How do we expand our reach in libraries in a way that can truly change lives? On this show I speak with Cheryl Heywood, Director of the Timberland Regional Library in Washington State, about partnering for impact. This topic is a special request from a listener. If you would like to recommend speakers for our show we invite you to do so by emailing us at: LibraryLeadershipPodcast@gmail.com. Enjoy the show!
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This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession.
How do we expand our reach in libraries in a way that can truly change lives? On this show I speak with Cheryl Heywood, Director of the Timberland Regional Library in Washington State, about partnering for impact. It’s a special request from a listener, and I can’t wait to get to this topic. Let’s jump right in. Enjoy the show!
Cheryl, welcome to the show. Thank you for talking with me today about partnering for impact. First of all as we start, we want to give a big shout-out to our listener, Gretchen, from Missouri. She reached out to the show and suggested we talk to Cheryl, saying that she wanted to hear about how Cheryl’s library has helped people be successful in beginning businesses, and having included resources for agriculture, farming, and art. So, thank you for the suggestion, Gretchen.
Cheryl, when I contacted you and asked you about this topic you mentioned that this came about as part of a partnership, and how much your organization has been able to change lives through partnerships.
Question #1: First of all, can you share with me about the program Gretchen is referring to in support of small enterprise? 01:51
Sure, I’d be happy to. Enterprise for Equity is a nonprofit that helps people with limited income in the South Sound region where Timberland Regional Library is located, to have access to training, support, and funds to develop their own small businesses. Enterprise for Equity grows entrepreneurs. Timberland Regional Library has been partnering with Enterprise for Equity since the early 2000’s when Executive Director, Lisa Smith approached me when I was the library manager of the Olympia Timberland Library.
We provided students a three hour, in-depth reference training using ReferenceUSA, ProQuest, Business Plans Handbook, and all sorts of other types of information. Over the years the training was added to include farmers and artists. And when surveyed, students would say, Getting a library card, and learning about the library’s resources, was the highlight of their training.
Enterprise for Equity just celebrated twenty years last fall. They have interviews of their entrepreneurs and of myself, and you can find it on youtube. Enterprise for Equity also provides financial literacy training to the public. And, they’ve provided this service in the past at multiple libraries, in Timberland Regional Libraries.
Question #2: So, that was called Enterprise for Equity. And, it was definitely a successful program that changed lives. What should libraries think about when they’re considering starting partnerships? And, how do we get involved with other organizations to do this? 03:18
Let me first explain that Timberland Regional Library is a five county public library district with fantastic staff. We’re about 255 staff, who serve over 520,000 residents at twenty-seven libraries and, you know, it’s the local library managers who determine their local partners in the five counties we serve.
As a district though, as an entire system—we look at aligning partnerships with our strategic plan. Here’s a quick example—back in 2013, when we started working on the plan, we asked for input from community stakeholders, and residents, and staff. And, the number one priority then was jobs, jobs, jobs.
Now, we’ve been providing resume help, and cover letter help, and assistance for five decades. However, not everybody knew that we were providing that. It was around that time that I learned a lot about the local Workforce Council. They oversee WorkSource, and they also serve the same five county region we do. It took a couple years for me to get appointed to that board. Then I led what’s called the OneStop Committee. From there, Timberland Regional Library’s twenty-seven libraries became part of the WorkSource system as connection sites, in the summer of 2019.
It’s really important to think about, you know, your geographic location, your strategic plan, your local needs. You need to identify organizations, and local boards, and government agencies, and councils, and nonprofit councils, and organizations. And, you need to demonstrate that you want to partner in unique and inventive ways. Then over time, as people see how creative you are, other entities will come to you, which is a lot of fun, too.
Question #3: And, I know you’ve entered partnerships by first trying out pilot programs. Can you tell me how that works, and any advice you might offer to others considering this way of dipping their toe into the partnership waters? 05:23
Yes, we do—depending on the complexity of the project, we will do a pilot. And, we did one with what we call the Veteran Connection Cafe, which came about from a veteran who worked for the WestCare Foundation. It’s a national nonprofit. They wanted to partner with a government entity in the rural parts of Washington State, specifically one of our counties.
He contacted the local library manager, and then she contacted me. Then we began work on this program. This program provides veterans and their families with convenient, reliable access to professional services, benefits, and assistance through a partnership with Timberland Regional Library and WestCare, and something called WashingtonServes—which is at the state level, a couple of local American Legion posts, and Home Depot. They’re offering telemedicine and telehealth. We’re looking at expanding that pilot in the months to come.
The value of these awards will have surpassed—they did surpass over the quarter of a million dollar mark last November—November of 2020. That’s money coming to people who need it, and it’s getting them out of poverty. It’s been very, very successful.
Advice is to obviously have very clear expectations, and goals, and objectives, and a timeline, a document that you and your partner can refer to—what you’ve learned along the way. Communication is key to make sure that any kind of agreement you enter into is reviewed legally. Insurance, of course, is also important. You’ve got to work closely with your insurance company, your legal team, and obviously your board. And then, of course, a lot of instruction with staff, and also with the public, and marketing the program with the public.
The Veteran Connection Cafe has been an incredible pilot, and we’re very, very, proud to be part of the partnership with the WestCare Foundation.
