I know that I have talked and written about public and school library partnerships until I am blue in the face, and everyone is tired of reading or listening to me. But we are living in uncertain times with little if any guarantees. For school districts, federal funding could be in jeopardy. The creation of more charter schools, the inclusion of vouchers throughout the country, and the privatization of education seem to be a given. Like Alice said, “You’re quite right, Mr. Hatter. I do live in a topsy-turvy world. It seems like I have to do something wrong first, in order to learn from that what not to do.”
In all too many states, school librarians are stretched thin and are often required to provide services to more than one site. In California with less than 900 teacher librarians, there are districts that are staffed by para-professionals only. States that do require school librarians may not require the same level of staffing at charter schools. Yet we still need to provide and safeguard services to all our children. It is no longer equal access but rather equity for all… and time is of the essence.
Once again I sound like a broken record, but we cannot do this alone. We need to begin the conversation to include school, public, and academic librarians. There are a myriad of partnerships that can be modelled. ALA’s Connecting Librarians for K-20 Transitions is designed to help high school students’ transition to college. Metro Nashville School District and the Nashville Public Library have the Limitless Libraries partnership that shares and delivers materials from the library directly to schools. Central Fresno USD partners with public library to provide services on-site after school hours.
Shared resources are the easiest way to create partnerships. The One Card program allows secondary students to use their student ID cards as a full service library card. The eCard is a digital or virtual library card that provides a more limited library access. Then there are all sorts of brick-and-mortar joint projects like homework and tutoring help, summer reading programs, library clubs, and poetry slams. However, the real partnerships begin with that first conversation. Yes, we have different roles, but in the long run we are here to provide the best services we can. It is not about replacing or eliminating positions, but rather about sharing our expertise. As Stephen Colbert said, “Librarians…are the keepers of all knowledge…”