May 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Public Library Connection: The new standards require that public and school librarians pull together | On Common Core

Now, more than ever before, collaboration between public and school librarians is critical. As we strive to be at the center of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in our schools, strong relationships with our local public librarians can make all the difference in the world and provide us, our students, and our school colleagues with tremendous advantages.

While public and school libraries differ, our common patron base of children gives both groups fertile ground for growing ever stronger collaborative bonds. The extent to which school libraries can contribute to the creation of lifelong public library patrons should not be underestimated. Nor should we ever underestimate the extent to which public librarians can reinforce and support our work and our kids’ learning well beyond the school day.

Pulling together

The more people are directly and deliberately involved in the implementation of the CCSS, the more likely it is that it will succeed. All too often, however, collaboration between different types of libraries is too passive. Largely, public librarians have “picked up” where school librarians “leave off.” After school hours and during vacations, we “hand off” our students to the public libraries. While this arrangement has met with varying degrees of success (based largely on the disparate efforts of individual public and school librarians), the Common Core demands a more seamless and systematic integration of services to youth. As with anything pertaining to these new standards, heavy lifting must be done.

If we are committed to having our students succeed in achieving the Common Core, school librarians must help public library colleagues get up to speed on the new standards. We should share with them the changes we are facing, and brainstorm how that may impact their work directly. Ideally, they will not discover the CCSS by accident or on the fly—when one of our students is standing in front of them asking for help. Only proactive and consistent communication will lead to success.

Where to begin

The key shifts of the literacy Common Core Standards provide a strong starting point for the dialogue (see table). Envisioning how these shifts may impact and be supported by the work of public librarians will help them be better prepared for what our students and colleagues will surely need from them. It will also foster a more integrated learning experience across library environments.

 To submit an On Common Core opinion piece, please contact Rebecca T. Miller at

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  1. Very succinct and well-done piece. We have been road-mapping here at our public library and have already undertaken many of the suggestions in this article. Great job!

  2. I enjoyed the article and as public library we work with our local schools in many ways.
    Sadly, there are not many school librarians left in our area. They have been replaced by low paid, part-time media aides who often recieve little or no training.

    • As a part-time, low paid media aide, I want to just say that we would LOVE to have the training and support necessary to truly fill the role. I want to be a valuable resource to the students – not just the lady who checks out books.

  3. Steve Lackmann says:

    I have to say that I was upset with this article. As a laid-off school librarian, former public library director, and now part time academic librarian, this partnership only validates the belief that schools can function successfully with fewer media specialists. Not to worry, simply send students to the public library instead!

    Here in New York State, elementary school librarians are not mandated and the public librarians ‘stepping up’ to fill in the gap make school administrators believe that their decisions to eliminate school librarian positions have little or no consequence and save school district monies in salaries and benefits. As a public library director, I was active in working with school librarians for a variety of research and after school projects… as should any good director. My experiences have also revealed that there are similaries as well as significant differences between public, school, and academic librarianship.

    Collaboration within our profession, not competition, is a necessity.

    This is a two-edged sword.

  4. This collaboration works both ways, school librarians. Public librarians need your help too. Stop sending your students to the public library looking for books we don’t have or don’t have enough copies of to fulfill your assignment. Don’t assign dated material, especially for Summer Reading. Please check the public library catalogue or call the public librarian to see if multiple copies are available. Yes, we can adjust our collection development in tandem with Common Core, but that doesn’t mean you should assign 30 kids the same book to read. We still won’t have enough copies. I’m more interested in articles from school librarians talking about what they are doing to enhance the collaboration instead of reading about what public librarians need to do for you. I have never had a teacher or school librarian willing to work with me on these things, despite my actual efforts (not passive).

    • Public libraries have always purchased non-fiction titles with an eye toward what the school is currently teaching. For SLJ to now proclaim that PL’s should be doing this highlights a core problem. Generally, speaking, many schools don’t know, and don’t care to know what the PL’s have, and have been doing. We have reached out to the teachers, library media specialists and principals to no avail. We have to learn about school projects or “Battle of the Books incentives” from students when they come looking for those materials. To say that PL’s should share a common vocabulary seems to insinuate that we haven’t figured out what lexile means. The last two “responses” seem to assume that as public librarians, we have the staff resources to help children one on one with homework. For my 19 years in a public library I have made many many attempts to reach out, draw in, and have conversations with the schools. It’s too bad that the SLJ “responses” didn’t take into account the PL reality. Next time, call a librarian. They would be happy to help you.

  5. Francesca A says:

    For those that love to spread information on Pubblic library resources and for those that want to learn. Collaboration starts with a phone call or a walk to the local school or library. Public Librarians will work with teachers of all subject areas. You just have to let the school office staff or public library staff know you are interested. Keep calling someone will at least remember that the staff at the local library or school is receptive. Really, that all one can expect at first. Always be cheerfully and open.

  6. i am having a hard time understanding the difference between the common core shifts ‘text-based answers’ and ‘writing from sources’. the ‘public library response’ for each (‘assist children in developing habits for making evidentiary arguments in homework’ vs. ‘assist children in using textual evidence to make an argument in homework’) seem very familiar. can you please give an example of these shifts & responses?

  7. As someone new to the field (getting my MLIS this Spring) I question the degree to which public libraries need to work to accommodate or promote schools or educational initiatives (whether it’s elementary, high school, college), especially in regards to collection development. These Common Core Standards are explicitly designed to ready children for college (post K-12 institutional education) and entrance into the workforce (see When I, as an adult, enter a public library (as opposed to a school/university library), I do not want the materials available to be promoting or accommodating State initiatives or be focused on education, but to provide access to information that accommodates a full range of human experience, perspective, and motivation. Young people deserve the same.

    • Aravinda says:

      Well said, Scott Grimmwise. Libraries should support freedom, be unaligned with any curriculum, and be clearly distinct from the school system.