weren’t centrally located, but scattered across 12 government departments. The search for material has led to the archives at the University of Michigan Library , the historical collection at the Detroit Public Library, and the special collections at Wayne State University .

The project participants are assembling archival public TV programs and linking metadata with excerpts of legal documents, narrative, and images to address the state’s civil rights history. The work in progress can be seen at here.

The process of tracking down and preparing resources proved to be more time consuming than expected. Also, project participants learned that they should have asked for teachers’ input earlier in the process, as they have provided invaluable insights.

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