National Librarian of the Year Speaks on the Power of Transformative Partnerships with Businesses



It was a paradigm shift. In the past libraries were primarily about books. Today libraries serve an amazingly wide range of learning and information needs. They run from computer training to early literacy, from job search assistance and teaching English to yoga classes, from preschool story time to healthy cooking classes, from exploring travel adventures to how to handle personal taxes, and much more.

Libraries now serve the needs of all ages, abilities, economic, civic and cultural backgrounds, and across language groups.

Recruiting a Visionary to Philadelphia

Siobhan Reardon, the nationally-recognized, visionary leader and President of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which has 54 locations, was recruited to move to the city to transition the Library into a modern, first-class resource to meet the diverse and increasing needs of many more thousands of people.

She quickly initiated the creation and execution of an ambitious strategic plan for the Library. With the help of socially conscious businesses, this transformed the physical space and programming, but also took it beyond its walls and into the city.

Role of the Satell Institute

Through the Satell Institute, Sabre Systems chose to support the Library with a multi-year commitment. Can you tell us about the partnership?

Philip Jaurigue of Sabre Systems has been on our board for 6-7 years. At the time I recruited him, we needed a bright star on our board that knew technology. Phil thinks very strategically about work, communications and technology. He loves to connect and participate. He’s a fabulous board member.

Sabre Systems’ financial support started more recently, in coordination with our relationship with the Satell Institute. We deconstructed our stack system here at the Library and have rebuilt two public service spaces. The one Phil is closely related to is our Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC). Phil is an entrepreneur of the first order and so his four-year investment in the Library goes toward the work we are doing to support emerging small businesses. The goal of the program is to change the percentage of new businesses who succeed. BRIC is all about access to good information and good networking.

Supporting the creation of strong partnerships is an important focus of the Satell Institute. What have you learned about building strong business partnerships?

The key to great partnerships is to really understand that we can’t do everything by ourselves and that there are practitioners out there who have already danced this dance. It’s a major piece of our strategic plan renewal to really learn from others what their successes and pain points have been.

The Best Thing about Business Partnerships

The best thing about having partnerships with companies like Sabre Systems, Comcast, PECO, and Vanguard – all of whom are engaged with SI – is that these relationships are beneficial for us, for the companies and for the communities. The companies can take advantage of our access points throughout Philadelphia to reach communities that need additional resources and support. The more sophisticated we become, the more support we have, the greater the partnerships, the better our work becomes. For example, without partnerships – really without Phil and Sabre Systems – I don’t think we’d have the sophistication in our IT systems and I absolutely know we wouldn’t be where we are with BRIC. We really need renaissance people like Phil and Sabre Systems to be able to say, “I am going to make a multi-pronged investment in this organization because it is really worthwhile.”

The other key thing about partnerships is that as a result we have someone as well connected as Phil talking about the Library. There are so many people who think of the Library in such a traditional way – it’s really cool to have someone like Phil talking about the pivot we have made into a more civically engaged organization.

The Evolution Story

How has the evolution of CSR over the past few years impacted your work?

From my perspective, I think it is important the way Corporate Social Responsibility has poked corporations into understanding there is a space and a place you occupy and there is a space and a place you need to be. What I mean by that is, it’s one thing for you to do your business in a city, it’s another thing to participate in the life of that city and the cultural and nonprofit institutions that add to the quality of that place. I am seeing this more and more. The shift is clear when I think about the Satell Institute and who sits around that table.

The Results

What has the library gained from being a member of the Satell Institute?

It really is an intellectual pursuit for me. I love listening to the increased and enhanced involvement of corporations and businesses in this city who understand that they have a responsibility. I love listening to what they’re doing and with whom they are connecting on the nonprofit side and why.

I also love the research that is being done by the Institute and the whitepapers it publishes. I think of Corporate Social Responsibility as a good infection. A lot of good businesses follow great examples. What the Satell Institute is doing by raising the profile of Corporate Social Responsibility is creating a consciousness for businesses to understand that when you put the business community together with the nonprofit community, you really do have a great place to be.

Welcome to Our Newest Members!

The Satell Institute’s Collective Force continues to grow with great companies and private foundations choosing to support Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) through membership in the Institute. Our members recognize a collective force can do more for communities than any organization can do on its own.

This week we welcome the following new and diverse members:

Bryn Mawr Trust
Since 1889, Bryn Mawr Trust (BMT) has focused on helping individuals, families, businesses and organizations create, manage, preserve and transfer wealth with personalized services in banking, wealth management, and insurance. BMT is dedicated to five key areas where they seek to have a direct and lasting impact on the community – education, diversity and inclusion, financial empowerment, health and wellness, and volunteerism.

Citrin Cooperman 
Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019, Citrin Cooperman is a nationally-recognized full-service assurance, tax, and advisory firm with offices throughout the Northeast. Since 1979, Citrin Cooperman has made it their daily mission to enhance the businesses and personal lives of their clients with services, guidance, and enthusiasm for building long-standing relationships.

Lenfest Foundation
The Lenfest Foundation’s grant-making is focused on ensuring that young people in Philadelphia gain the education, knowledge, skills and opportunities that lead to a fulfilling, productive life. They are committed to supporting promising strategies that will have a life-changing impact on youth in the region for generations to come. The Foundation invests strategically, fosters collaboration, builds on promising practices, and designs new interventions. Through the efforts of its grantee network, they aspire that youth and young adults will gain the skills necessary to thrive. 

The Satell Institute is supported by its own endowment and charges no fees or dues to members or the nonprofits supported.

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