Collaborating with Strangers: Facilitating Workshops in Libraries, Class, and Nonprofits. By Bess G. de Farber, April Hines, and Barbara J. Hood. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2017. 160 p. Paper $55 (ISBN 978-0-8389-1542-4).

The premise of this book is that talking to strangers should be less frightening and more rewarding than it often is. The authors present a unique collaboration-based program that they refer to as CoLAB, which was originally developed as a workshop on creating partnerships between people and organizations to meet community needs. The authors explain the origins, benefits, and logistics of running this workshop, which has been utilized often at the University of Florida and presented to about six hundred organizations and more than two thousand individuals.

CoLAB workshops typically host between 14 and 120 people and last from ninety minutes to a few days. During the workshop, pairs of people who don’t know each other “speed-meet” in three- or four-minute sessions and discuss what they are passionate about, what they specialize in, and what their or their organization’s immediate needs are. These workshops create face-to-face connections and enable collaboration and socializing aimed at creating innovation and sparking creativity.

Provided in the book are step-by-step instructions for various situations and groups. The authors discuss the logistics of setting up a CoLAB, from recognizing a need through preparing and carrying out the workshop, addressing budgeting, grant seeking, marketing, setting up the space, trouble-shooting, and creating paths for participants’ ongoing networking with each other and the facilitators.

CoLAB workshops can be used for a variety of functions. They can serve as icebreakers, conference sessions, or class assignments. They can give students a chance to find a compatible partner or group for a project. They can facilitate connection-building among nonprofit organizations, enabling them to serve their communities better. The authors point out that this type of workshop can be hosted in almost any space, including an academic or public library, a nonprofit location, or a classroom. CoLAB has great potential for fostering community and individual connections and long-lasting partnerships.

This book is recommended mainly for academic librarians. Although it is possible for public libraries to be involved in CoLABs, the potential noise and the requisite amounts of space, time, and funds will likely be prohibitive for many public library spaces.—Teralee El Basri, Librarian, La Prade Branch Library, North Chesterfield, Virginia


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