Connecting with the Community: Gwen Bird on bringing together libraries and non-profit organizations


Kim Hill

By Kim Hill, Sales Manager, SAGE Publishing

Gwen Bird serves as Dean of Libraries at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. Last year, in partnership with SAGE and Mindset Social Innovation Foundation, Gwen and her team launched the Community Scholar Program, allowing local leaders of non-profit organizations access to the latest research and knowledge in their fields. The first of its kind, this pilot program bridges the gap by placing critical research regarding poverty, homelessness, education, and health care in the hands of non-profit and charitable organizations working to alleviate these social issues. It is a pleasure to share our interview with Gwen Bird, available below.

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Gwen Bird

Q: What inspired you to put the program together?

We were inspired to launch the Community Scholar Program with our partners at Mindset Social Innovation Foundation because we are interested in connecting the work of academic researchers with practitioners. We believe that leaders of non-profit and charitable organizations in our communities, who are doing critical work on social issues including poverty alleviation, homelessness, education, and health care, would benefit from access to the findings of scholars who study in these areas and offer possible solutions in their published research.

Q: Why is it important that libraries build relationships with the local community? For example, how are such relationships mutually beneficial?

At both Simon Fraser University (my home institution) and at the SFU Library, we are committed to placing our work at the intersection of education, research, and community.  We believe that the open exchange of ideas and knowledge between academics and practitioners can benefit both future research and practice. We are grateful to Sage as one of our publisher partners, and to the Mindset Social Innovation Foundation for the opportunity and inspiration to engage with our community through this pilot project.

Q: Has this program inspired other types of engagement between the community and the library?

We realize that scholarly research is generally written for an academic audience and are interested in exploring opportunities to both curate and translate this knowledge for the practitioner community — to make this research truly accessible. One such opportunity is dedicating librarian time to provide tailored research assistance to participating community scholars and non-profit organizations. We are also excited to explore how this project can lead to expanded relationships between the current partners and help forge new collaborative opportunities in the practitioner and researcher communities.

Q: Do you notice any trends regarding the research the non-profits are most interested in?

Our community scholars come from a diverse group of non-profits and charities across British Columbia, but we have noticed a trend and interest in the areas of leadership, change management, social innovation, and community development.

Q: What are some other programs or ways in which libraries can have a positive impact on its local community?

By providing access to knowledge and by facilitating collaboration and community engagement, libraries have always had a positive impact on our communities. Increasingly, libraries are also providers of space, support, and opportunities for the creation of knowledge. I am excited by the expanded role of libraries in the realm of knowledge production.

Q: What tips would you give to other librarians hoping to support local philanthropic efforts?

Be open to both traditional and non-traditional partnerships! This project is made possible through a collaborative effort by publishers, leading community organizations, and the SFU Library. It began as a result of a query from a community organization asking about how they could get access to academic research.  It would have been easy to give a quick “not possible” response, but being open to new partnerships has lead us into this very rewarding and innovative project.

The Connecting with the Community series is a collection of interviews with industry experts and forward-thinking minds on topics such as discoverability, research methods, librarianship, tips for writing and researching and the peer review process. Find out more about our Connecting with the Community series here and read past Connecting with the Community posts here.




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