November 19, 2017

Border Crossing: An inter-city initiative extends impact | Editorial

Rebecca T. MillerAn inspirational level of collaboration has been undertaken between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed at the end of 2014 has set in motion deeper cross-cultural collaborations and opened opportunities to expand efforts already under way between these sister cities divided by one of the busiest international borders in the world.

This high-level agreement between San Diego mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and Tijuana mayor Jorge Astiazarán embraces the potential connections and creates a framework for major local departments—including, but not limited to, libraries—to use as they pursue common goals. The San Diego Public Library (SDPL) is part of this initiative, and the work has already begun.

In every setting, library work requires more and more strategic thinking about partnerships, followed by action. If the institutions in these two municipalities can reach across the inherent barriers involved in spanning an international border, we all should be able to find a way to create more porous silos—if we can’t just get rid of them altogether.

Luckily, SDPL is in an excellent position to step up to the higher ambitions of the two cities’ MOU. In May, I had the pleasure of meeting Misty Jones, SDPL’s new director, when I was in town for LJ’s Design Institute event, held in the library’s stunning new central building. For the library, the MOU means formalized relations with the Instituto Municipal de Arte y Cultura (IMAC), which operates Tijuana’s museums and other cultural institutions as well as libraries. So far, according to Jones, representatives from both institutions have met twice to discuss potential collaborations, start planning events, and share best practices. Initial results include SDPL hosting two authors as part of Tijuana’s book festival and a heightened emphasis on Tijuana’s anniversary in SDPL’s branches in July. The MOU also helps build on work already in progress, such as San Diego’s One Book program, which this year, for the first time, will extend to the city’s neighbors beyond the border.

“One project that was in the works before the signing of the MOU but will be stronger now is the expansion of One Book One San Diego into Tijuana and Baja, CA,” says Jones. The “One Book sin Fronteras” program is a partnership among regional libraries, universities, and schools. It’s appropriate and exciting that the first book chosen under this expanded model is Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s international best seller The Shadow of the Wind (La sombra del viento) (Penguin). Spanish and English versions will be available, and Ruiz Zafón will participate in events in both countries.

“This expansion was made possible because of the [Seguimos] Creando Enlaces conference we have hosted for the past three years,” notes Jones. The title loosely translates to “we continue creating connections”—appropriate for a meeting that has been convening shared learning between librarians from the United States and Mexico for four years. That groundwork is powerful underpinning for the work ahead, and the momentum is exciting for library users in both communities.

“We have discussed at length with our colleagues at IMAC how we can help one another create a strong binational, cross-border library alliance. We are starting by helping them reach out to their communities and get them involved in libraries. We are planning a visit soon to talk to their library workers and visit each branch. We are also discussing how we can set up trainings and perhaps establish some type of consortium,” Jones explains. “Libraries are not widely used in Mexico, and it really impresses me to see their passion and dedication to changing this and making libraries a vital part of the community in Tijuana.”

No doubt the exchange will be a robust one, now supported at the highest levels of city government. We have seen the power of partnership formalized at the very top through MOUs—the groundbreaking collaboration between schools and the library in Nashville via the Limitless Libraries project is one example that springs to mind. When partnership is part of the city leadership’s vision, and formally articulated, it spurs the power of our public institutions. Understandings like these have the potential to speed the scaling of key initiatives, and it will be exciting to see what it comes to mean for the people of both San Diego and Tijuana.

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This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (miller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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