Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Integrating School & Public Library Systems in Nashville, Tennessee

by Allison Barney

As a new school year begins in Tennessee, Nashville Public Library (NPL) and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) are entering the next phase of our partnership. The Limitless Libraries program has long acted as a bridge between the two organizations, offering MNPS educators and students in grades 3-12 access to NPL’s materials. NPL and MNPS migrated to a shared ILS in July 2017, creating a technical bridge to further support this relationship. Doing so created cost savings for the city and public library access for all MNPS students, including those in grades PreK-2. This ILS merger has been in process for over a year, and it has been exciting to see the culmination of so much time and thought.

Since no existing ILS was functional for both school and public libraries, teams at NPL and MNPS worked with TLC’s Carl-X team to create a custom solution for Nashville. We determined that we could align on many parameters, including the check-out period for educators, and log-ins for students and educators. Other parameters needed to be set up differently for MNPS and NPL locations. The loan rules for student accounts provided a particular challenge, with school and public librarians accustomed to circulating different types of materials for different periods of time. We’re fortunate that we already had strong relationships with our MNPS colleagues in place, so that we could work through issues as honestly and efficiently as possible.

Students reading at Shwab Elementary School in Nashville, TN

Students reading at Shwab Elementary School in Nashville, TN

We worked out some solutions readily, but others required quite a bit of brainstorming and further ILS development to resolve. Student-friendly self-checkout, for example, was not available in Carl-X or their web client, Carl Connect. TLC worked with school librarians to create a new web-based self-checkout option, specifically with schools in mind, to be rolled out in the near future.

Merging systems has been a huge undertaking. Surprises and challenges will continue to arise over the course of the school year, and MNPS, NPL, and TLC teams will continue to work together to meet them. MNPS and NPL now understand the ways that Nashville’s school and public libraries differ and align on a very granular level. In this way, tackling such a complicated project has made out partnership much more meaningful and effective.  We’ve also been able to provide our patrons with an unprecedented level of access to library materials, which certainly makes all of the work worthwhile.

Allison Barney is the coordinator of Nashville’s Limitless Libraries program, a partnership between Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public Schools.  She currently chairs the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Photo Credit: Nashville Public Library



Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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