The Business of Reading: working with business on reading-related projects
Public libraries work with a range of partners to deliver reading-related activities. From Bookstart to U3A, from Health Trusts to FE colleges, libraries are building mutually beneficial relationships to support their own and others’ agendas.
Partnerships with business can bring big rewards, too and you may be fortunate enough to be approached by a local company who wants to work with you. Conversely, you may decide that your library could benefit from a relationship with a local business and consider making an approach yourself.
Partnerships with business – mutual advantages
So, what can you expect to gain from a relationship with business? It will depend, of course, on what you decide to do together, but outcomes from successful projects have included increased reader numbers, a higher profile for services, volunteers for reading-related projects, expertise to develop, for example, marketing strategies your service and, sometimes, sponsorship and/or other funding.
The advantages for a business are just as diverse. Direct sponsorship will enable the company to promote its brand, while working with you can provide an opportunity to demonstrate corporate social responsibility, via engagement in the local community. Reading can bring benefits for staff, sparking creativity and building contact at all levels and in all departments through reading groups in the workplace. The offer of lunch-time reading activity makes staff feel supported, and can provide a welcome diversion, especially for staff in call-centres and other high–pressure environments. You may be able to provide a service for the business’s customers, too.
Getting the offer right
Proposing to deliver reading activities in the workplace is an obvious place to start, but it’s only one of a number of ways in which a business may want to work with you. A small amount of research will probably reveal enough about a business to give you an idea about the right offer to make. Past concepts have included:
- Using local history resources about the company and its locality
- Trolley services for production workers – including foreign language materials and Quick Reads, depending on the make-up of the workforce
- Crèche activities
- Using company staff as volunteers- in the workplace, in the library or for outreach services
- “Readathons” for charity
- Reading activities for customers – e.g. on transport, in the pub
- Promoting your activities to add value to their business, e.g. working with estate agents on “welcome packs”, with the local press - agreeing to provide regular articles or reviews, in public places such as shopping centres.
Make sure that any proposal is clear about the benefits for your potential partner – not so much what you can do, more what they will get out of it!
Partnerships take time to develop so try to remain flexible. Don’t be discouraged if you have to change your plans and timescales. Keep records of meetings and agreements and get something more formally in writing as soon as you can. Keep the relationship alive during and after the end of the project and communicate regularly with progress reports and useful facts and figures.
It worked for them
For some examples of projects that worked, see;