Collaborating with Strangers: Facilitating Workshops in Libraries, Classes, and Nonprofits

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors
  • Reviews

”This book offers a fresh new set of strategies for engaging communities of people in dialogue. It offers a clear description of the concept of CoLAB, then it lives up to its billing as a how-to guide by clearly laying out the steps needed to run one of these dynamic meetings. This is a must-have resource for anyone who wants to engage communities in collaborative action. Very timely and much needed. Congratulations to the writing team for producing such a valuable resource."
— Ingrid Bens, author of Facilitating With Ease!

Interaction with strangers cultivates creativity and provides opportunities for joining forces to achieve great ends. However most people tend to avoid talking or working with people they do not know, whether in the library, a classroom, or in academic and nonprofit settings. And to do so is to short-circuit much of the creative potential that is so necessary for innovation, and that organizational stakeholders crave. Enter CoLAB. Developed and presented by de Farber at workshops across the country, and used by the authors to successfully spur collaboration at the University of Florida (including faculty-librarian, librarian-librarian, librarian-student, faculty-faculty, student-student, and student-librarian-community member), it showcases the power of face-to-face conversations. Leading readers through a unique framework that breaks down barriers to collaboration while also kindling long-lasting enthusiasm, this manual includes

  • testimonials from workshop participants that demonstrate the benefits of a Collaborating with Strangers workshop;
  • step by step guidance on every aspect of organizing and presenting a CoLAB workshop;
  • helpful photographs and diagrams that show prep and workshops in action;
  • ready to use surveys for assessment before and after the workshop;
  • grant proposal development techniques for bringing two or more organizations together on a project;
  • pointers on how to adapt the workshop for ice-breakers, conference programs, or classrooms; and
  • samples of workshop promotion pieces that can be adapted as needed.

Libraries have always connected patrons to resources and information; this resource shows how, through successful group collaboration, organizations can extend that connection to include the talents and assets of community members.


Chapter 1    The Importance of Strangers and Face-to-Face Conversations


  • Deliberately Connecting with Strangers
  • The Coffeehouse Effect
  • Notes

Chapter 2    Introduction to CoLAB Workshops



  • What Is a CoLAB Workshop?
  • What Happens during CoLAB Workshops?
  • Origin and History of CoLAB Workshops
  • Strategies for Designing Effective Profile-Signs
  • Basic Principles and Conditions That Yield the Best Results
  • Why Libraries and Library Employees Are Ideal Conveners and Facilitators
  • Notes

Chapter 3    CoLAB Workshop Assessments, Results, and Participant Stories



  • Preworkshop Surveys
  • Profile-Signs
  • Observations during a Workshop
  • Idea Boards
  • Idea Tables
  • Postworkshop Surveys
  • Follow-Up Interviews
  • Anecdotal Stories
  • Notes

Chapter 4    Step-by-Step Instructions for Conducting CoLAB Workshops



  • Scenario 1: On-Campus Space (Not in a Library) CoLAB Workshop
  • Scenario 2: On-Campus Library CoLAB Workshop
  • Scenario 3: Classroom CoLAB Workshop
  • Scenario 4: Community CoLAB Workshop in a Public Library

Chapter 5    Variations on CoLAB Workshop Activities



  • Icebreakers
  • Conference Sessions
  • Classroom Settings
  • Nonprofit Organization Representatives Working in a Common Geographical Area
  • Topic-Based Sessions
  • Grant Proposal Development Incentives
  • Match-Making for Dissimilar Disciplinary Groups or Participants with Different Types of Expertise

Chapter 6    Seeking Sponsors for CoLAB Workshops



  • Step 1: Determine What Type of Support Is Needed
  • Step 2: Search for a Sponsor
  • Step 3: Prepare a Grant or Sponsorship Proposal
  • Step 4: Add CoLAB Workshops to Enhance Other Proposed Grant Projects
  • Notes

Chapter 7    Promotional Strategies for CoLAB Workshops



  • Designing Promotional Materials
  • Pushing Out the Promotional Materials
  • Designing a Dedicated CoLAB Workshop Website
  • Postworkshop Online Follow-Up

Chapter 8    Tips and Lessons Learned for Presenting Successful CoLAB Workshops



  • Recommendations and Best Practices
  • Envisioning the Future

About the Authors


Bess G. de Farber

Bess G. de Farber is the grants manager for the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida and previously held the same position at the University of Arizona Libraries. She has provided grantsmanship instruction to hundreds of library staff members, nonprofit and academic professionals, artists, and university students over the past 30 years and has led efforts to secure millions in grant funding for individual artists and scholars, nonprofits, and academic libraries. She is the author of Collaborative Grant-Seeking: A Practical Guide for Librarians (2016) and Creating Fundable Grant Proposals: Profiles of Innovative Partnerships (2021), and the coauthor of Collaborating with Strangers: Facilitating Workshops in Libraries, Classes, and Nonprofits (2017).

April Hines

April Hines is the journalism and mass communications librarian for the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries. Her research areas include inquiry-based information literacy instruction, face-to-face facilitative processes, library marketing and outreach, and social media engagement. She has presented and published on such topics as academic librarians and personal branding, using ethnic newspapers to reach underserved communities, and developing a library student ambassador program. She has participated on several grant projects and leads the Collaborating with Strangers In and Outside Mass Communications project sponsored by Procter & Gamble.

Barbara J. Hood

Barbara J. Hood is the director of communications for the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries. She promotes the libraries for academic, library, and general public communities at local, state, national, and international levels. She has coordinated and photographed many hundreds of library events for donors, the campus, and the local community. She has participated on several grant-awarded project teams, most notably the Institute for Museum and Library Services' National Leadership Grants project "The Panama Canal-Preserving a Legacy, Celebrating a Centennial, Leveraging an Extraordinary Human Achievement."

”We all do it. If one works in a library, one goes to workshops. Often, librarians plan them, present them, or have input into the organization of the event ... This is a highly useful tool that, employed thoughtfully, will engender great workshops."
— Catholic Library World

"The premise of this book is that talking to strangers should be less frightening and more rewarding than it often is ... CoLAB has great potential for fostering community and individual connections and long-lasting partnerships."
— Reference & User Services Quarterly

”An impressively organized and presented resource."
— Library Bookwatch

"Collaboration matters and through this well-defined guide, professionals will expand their efforts and potential by charting unknown territory ... The information here is applicable to a broad range of workshop settings (class, conference, geographical proximity, topic based) where creating a participatory atmosphere is key. Recommended."