November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Working Together: Simple Ways Public and School Librarians Can Collaborate

 

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As summer winds down and the school year kicks into high gear, librarians face a transitional period. Public librarians are finally taking their first breath since May now that summer reading has come to a close. School librarians are diving head first into the back-to-school mayhem. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work, ignoring opportunities for successful collaboration. Lines do not have to be firmly drawn in the sand between the school and public libraries; librarians from both sides can come together to share resources and empower students. Below are a few tips to help bridge the gap and encourage students to make the most of  both their school and public library resources.

No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

A simple visit can be the most effective. Schools have a captive audience for extracurricular clubs and advisory boards and are a vital resource for both school and public librarians. Instead of competing for valuable student free time, join forces and work out a visiting schedule for the librarians to make guest appearances at afterschool clubs, possibly quarterly. Librarians should visit the alliance meetings, drama clubs, and advisory boards. You can promote existing programs that match the interests of the targeted group. You can also tell students about possible new program ideas and ask for suggestions and feedback. Simple getting-to-know-you visits from the public librarian help establish a presence within the middle school community with both the staff and students. You are reminding them there is another resource for them outside of the school. You’re also tapping into a valuable pool of knowledge and insight into middle schoolers’ preferences.

Strike While the Iron’s Hot

Public and school librarians can join together to capitalize on popular programming, whether it be a fleeting fad, or a curricular focus. For example, public libraries can bring their technological equipment to the school for special programs during Teen Tech Week. Pokemon Go has been the newest craze this summer. Local libraries have taken advantage of this by hosting safaris and promoting their local Poke gyms. My library, the Glen Ellyn (IL) Public Library, took it a step further and collaborated with a local school district to bring Poke trainers—teachers and students alike—together for a safari around town. Kids were able to meet the faculty of their school, as well as connect with their local librarian, and see a solid partnership between the two. To capitalize on summer reading, local school staff joined me in the dunk tank as an incentive for summer reading performance.

Many schools are changing curricula to a problem-based learning (PBL) format. Local librarians can help provide resources and serve as resources themselves by acting as the local expert, panelist, or judge in problem-based learning scenarios. If your public library has a 3D printer or any other makerspace technology, you may want to reach out to the school librarian and/or classroom teachers to see if and how the equipment might be demonstrated in class. For teachers and school librarians interested in teaching students about 3D programming and creation, the planning can be done in the classroom, while the final products printed at the local library.          

Share the Load

Meaningful programming and the supplies necessary for those programs can be expensive. There’s no need to do it all on your own. Partnerships between school and public libraries can take your programming to the next level, or even transform it from dream to reality. Author visit costs can sometimes be daunting for a school or library to fund alone. Splitting the bill may help get a bigger name to visit your community—and potentially offer the author several speaking engagements in one day. The same is true for field trips. In early 2015, the Glen Ellyn Public Library bussed in hundreds of middle schoolers from four different schools over the course of three days so they could all participate in an Egyptian mummification workshop run through the Field Museum. Other programs that can be done alone by either a school or public library can be made bigger and better by combining them. Host a battle of the books at the school and include the public library—perhaps to help teach about evaluation, or even to serve as special guest judges. Your public librarian colleagues may also want to post brackets and predictions on display at the library. They can also be sure that additional copies of the selected titles are available for patrons. It’s also always good to get on the same page in regards to technology. If the schools in your community predominately use Apple products, it’s good to have at least a few of the same equipment at the public library for kids to use for homework or projects.

We are great alone, but we are better together, and middle schoolers reap the benefit. After all, that’s why we do this in the first place.

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Christina Keasler About Christina Keasler

Christina is currently the middle school librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library, IL. She's responsible for the middle school collection and programming and serves as the youth department’s 3D printing and technology expert.

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