5 Ways to Collaborate with Your Local Public Library

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!

5. Volunteer

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.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community, Community/Teacher Collaboration

Tags: , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. I am all about partnering with my local public library! All it took to open those doors was a simple email, and now we’re meeting next week to discuss collaborating on a “life hacks” program series (how to budget, file taxes, find a place to live, etc) for young and new adults.

  2. I am in a small school and a small town. Our collaboration with the Public Library has been an essential and successful connection over my past fifteen years. Not only do we run collaborative (middle and high school) book groups, but we’ve done Summer Reading programs, high school literary nights, middle school research nights, and town-wide reading events. We sit on committees together (for both the Public Library and the School Library), and my recent library aide also worked/volunteered at the Public Library. In fact, she and I presented at a number of (state) library conferences regarding the value of this collaboration.
    Good connections with the public library, and support of both libraries for each other, help to make all libraries a vital and integrated part of the school and town community.

  3. We have a rural school that just opened a joint use library…a win for the entire community! Last week 9,952 Napa Unified secondary student I.D. cards became a library card… previously we had shared an eCard for digital resources, but this will allow access to print, digital, holds, computers and inter library loans. We could not have done this without our public/school partnership. We call ourselves “From the team that brought you the One Card Program” and includes the district librarian, 2 public librarians, and a fabulous programmer. We are all in the same business… it only makes sense to unite and stand together…..

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