There are many intersections between public and community college libraries, both in the populations they serve and their functions within their local communities. However, there is little guidance on how to forge partnerships between these sectors to maximize resources and better serve students and the larger community. Today, I am delighted to announce the launch of a three-year research initiative funded by ECMC Foundation to help equip the library community to develop and maximize partnerships in order to better provide resources and services holistically.

Maximizing partnerships

Working together, academic and public libraries have the potential to meet the needs of their communities in nuanced and often overlooked ways—providing technology, digital and information literacy, and access to social services to help with basic needs like food, housing, and transportation. Libraries are also uniquely positioned to support specific groups of students like student parents and caregivers through early childhood programs and low income students through support with accessing information on social services.

Through these partnerships, libraries can also maximize already constrained resources by developing shared programming. By serving students’ more holistically, these partnerships can also then leverage libraries’ ability to better serve the general public by collaborating to provide useful information about key community service offerings, college or transfer applications, and state and/or federal social services.

What’s next?

The Maximizing Public-Academic Library Partnerships project aims to better understand how formal and informal partnerships and networks between public and academic sectors operate and function, as well as the opportunities and challenges libraries face in doing this work. Our goal is to provide the library community with recommendations and tools to support student basic needs, guidance to maximize and strengthen existing connections, and build them when they do not yet exist. To that end, we will examine the following research questions:

  • What services are currently being offered to address basic needs at public and community college libraries? What kinds of information pertaining to basic needs do students seek at their public or college library?
  • What do current collaborative partnerships between public and academic libraries on basic needs, or more holistic student success, look like? What kinds of holistic and basic needs support or programming would community college students consider utilizing through their public or college library?
  • How do academic and public libraries leverage federal or state funding to support the creation and maintenance of their basic needs support services? What is the extent to which federal and state funding is currently structured to support basic student needs, and how does that vary state to state?
  • What resources/information can libraries share with each other to maximize partnerships and resources to efficiently serve student basic needs? What can these institutions learn from each other towards improving the services provided in both settings?

We look forward to sharing insights as our research develops. For more information, please contact Melissa Blankstein at