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Programs and Partnerships – Form Follows Function

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA

Innovation Summary

CLP created an Office of Programs and Partnerships to coordinate how we respond to the community’s needs in every aspect of library service, including the use of volunteers, focused work for professional staff, and engagement of front line staff and management across the system to penetrate deeply into every neighborhood.

Problem Statement

Throughout 2012, the community, library staff, board, customers, and our partners participated in a planning process to develop a new strategic plan for CLP. In order to fulfill the vision of our strategic plan, we need to provide a full range of high-caliber literacy and learning opportunities across all ages and neighborhoods. Historically, CLP has spent an enormous amount of institutional energy and resources in programming for all ages. Each year across the Library system, we host nearly 8,000 programs, drawing families with newborn babies all the way to senior citizens from every neighborhood of Pittsburgh and parts of Allegheny County and the surrounding region. In addition to those on-site library programs, we reach out into the community with programs and services, conducting almost 5,000 off-site programs that attract more than 110,000 of our residents. Those programs and partnerships were traditionally coordinated loosely by a handful of middle managers with little system-wide agreement on how to plan, execute and evaluate the work involved in conducting these myriad programs offered throughout the year. From Summer Reading to holiday celebrations to long-standing and fulfilling partnerships with schools, cultural institutions and other organizations, we have grown organically into successful developers of programs and partnerships, but our practices required a more strategic approach.


After a national search, we hired an Assistant Director for Programs and Partnerships to lead the new department. The new Office of Programs and Partnerships is built from 16 staff members assigned to five separate work groups which had been stationed in a variety of locations, mostly within CLP’s Main Library, but working widely throughout the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. It now operates in a previously unfinished space on the second floor of one of the CLP branch libraries. By the fall of 2013, the new team began working in their new space, which was designed using an open-plan office arrangement to encourage creativity and collaboration. The space includes a variety of areas for small group work and serendipitous meetings, integrated technologies, a flexible meeting room which is serving our partners as well as our practitioners, and includes space for storage of materials and equipment and technology to efficiently support our outreach programs for all ages. The Coordinators of Children’s Services, Teen Services, Volunteer Services, Community Engagement and CLP-LYNCS (Library in your Neighborhood, Community and Schools) make up the management team of the new department and they work system-wide under the direction of the Assistant Director to coordinate those functions through front-line staff in all the Library’s locations as well as through their own teams of outreach specialists and volunteers. As the new team develops under new leadership, we are already seeing better communication, a deeper understanding of the needs within our service areas, and more creative and coordinated responses to those community needs.


  • The creation of an infrastructure that supports the Library in its role as a convener of conversations on important community issues through formal and informal partnerships that align the Library’s expertise and services with the needs and resources of the community.
  • The development and implementation of experimental models for delivering library services, including partnerships with aligned organizations, which expand the Library’s footprint in underserved neighborhoods.
  • Better leverage of community input and engagement to ensure that more people are connected to the Library and have access to a continuum of quality programs.
  • The development of evaluation methods that will allow the Library to understand the needs of residents citywide, with specific emphasis on needs of neighborhoods and special populations, and to match those needs with impactful learning programs.
  • The development of key partnerships and collaborative programs to ensure the success of young people, support of educational attainment, career exploration and life skills development.