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Finding Partners in Your Community

When looking for partners, start with your patrons. Your best allies are the people who are most enthusiastic about your poetry programs. Enlist them in whatever way you can. Of course, every librarian dreams of the patron who will run all over town posting flyers, or produce full funding for an event via their employer. But even a small commitment to take flyers to three locations for every program you offer represents a task you can take off your list. Ask your regulars to be creative – you might be surprised at their connections.

  • Look into business leaders in your community. Can any of them be enlisted to support your programs? Perhaps they can give money directly, or perhaps they sit on the board of a local foundation. Maybe they could help by lending their name or their time – by introducing a poet, for instance or choosing a poetry book to be placed within a larger display as their recommendation. Maybe they have connections with the press, or are able to get the word out about the event to their employees. Perhaps they can leverage a reduced price ad in the paper they advertise in most, or perhaps they would even pay for an ad directly. Once they’re on board with your programming, they may come up with ways to support you that you didn’t even think of.
  • What about clergy? Like librarians, clergy people have unique access to the ears of their constituencies. Can they announce the event to their congregation? Put it in their newsletter? Can they connect you to groups within the congregation that might be able to support you?
  • What about local shopkeepers, hotel owners, and restaurateurs? Can they think of an innovative way to get the word out to their clientele? Can they offer gift certificates in lieu of honoraria? Can they offer accommodations for out of town readers? Can they sell your readers’ books in their store to promote the reading? Can they donate refreshments for the reception? As you put together your event, these kinds of non-cash donations can make all the difference.
  • What about local social service providers? The women’s shelter may not be able to donate money, but they could very well show up with a group of 10 people for your audience. Can you partner with your local community center to offer a series of poetry readings relevant to the different support groups they provide?
  • Local poetry venues may be interested in hosting a reading at your library, to help spread the word about their own programs and diversify its audiences. These venues usually have regular customers, just as the library does, many of whom will follow their favorite poets to your library.
  • Are there journals and/or small presses in your area that would be interested in hosting a reading or book launch at your library? These publishing ventures are also good sources of information about poets for other programs as well. Check the web or contact a literary organization to find out. Colleges and Universities often publish literary journals. Sometimes reading series curators put out a magazine with the work of poets they’ve featured. Look in your newspaper listings for reading series in your area. Or, check out the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses. Their member directory is searchable by region. You might be surprised at what’s being published in your neighborhood.
  • Check out the Poets and Writers website and its searchable database of published poets and writers. Find out who the published authors are in your area.
  • Do area schools, colleges and universities have student journals, English or writing programs? They also may be interested in the increased publicity for their students’ work a reading at the library will provide. With these programs your audience may include not only your already growing poetry-loving audience, but also the friends and proud parents of the students as well.
  • Make friends with the other arts groups in town. Each time you offer a cross-disciplinary event, you expose a whole new audience to poetry. If you’re fortunate enough to have a museum in your town, try getting their help to connect a reading with a visual arts exhibit with their help. The participation of the museum will draw their support in publicizing your event, and might even present a joint fundraising opportunity. The collaboration also creates a context for sharing audiences, and an opening for art lovers to embrace poetry and vice versa. If you don’t have a museum, do you have an amateur painting group or an especially active individual artist? The same principle holds true for other art forms – music, dance, theater, film – all these disciplines hold crossover possibilities.