Academic and school librarians: a new take on partnering

shrimp fish

Photo by Klaus Stiefel

I’ve recently seen posts on Facebook and librarian listservs from both academic and school librarians requesting fresh ideas for partnerships between the two. High school librarians and their academic counterparts seem like natural partners, creating a symbiotic relationship that could rival goby fish and shrimp.  My colleagues and I host various high school classes in our library, offering services ranging from college research readiness to use of a librarian and our resources for History Day projects.  Recently, I was invited to join a group of high school librarians and teachers for a truly unique and exciting partnership.

What do you get when you combine amazing young adult authors with 400+ secondary students and a college campus? The Cavalcade of Authors West conference: a day-long event filled with author/illustrator workshops, author panels, and autograph sessions.  It’s a BIG undertaking but this partnership promises opportunities and benefits for both the secondary and higher education institutions involved.  For example, my university has the opportunity to show off our campus and some of its resources to 400+ potential students. The participating public schools can host more students than they previously hoped by using our campus.

I was approached over the summer by a committed, enthusiastic group of four high school librarians and teachers to create a western Washington version of the already successful Cavalcade of Authors event which takes place in eastern Washington state.  Within a few years, the eastern event has grown exponentially and I encourage you to take a look at the caliber of authors who attend. Inspired by this success, our group is organizing a similar event for students on the western side of the state. Here’s a bit of how we are doing it:

  • First, the eastern event planners graciously shared their planning materials with our group. Librarians tend to be a friendly group and this is proof. I find most of us are very willing to share our materials in order to help our colleagues succeed. Lesson learned: ask for the blueprint before reinventing the wheel.
  • We started meeting twice a month in August to prepare for a May 2 event.  We identified potential speakers, drafted author request letters and forms, started our social media campaign, identified potential librarians/teachers to be contacts in participating schools, created a budget, identified potential sponsors and grants, and determined which committee member would be responsible for which pieces. Phew. Lesson learned: Start early and delegate. Ok, that’s a duh, but keep that in mind should you find yourself inspired now.
  • We cold-emailed, Tweeted, and approached at conferences YA authors about speaking at the event. We were thrilled with the responses, which came in quite quickly and mostly saying ‘yes’. I can’t reveal who is attending until the contracts come through, but it is a drool-worthy list. Lesson learned: it never hurts to ask.
  • The university was chosen as a strategic location for many reasons. The campus bookstore is able to sell  books for autograph sessions and are even willing to do a pre-event sale online so kids can purchase books ahead of time. Attendees can make use of the cafeteria, campus stores and vending machines, quad, and other perks of college life. Volunteers will be recruited from education classes, campus leadership and volunteer groups to help attendees shuttle between buildings, give tours over lunch, and generally give secondary students the scoop on college life. PLUS: we have nice small, comfy conference rooms where authors can relax during lunch, away from the event. If somethings goes wrong with technology or a room, there are staff on hand to deal issues. Lesson learned: a university is a great partner because it has so many built-in services needed for a successful event.
  • We’ve established ourselves as a 501-c3, which was quite painless thanks to the IRS EZ form! We also opened a bank account early in the process. We discovered in addition to the IRS paperwork, we had to establish ourselves as a non-profit through our state. While none of these were particularly time consuming, the wait time can be longer than expected.  Lesson learned: Sometimes the IRS makes it easy; start anything financial early because that might be the biggest pain.
  • While we’ve missed deadlines for many grants, we plan to apply for them anyway in anticipation of next year. Lesson learned: plan for the next event while planning the initial one; you WILL save time.
College life must be seen to be believed (from the LuteTimes)

College life must be seen to be believed (from the LuteTimes)

This event is WORK, but like most work it ebbs and flows hence the near year-long planning process is our saving grace.  Dividing the work up between the five committee members makes the process smoother, especially since we are each responsible for a particular area of planning. I’m most excited about showing off our campus and students to area secondary students. You can bet there will be Admissions materials in every registration packet!

I’ll update readers with more lessons learned as planning progresses and give a full report of the event. If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to email me directly at



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