As teacher-librarians, we often find ourselves in a position where it is difficult to collaborate. For example, this week I received an email on a listserv asking if anyone else was a school librarian at a K-12 campus that had a shared library for ALL students. Many small and rural school librarians are in the same boat. We are either alone on our campus, alone in the district, or too far from other teacher-librarians in our district to have time to collaborate.
There are six teacher-librarians in my district: four elementary, one junior high, and one high school. Other than at conferences and district meetings, we see each other professionally once or twice a year. Last year for our PGP we focused on ways in which we could collaborate with each other. This year, we were able to also involve our local public library more. The local public library has access to many more resources than we, as teacher-librarians, do.
1. Do Lunch
Lunch is such a rare occasion in the teacher world. I did a little Facebook stalking to find the public library’s new director, friend requested her, and began asking questions. Stalkerish? Maybe. BUT it did land us a lunch date before school started. The director, one public library board member, and a few employees joined all of our district’s librarians for lunch. We chatted, visited, planned, and all became acquainted. This allowed us to get to know each other on informal terms. This simple lunch led us to collaborate!
2. Ask for Info
When I first began working in my current position, I started a program called One Child, One Book. Each student receives books to keep before summer vacation so that they have reading materials. I also wanted to send the students home with information on how to contact the public library for e-books, to sign up for a library card, and to enroll in their summer reading program. None of this information was available online. So, I called the public library and stopped by that afternoon. With the information I was able to gain by asking, I put together a flyer and took one copy of their summer reading program, which I copied and passed out to all of our students. If you don’t know, ask!
Public libraries often have activities throughout the year. Call once a month and ask for a Calendar of Events (like this one). Many of the events can also benefit parents!
3. Plan a Weekend Activity
After our lunch date with the public librarians, we decided we would like to co-host a weekend event for the community. Since September is Library Card Sign-up Month, we have planned a community day together. Toward the end of the month on a Saturday, we will co-host Fall for Books Fun-fest for kids. Activities will include five games, a table to sign up for a library card or register your card for e-books, face painting, a raffle, and prizes! The local public library and our schools’ teacher-librarians are dividing up the work on the games, planning, and prizes. I can’t wait for our event to actually roll around! It’s going to be a great way for us to be present in our community, and best of all, collaborate with each other on a city-wide project!
4. Plan a Field Trip
Many students have never set foot in your local public library. What better way to collaborate with them than to plan a field trip! Ask if they have a representative that can come speak to classes about signing up for a library card, the events and classes that are offered, and all of the amazingly cool books they have. They can often send home the forms to fill out for a library card. Our public library is within walking distance, so this also provides the science teacher the opportunity to discuss local plants and wildlife on the students’ walk. If you can’t walk, request a bus. Before you visit the library, ask if the staff can do a short tour and possibly a story time. If you have older students, ask about what the library has to offer teenagers, like game nights, e-books, and a teen section. The Houston Public Library has information about field trips on their website!
I’m not a betting gal, but I’d almost wager that if you asked your local public library about volunteer opportunities, they have plenty! Summer story time. Craft nights. Afternoon help shelving books. Teacher-librarians make great volunteers at public libraries. We already know the organization system and how to shelve books. It also gives us an “in” on what the public library has to offer. It’s like secret shopping. You get to see all of their books and be jealous of their collection all while building a collaborative relationship.
The next time you’re planning a collaborative project, consider adding your local public library to the group. There are many more ways to collaborate with them. Call or stop by your local branch to ask how you can collaborate to reach your faculty and staff, students, and the community.
Author: Ashley Cooksey
Library Media Specialist in Arkansas. Self-proclaimed geek. Lover of nature and music. Always learning.