November 20, 2017

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MyLibraryNYC Brings Public Library Services to City Schools, 500,000+ Students

A New York City school teacher and students, part of the MyLibraryNYC program

A New York City school teacher and students, part of the MyLibraryNYC program

While libraries continue to struggle in many school districts—things are looking up in New York. MyLibraryNYC—a unique partnership between the New York City Department of Education (NYC Public Schools) and the city’s three public library systems—is bringing library services back to school kids in the Big Apple.

“One of the things we really believe in is school libraries,” says Amie Wright, New York Public Library’s (NYPL) program manager of MyLibraryNYC, which also includes Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and Queens Library. “We can’t underscore that enough. We only partner with schools with a school library and a librarian or teacher assigned to the library space.”

Now finishing its third year, the MyLibraryNYC program made its way into 488 pre-K–12 schools across the city this past school year, serving more than half a million students and over 60,000 educators. Wright believes it may be the largest school library partnership in the world.

While students and teachers certainly make good use of New York’s public libraries, MyLibraryNYC creates a uniquely tailored experience for children and schools. Teacher sets of library books can be ordered through an app—from multiple copies of a single title to a collection on a specific topic—and then delivered to them at their campus. Students and educators are also assigned unique accounts—with extended borrowing privileges and no overdue fines. Library staff visit schools to deliver book talks, database training, and other outreach activities. And school librarians receive professional development—learning what the public libraries can offer, and how the materials can support schools.

“Many [educators] don’t know what resources are available to teachers,” says Diana Plunkett, BPL’s manager of strategic initiatives. “When they find out, it’s like kids in a candy store.”

The success of the program has been clear. Students and educators holding MyLibraryNYC cards checked out nearly 190,000 items from BPL alone by the end of 2013-2014. This year, that number ballooned by almost 70 percent with nearly 320,000 items checked out by the end of April, says Plunkett.

MyLIbraryNYC Green-Lighted for 2015-16

Originally supported through a $5 million grant from Citibank, the program ran out of funding this June. But working together, the DOE and the three library systems reduced overhead, making it possible to run the program in 2015-2016 and hopefully beyond, says Richard Hasenyager, executive director of the office of library services for NYC Public Schools.

“We haven’t even considered a sunset date,” he says. “The commitment is to keep it for at least two to three years.”

The cost to participating schools has been $800 a year—$500 to host the Destiny catalog that all schools must adopt, and $300 to underwrite management of the program itself. That’s dropping to $650 for the coming year for schools that had been previously unable to apply, and Wright hopes that the lower fee might “open the program” to those schools.

Underpinning the entire program is the work that all three library systems invest in supporting school librarians and educators to help them understand what they can, in turn, offer to their students. School librarians and teachers then become evangelists for the public libraries.

“The more knowledge they gain in learning how to use our resources, they can then pass that on to their students and teachers,” says Daniel Nkansah, coordinator of children’s services for the Queens Library. “[Librarians] become almost the gateway of learning.”

Ultimately, the program may be doing more than helping just those schools that  can take part. Plunkett notes that feedback over the years has given them insight on how to best work with schools—even those that can’t participate in the program because they lack a school library, a teacher or school librarian who can act as a liaison (a NYC Public Schools requirement). And some simply can’t afford the cost. She says, the public library is eager to support as many schools, teachers and students as they can.

“In many ways what this program is letting us do is figure out ways to engage really deeply with the school community,” says Plunkett. “While the program may not benefit specifically all schools in Brooklyn, learning how to engage deeply with schools will benefit everybody.”

Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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  1. Iftekharul kabir says:

    This is just a great news! NYC schools and students!!