A Guest Post by Nicole Steele/Slover Library

While “Astronaut Training” did wonderful things for us regarding Discover NASA partnerships, there was still one vital element missing. Here in Norfolk we are across the water from NASA Langley (a drive that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on tunnel traffic!) and unfortunately we did not manage any NASA Langley representatives at “Astronaut Training.” As you many know, NASA is a large and busy operation and it was proving a little more difficult to make contact through more obvious methods like cold emailing or calling. I know that Paul and Anne would have done what they could to help facilitate contact, however, it turned out that both our Community Engagement Coordinator and our library system’s Public Relations Specialist managed surprise networking breakthroughs before it was necessary. A meeting was arranged and we met with two Outreach and Programming representatives. It was a great meeting! We discussed a number of different programming options, with ideas that spanned the course of Discover NASA and beyond. In the end we were able to partner with Langley for our Discover NASA kick-off event, they were able to share a box of goodies for us to giveaway, they are working with us to coordinate Langley representatives for our STEM Career Fair, and were even able to facilitate the loan of a ¼ scale model of the Orion Capsule.

I’m very excited about our partnership with NASA Langley and hope to see it continue long past Discover NASA. Not only has it opened up new programming opportunities, partnering with Langley has confirmed a couple of things I knew about partnerships and taught me a couple of things I didn’t:

Keep an Open Mind:
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember. The paths to our Langley partners were found in unexpected ways, through connections that didn’t seem related at first.

Cast Your Net Wide:
Don’t be afraid to throw out a bunch of ideas to a bunch of people. Yeah, maybe a lot of things will fall through, but some cool things you might not have thought of will stick.

Adapt to the Unique Needs of Your Partnership:
In our meeting with the Langley representatives we learned that they were working hard to coordinate a year of events for their upcoming 2017 Centennial. With some partnerships it is interesting and beneficial to work through program details together. However, in this case it was easy to see that though the Langley representatives were open to and eager about as many different partnership ideas as we were, they were dealing with their own significant programming demands. So, I came up with a list of five things I was hoping we could do together and sent it out to everyone after the meeting. It wasn’t a hard and fast list, but it made it easier on our Langley partners as it gave them a concrete frame work in which to operate.

A Few More Tips:
As I was working on putting together this post I asked our Community Engagement Coordinator if she had any more tips for networking. She said if you can get out there, there are plenty of events and programs you can attend in the morning and evening hours (again, don’t forget to keep an open mind and cast your net wide). If however, you are chained to a desk during most of your day, Social Media can be a great resource. She said that several times someone has mentioned a program idea to her and she has simply started looking around on Facebook and found contacts that way.

Hope these tips and tricks are helpful to you!