Partnering with an Institutional Library

Colorado libraries reach their communities in many ways, including partnerships with local organizations and businesses. But has your library considered partnering with one of Colorado’s state-operated institutions? The residents of the state’s correctional facilities, mental health institutes, veterans’ community living centers, and youth services centers are often those who can most benefit from the services and resources your library offers. By creating partnerships with state-operated institutions in your area, you can have an impact on this special population in your community.

Melissa Blair-O’Shaughnessy, Recreational Therapy Director, and Bob (a resident) recently reorganized the library at Fitzsimons Veterans Community Living Center.

Ideas for Partnerships

Not sure where to begin when exploring a partnership with an institution? Below are a few ideas to get you started.

Introduce your library to institutional residents

Visit an institution to offer library card sign-ups and/or fine forgiveness to residents so they are more likely to use your services when they get out.

Materials checkout and delivery

This could be personal delivery, bookmobile service, or even a branch inside the institution!


Take book discussion groups, author visits, summer reading, and other programs you already do inside institutions, or tailor special programs to institutional residents’ needs. There is a strong need for programs on financial literacy, life skills, and technology use.

Family connections

Offer video visits at your library so your patrons can virtually visit with family members who live in institutions, or help us start our new family literacy project in the Department of Corrections.

Author Simone Elkeles presented at Platte Valley Youth Services on July 14, 2017, in partnership with Loveland Public Library.

Some things to keep in mind

Partnering with a state-operated institution poses some unique challenges that you might not have encountered before, especially regarding safety and security. Don’t let these concerns discourage you—the rewards from working with institutional populations will probably surprise you.

Getting started

Ask to speak directly with library staff or activities directors in institutions that you are interested in partnering with.


Safety is the top concern in most state-operated institutions. You will likely need advance permission to enter the building and prior approval for materials you want to bring in.

Personal safety

You may need to take special care in an institution, but it’s not as scary as what you might see on TV or movies. Trained staff will keep you safe, and you may have an opportunity to attend training for volunteers.

The rewards

Those in institutions are often the most grateful patrons you can hope to meet. Volunteers who bring programs to institutions are regularly impressed by the intense interest and creativity shown by participants. You may find that serving them is your new passion!

Offenders in YOS Pueblo participated in the #LoveMyCOLibrary photo campaign by creating a flag-themed display with the reasons they love their library.

Connect with Institutional Library Development

Do you already have a partnership in place with an institution? Or maybe you have a partnership idea but don’t know where to begin? The Institutional Library Development (ILD) team at the Colorado State Library would love to hear about your ideas and successes—drop them a line at You can also visit the Institutional Library Development page for more information about ILD’s programs and services.

Visit ILD at CALCON17

The ILD team will be running the Colorado State Library booth at the Colorado Association of Libraries Conference (CALCON17) in Loveland, October 12-14. Stop by and say hi!

Bonus! CALCON Photo Contest

While you’re at CALCON17, enter the Colorado State Library’s photo contest for a chance to win a free registration to next year’s CALCON 2018.

To enter:

  1. Stop by the Colorado State Library’s booth to pick up a sticker for your conference water bottle.
  2. Take a selfie with your water bottle and sticker, PLUS State Librarian Gene Hainer somewhere in the photo.
  3. Upload your pic to Twitter with the hashtags #COCALCON17 and #WheresGene.
  4. The winner will be randomly selected from all entries.
Amy Hitchner
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