Question #4: And on a broad scale, you’ve engaged Timberland Regional Library in a partnership called WorkSource Connection, did you want to talk about that one? 07:50
As I was saying, WorkSource is where the connection sites are in the WorkSource system. As the CEO of the WorkForce Development Council, Cheryl Fambles has said, Timberland Regional Library’s twenty-seven libraries are the bricks and the clicks, so to speak. The physical location offers computer access to the half a million residents we serve.
We trained our staff to connect our residents, both the job seeker, and the small business owner to resources in the WorkSource system, and there are so many in the Work Source system. Then WorkSource staff have also connected with knowing more about Timberland Regional Library’s resources. Then providing that knowledge with their clients. Further, we have WorkSource staff going to some of our libraries on a regular basis to connect with people to help them find jobs and get the training they need.
The WorkSource system in this five county region has at least eighteen to twenty partners. At the local level, and the regional level—and by region, I mean, the five counties we serve. And then of course, at the state level with the Department of Social, Health, and Services, and the department of Voc Rehab, and Good Will, there’s so many wonderful partners that provide support to people. It’s an incredible network.
Question #5: And, the partnerships don’t stop there. Can you briefly mention the variety of other ventures that have helped you change lives in your communities? 09:33
Yes, I’d be happy to. For more than ten years we’ve had a partnership with the local museum called the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia, Washington. Prior to the pandemic, we would give out a limited number of museum passes that would be available at all of the twenty-seven libraries for people who cannot afford to go to the museum. This was a really great way for people to get there.
Since the pandemic, or course, we cannot give out the museum passes. Last December of 2020, they received a lot of money from businesses in our five counties. Primarily funded by the WSECU, which is a large credit union here, and then Nisqually Tribe, was another donor, and a lot of other businesses. They provided free activity kits. And to date, we have dispersed over 2500 of these kits. That’s an example of a partnership that started off in one way and then went another with the pandemic.
We also are a partner with the Capital Region STEM Network in the five counties we serve. It was established in 2017 to organize schools, and businesses, and community organizations to enhance career readiness around STEM. We do a lot of work with them.
Then, we’ve also had very unique partnerships with the local transit agencies. I’ll just briefly say again, partnerships change over time. We had one with Intercity Transit in Thurston County. At the beginning of 2020, they voted to no longer have people pay for their fares. We didn’t have to sell their bus passes anymore, right? Now we are giving out—we did books that are still in good condition in boxes that are placed in their buses. That’s an example of how your partnership relationship can change over time.
We also partner with the state library, Washington State Library, issuing public library cards for reentry into society for formerly incarcerated people. And, that we’ve been doing now for a couple of years.
We love partnerships. We have very unique partnerships. We’re very lucky that there are partners in the five county region that serve the same five county region, or serve multiple counties, like maybe two, or three, or four. It really lends itself to large-scale partnering and impact.
Question #6: Absolutely. So much positive impact, Cheryl, I’m really impressed. Anything else you would like to share? 12:18
We all know that, you know, you need to know your community really, really well. You need to know the organization. And, that can change over time. You need to know, like I’ve been saying, that partnerships will evolve. And, you need to be open to that. And, be open to how the partnership changes to meet the needs of the people you’re serving.
And of course, to really get to know what the aspirations are of your library card holders, your residents, your community leaders. And, you know, today I’ve only glossed over and talked about the major partnerships we have. We have a lot of others. You can always go to TRL.org and find out more there. You can always—we’re on social media with twenty-seven libraries and fantastic staff. So, there’s a lot more that we can be sharing with you.
Question #7: Thank you. Do you have a favorite management, or leadership book, and why? 13:18
I just read a really good one, it’s called, The Buddha, and the Badass: The Secret Spiritual Art of Succeeding at Work, and it’s by Vishen Lakhiani. And, I love it because he really addresses—it’s like a template for your personal, and worklife. And, about really honing in on what are your personal values, and your organizational values. And then, looking at bringing a level of—working at this level of bliss, and ease, and inspiration, and abundance. It’s just a really great primer on getting to that place where you’re in the flow. It’s a great book, and it’s a lot of fun to read. It’s a really quick read.
Question #8: And, what a great title, that’s a fun one. In closing, what do libraries mean to you, personally? 14:15
You know, I love this question. It brings out my inner five-year-old. I get very emotional when people like yourself ask me that because I grew up in the first twenty-two years of my life without a public library. And so for me, libraries, specifically, public libraries—they provide a place, and a place of energy. Just think of all the books, and all the ideas, you know? I mean, there’s like, obviously there’s the DVD’s, and the magazines, and everything else that public libraries now have to offer. It’s a place where your imagination can soar.
That’s what it means to me. It’s like, you can become anything you want to become. You can achieve. You can explore. You’re adding so much quality to your life. And so, you know, life is all about becoming. And it’s a life-long journey. For me, libraries are part of that journey and part of my personal journey. That to me is what libraries mean.
Oh, that’s absolutely marvelous, Cheryl. Thank you so much for being on this show today and talking about partnering for impact. You’re doing amazing things in your organization, and benefiting your communities on a broad scale. So, this is incredibly useful information for all of us. And, I really appreciate you being here.
You’re very welcome, glad to be here.
You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.
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