The Municipal Liaison Guide to Libraries
NaNoWriMo and libraries are a perfect fit. Libraries are a potentially free, cozy, book-loving venue to write in. Participants don’t have to buy anything and there’s a lot of space to hold more writers than a coffee shop. This guide is intended to help you effectively forge a partnership with your local library. Keep in mind that all libraries function differently. There are many regions with supportive library staff that have immediately seen the potential in the partnership. But there are other libraries that don’t jump on board as quickly, and it can be a challenge to navigate some of the red tape and bureaucracy that can spring up. What works in one region may not work in another, but this guide should give you a good starting point.
How to initiate a NaNoWriMo partnership with your local library
Before you get in touch
- Know your region: Have statistics on hand—libraries like to hear about numbers, demographics, and other such things that will help with their bottom line. Tell them how many people you generally get at an event, the age range of your group, and be sure to focus on how enthusiastic your group is. If you have teens in your group, mention that! Libraries are often on the lookout for ways to get teenagers into the library.
- Find the right person: It might take a few phone calls to find the right person to talk to, but don’t be afraid to ask who is best able to help you. Many libraries have someone in charge of programming, room booking, or community outreach. Community outreach is your best bet, as they will be focused on building relationship with community groups.
- Get the facts on your side: The Library Outreach Guide has some great information about “what’s in it for the library.” Be very clear about the benefits to the library.
- Establish your local library’s policies: What’s their usual policy on room rental? Food in the library? Do they have a separate room for you to use? Be armed with some background information about their usual policy (often available on the website) so you know whether you’re asking for something that is an exception to their rules.
- Play to your strengths: Not a fan of the phone? Track down an email address. Prefer to handle things in person? Call and ask if your contact can spare a few minutes to meet with you. If you send an email and don’t get a response, give it a few days and follow up with a quick phone call just to make sure the email went through. Library staff get a lot of email and usually have a lot of balls in the air at a time, so be patient, but don’t just give up if you don’t hear back immediately.
- Be positive: Make sure to focus on the advantages of the partnership—there are a lot of them! Go in assuming that the library staff want to work with you, even if you’ve tried and failed to work with them in the past. Libraries are almost always underfunded and short-staffed, so try to stay positive even if you’re dealing with the stereotypical grouchy librarian. (A dying but still present breed.)
- Be patient: You may get bounced around a lot. This can be frustrating when you’re in a time crunch trying to get all your locations lined up. Keep in mind that even if you can’t get things sorted out in time for this year’s NaNo, a good relationship with your library can pay off in the future.
- Follow through: If you say you’ll call, call! With so much going on, someone unreliable will fall to the bottom of a library staff member’s priority list. If you establish yourself as someone reliable and easy to work with, you’ll be on better footing to work with the library come November.
- Ask for help: If you’d like some more pointers, don’t hesitate to ask! You can always email email@example.com for additional suggestions or moral support, and your library contact is always welcome to get in touch with us.
- Know what you want: If your library contact is hesitant, maybe try starting with just one write-in or a weekly write-in at the library. As with NaNoWriMo regions as a whole, sometimes it’s best to start small with your library partnership and build up to future expansion.
You successfully established a partnership with your library! Hooray! Keep in mind a few things as you move forward with the relationship and begin hosting your events.
- Keep them in the loop: If things change, make sure the library knows right away. Don’t flood them with information, but occasional updates as you get closer to the events are probably a good idea.
- Follow the rules: If there are some things you had to agree to in order to make the partnership happen, make sure you follow them! Also ensure your Wrimos are aware of any and all rules that they need to follow.
- Say thank you!: This might seem obvious, but (regardless of the outcome) be sure to thank them for their time, the space, and anything else they offer! A card signed by your Wrimos can be a nice touch. An appreciated library is a library that will be glad to see you back next year.
- Follow up: After you’re finished hosting all your events at the library, follow up with your contact. Send them a final summary of all your numbers, a blurb about how your events went, and reiterate how grateful you are for the partnership. Specific examples are great—tell them success stories and give them numbers for attendance. Ask when is the best time to get in touch to set up next year’s events—they may want an earlier contact in the future, and it’s great to find that out ahead of time. (And then write it down somewhere!)