The Beginning of a Library Partnership Conversation


School and public library partnerships were the buzzwords at last month’s California Library Association conference in Sacramento. A packed room of librarians gathered to discuss and debate the pros and cons of school and public library partnerships. There was a panel of five presenters that included a representative/librarian from the California Department of Education, a County Office of Education librarian, a teacher librarian, a public librarian, and a district librarian. During the session the panel encouraged everyone to talk about what is working, what’s not, what needs to happen to move forward, and how we can work together to make it happen. Once the audience understood that they were part of this conversation, they quickly shared ideas, dreams, and concerns.

Some of the more interesting existing or future partnerships that were mentioned:

  • Provide an eCard that would give students easy access to online resources including databases.
  • Create and coordinate information literacy lessons through social media, websites, and printed materials
  • Create One Book programs to be shared with the school, the public library, and the community.
  • Promote Open Education and Open Education Resources through the schools and public libraries.
  • After school hours, public librarians are staffing school libraries at Fresno Unified School District to ensure equity.
  • Explore the Limitless Libraries partnership between the Nashville Public Library and Metro Nashville Public School to share resources and learning materials.
  • Establish joint use libraries in rural and/or high-poverty areas.
  • Implement a program that allows students to use their district ID cards as a full access library card (currently used at Napa, Tacoma, Boston, Kansas City, MO).
  • Explore ILS partnerships between the public library and school library as a cost-efficient alternative.
  • Share data between schools and public libraries by placing bar codes on student library cards for full public library access.
  • Talk to one another…share staff development opportunities to create better communication and more collaboration.
  • Explore joint collection development, both print and digital, as a cost-effective measure.

In retrospect, the barriers and concerns seemed small in comparison:

  • Lack of understanding among stakeholders concerning collaborative projects that improve student outcomes.
  • Librarians must educate their own administrations and staffs to understand the importance of joint services.
  • Lack of trust between public and school librarians.
  • Concerns that public librarians will take over teacher librarians’ role.
  • Both groups should try to focus on student achievement, not on job security.
  • Can the two groups come together as “professional librarians”?
  • Lack of teacher librarian staffing could mean that para-professionals provide library services.
  • Identify stakeholders especially technology staffs and create ways  to avoid pushback from department heads/leads.
  • Be aware that vendors may not like partnerships and could create obstacles to overcome.

We shared more ideas but primarily we started the conversation. We now want to continue this and also open it up to more people across this country. To that end we have created a Facebook group: United We Stand: California school and public libraries working together.

In this time of uncertainty and growing intolerance, we invite you to join this15109367_10208941353385695_3296614735651631206_n group and help us keep the conversation going. We need to forget our differences and to join together to provide the best services to our students and our communities. If you know others who would like to participate, please invite them as well. Public librarians, school librarians, administrators, teachers, youth service experts…all are welcome!


Author: Kate MacMillan

18 years as Coordinator of Library Services for Napa Valley USD and Napa Valley School Library Consortium; 2010-current CDE Recommended Literature Committee member; 8 years as an outside library consultant for Follett Library Resources; 6 years as a Napa County Library Commissioner; Current member of California Dept of Education’s Literature Committee; Napa TV Public Access board member; ALA, AASL, CLA (Californiia Library Association), CSLA (California School Library Association) and CUE (Computer Using Educators). Conference presentations include: United We Stand; School and Public Libraries Working Together (CLA 2016, CSLA 2017), It’s Not Your Mother’s Library 2012 and 2013 (CUE); Enhancing Online Resources through Library Partnerships (CUE 2010); Implementing School Library Consortium (CSLA 2008); Athletes as Readers and Leaders (2008 Association of American Publishers & CSLA Project). Contributor to School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come!

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

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12 replies

  1. Having served in both roles- public and school librarian, they are different jobs! School libraries will be eliminated if this isn’t a carefully structured partnership. While larger public libraries are fortunate enough to be financially in the position to hire “degreed” Librarians, many public librarians do not have an educational requirement for employment. These small schools will be the first to jump at any way to save money– and students will possibly be denied access to a Librarian with a background in education who is familiar with literacy strategies and learning styles. Without public libraries, students will suffer because they won’t have access to as many different resources. I support both– I just want both types of libraries to realize that they have important roles in a child’s life– one is from birth to death and one is during a specific time during school. Don’t try to do each others jobs– build a partnership from what your strengths are and don’t try to overpower each other.

  2. Great comment, Dede! Please join the FBP and be a part of the conversation!

  3. Are you looking for input and participation outside of California?

  4. Yes, we believe that this affects all of us… and different viewpoints and perspectives add to the conversation!

  5. Wow this is so exciting! This initiative is coming out of a California State Library grant to the Pacific Library Partnership that I suggested this spring and the excitement and possibility is growing!

  6. At a meeting I was attending last year the superintendent of our local school district asked me if I thought the public library would want to move out of the space we are renting and into the media center at the middle school. He didn’t say it out loud, but the unspoken statement there was “since we aren’t using it anyway.” This school district doesn’t employ a single media specialist. Not one. They have paras who while well intentioned are simply not trained. A few weeks ago I was trying to give one of the schools a two year old World Book encyclopedia to replace the one on their shelf that was 15 years old. When I called the school, they said they already had one and didn’t have the time to switch them out. She finally agreed to accept it when I said that I would come switch it out myself. Dede is so right. The school librarian is essential, and I am so worried about these kids. The very suggestion that the public library should move in to the school was ridiculous. The space in question is only one quarter of the size of our current space, and the kids would be pushed out completely.

  7. When we started thisover a year ago, we had no idea about the State Library Grant… However it is nice to know small Napa has had the same mind set as the California State Library!

  8. I wanted to clarify that Napa School District was the leader in this effort before any activity occurred at the Pacific Library Partnership. Napa is leading the way!

  9. Holly,
    We are not advocating for public librarians to replace teacher librarians or to take over an existing school library. We are advocating for partnerships that will allow us to collaborate in order to provide much needed services to our students. In a more perfect “library world” staffing would not be an issue…. We believe we are all professional librarians who have expertise and resources that can be shared. This is a beginning of a conversation…. please feel free to join our FBP to voice your concerns!

  10. We do eCards for all our students. Teachers here love it. It is a simple, low-cost way to improve access to library services. We would be happy to share, if anyone needs help getting started.

  11. Sue,
    Thanks for the positive post.. please join the FBP conversation!

  12. Interested in information regarding the e-cards as mentioned by Kate McMillian at Napa Valley School Library Consortium.

    Thank you.

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