Loading…

LET'S TALK LIBRARIES

A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

How To: Host Community Experts in the Library

Last week on the OLSLIB listserv, a question went out regarding bringing community experts into the library; I thought the ensuing exchange of information was valuable, and I have the contributors’ permission to share here.


The Question

We are working on building clear processes and procedures for the use of community experts in some of our adult programs. We are interested in hearing from any libraries that may have experience with using community experts in programs. In particular we would like to know:

  • How are you sourcing your community experts?
  • Are you asking for references?
  • Are you requiring library staff to be present in these programs?
  • Is there any remuneration involved?
  • Any other considerations you take into account when booking a community member to deliver or facilitate a program at your library?

Thanks very much for any information provided.

Replies

The first reply came from Lindsay Stephens, Community Outreach / Inreach Coordinator & Library Assistant at Haldimand County Public Library:

Front of line staff have had some requests over the years from community members who want to initiate programs. We designed a program proposal form for community members; a copy is attached. The form is made available at the circulation asks as well as on our website. The form was developed using direction from our program policy.

After we receive this completed form and any supplementary documentation from the community member, I work with the information provided to see if the program aligns with our mission, if there are time and resources etc. If the program is applicable, I take the proposal to management to discuss further its feasibility. Using the form allows us a process to decline requests if the individual does not have ample credentials, the suggestion do not fit into our mission, policies or resource allocations. It also acts as a starting point for program planning and a way to track community proposals for programs.

As for your direct questions:

  • How are you sourcing your community experts?

I often source community experts from outreach events and networking both outside and inside the library walls. Staff are encouraged to share the form with patrons who suggest program ideas or are experts in specific areas.

  • Are you asking for references?

Yes. Credentials are important to ensure the program will be worthwhile to patrons and individuals have the knowledge to present on the material suggested.

  • Are you requiring library staff to be present in these programs?

Yes. Mainly the library staff members role is custodial, in setting up/taking down furniture or tech necessary. A library staff members presence also ensures the community member is staying within the parameters set within our policy, such as no solicitation.

  • Is there any remuneration involved?

Generally speaking, no. Often community members will offer programs/workshops pro bono. Although we do offer a small gift of thanks, usually a library book bag.

  • Any other considerations you take into account when booking a community member to deliver or facilitate a program at your library?

See the wording on our program proposal form.

The next reply came from Mary Baxter, Director of Library Services/CEO at Georgina Public Libraries.

Here is our programming policy. I think it touches on most of your questions. We either search experts out on a topic we want to present, or folks approach us & we verify their credentials (by asking them).

More advice came in from Cathy Turrie, at Wasaga Beach Public Library.

Our program is called community connection. It is open for business owners and professional / certified experts in our community to provide lifelong learning experiences to our community. They teach people about specific subject, task, or service in which they are trained. Tasks should be directly usable to the public – helpful things to apply in everyday life. 

They have one hour to share a basic demonstration with easy to follow how-to instructions. The program lesson is promoted not the business. The program purpose is not to solicit business or sell products in any way. The library will not add logos or business contact info. The program connects expert information to the community. Each expert representing a business may present once a year. 

  • How are you sourcing your community experts? Chamber and business links.
  • Are you asking for references? No, but the business are registered.
  • Are you requiring library staff to be present in these programs? Yes.
  • Is there any remuneration involved? No, free for all. We promote and register attendees, the room rental is waived as it’s a library program.
  • Any other considerations you take into account when booking a community member to deliver or facilitate a program at your library? They must be able to have a topic related to lifelong learning (something many people can benefit from and find useful).

Hope that helps. 


If you have follow up questions, reach out in the comments and we’ll keep the conversation going.