Monday, August 26, 2013

Thoughts on School Partnership Opportunities

It's the back-to-school season right now, and the slightly emptier children's section during school hours puts my mind to thinking of the ways we reach kids when they're at school. Partnering with schools doesn't necessarily seem like the most obvious programming decision when local schools are fortunate to have terrific school media specialists, but I am a firm believer that there are many, many things, schools and public libraries can do for one another. We each have different goals and obstacles to reaching those goals, but by working together we can usually find some creative ways to make both our institutions even better.

With that motivation in mind, I wanted to share some of the ways my library has partnered with our local schools in the past, and how I'm looking forward to partnering this year:
  • Library presence at local Back to School Fairs - Families in my local school district benefit from two different Back to School Fairs that take place on Saturdays at the beginning of August. The two fairs combined see over 5000 families, and it's a prime forum for community groups and organizations to share information with families. Many families attend because the fairs include distribution of free school supplies, but I love when they stop by my library table and find out what other great programs and resources are available to them for free. These back-to-school events are also great for promoting upcoming big-ticket programs, like our fall author programs with Peter Brown, Brandon Mull, and Maggie Stiefvater.
  • Library presence at School Literacy Nights - I've talked about my visits to "Title I" nights previously.
  • Taking library programming to the schools - I visit schools every spring to promote the public library's annual summer reading program, but I also recently started bringing some STEM programming to special education classrooms.
  • Bringing students into the public library - I love when school groups come visit the library for research visits. We have a number of parochial schools in my community, and several of them don't have library collections suited to research projects of older elementary-age students. They arrange field trips to the library to fill this need, and I love interacting with these students. I usually tell a story to get them in a comfy, enjoy-the-library mood, then I explain how the books are organized and how to search for resources they need for projects. We also talk a bit about electronic resources before they head into the stacks to do research. I've also talked previously about how my branch library partners with a local elementary school to showcase students' work from art class in the library.
  • Book Discussions - I'm looking forward to book discussions with groups of interested students at the local elementary schools. Both the school media specialist and I attend and facilitate discussion, and our partnership also entails the public library helping provide discussion sets of books while the school media specialist coordinates readers between monthly meetings. Our discussions can vary from a year of genre exploration to mock awards, but regardless of the books the students develop extraordinary skills for thinking and talking about books.
  • Supporting Staff - My local school district has a professional development day every spring, and for the past few years they've invited folks from the library to talk to all of the school media specialists. This past spring, I was charged with introducing some readers' advisory resources that teachers can access from school with their public library cards. The public library is happy to share access to tremendous resources like NoveList, which schools often cannot justify paying for on their own. I also talk to my local school media specialists about what sorts of information I can provide to them and/or their students regarding library resources, and I am happy to provide workshops as needed.

The nature of partnerships is such that I feel sure additional projects will pop up during this current school year, and I hope that schedules allow me to do whatever I can to support our local schools. Students and teachers need resources, the public library wants more community members to know about and use the library... school partnerships allow us both to meet our goals. I may not spend much time in local school buildings, but my work absolutely connects back to schools. And that's a very good thing.

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How do you partner with schools?


2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post and links. I, of course, now have to start my newest Pinterest board on School and Public Library collaboration. Thanks for the first pin (and the idea to create a board for presentations - all my handouts are now business cards pointing to Pinterest and a blog post with links I put up on the day of my presentation!)

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    1. I'm pretty sure it was your idea to make handouts just the link to the Pinterest board--and a brilliant idea at that!

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