California Academic & Research Libraries
Fifth Annual Conference - Breakout Session 4 - Saturday, Sept. 20, 1997

Shared Problems, Shared Solutions:
Creative Partnerships Beyond the Campus

Moderator: Rosemary Thorne, San Jose State University

Program Summary

Rosemary Thorne opened the session by noting that the speakers would address the use of community partnerships as a strategy for mutual problem-solving and specifically for obtaining state funding for new library facilities in an era of limited resources. Creative partnerships are particularly crucial, now that facilities funding is further constrained by misconceptions about the "placelessness" of digital information.

"Multitype Networks: Citizens, Students, and Scholars"
Susan Harris, Dean of Library Services, Sonoma State University

Susan Harris described an experimental partnership currently being forged between the Sonoma State University Library, the academic and public library members of the North Bay Cooperative Library System, and various segments of the local school library community. Characteristically, the experiment was initiated, not by librarians, but by the Sonoma State President and local Superintendent of Schools as the result of a casual lunch time conversation.

Sonoma State has obtained both state and substantial private philanthropic support for the new building by incorporating into the fundamental project design a commitment to serve the information needs of the local K-12 community. Cooperation will consist of the cumulative effect of a series of small projects, such as the establishment of technical high school on campus and provision of service to public school teachers. The existing public school infrastructure will be exploited to deliver information to individual school sites.

The partnership plan is politically astute, because it recognizes that library users are only a small percentage of taxpayers and that taxpayers perceive separate facilities for separate constituencies as inherently wasteful.

Harris admitted that collaboration is difficult but contends that the rewards are worth the effort.

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"Town and Gown: Collaboration between San Jose State University and San Jose Public Library" (Jane Light, Library Director, San Jose Public Library, Dr. C. James Schmidt. University Librarian, San Jose State University)

Jane Light and Jim Schmidt described the controversial new plan to build a joint public/academic library facility on the San Jose State campus, a project which has attracted considerable public attention and interest., and which promises to be the largest capital project in CSU history.

Light agreed that partnerships involve a loss of autonomy, but also that the benefits outweigh the problems, especially from the patrons' perspective. This project has great symbolic value, signifying a broader bridging of the traditional town-gown gap.

Both Light and Schmidt are convinced that it is essential that the new building integrate services and collections, as well as facilities, creating a new, different, and better whole. Schmidt pointed out that the merger is facilitated by the increasing communality of the libraries' constituencies. In their demographics, SJS students mirror city residents: they are typically adult, married with children, of highly diverse ethnicity, largely immigrant in their roots, and practically and vocationally- oriented.

The two libraries' missions are equally congenial, since both institutions serve, in their different ways, as the "People's University." The presentations concluded with a lively question-and-answer session, focusing on the fact that, in library building partnerships, "the devil is in the details." Audience and speakers speculated on such difficulties as combining Dewey and LC collections and integrating academic and public library staffs with differing pay scales and perquisites.

Recorded by:
Margaret Gordon,
UC Santa Cruz

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