Building Strong Communities

During April we specifically celebrate School Library Month, but also in April is National Library Week (April 7-13, 2019) where all kinds of libraries get in on the celebrating. As school librarians my co-librarian and I generally focus on the School Library Month’s theme. This year’s School Library Month theme, Everyone Belongs@YourSchoolLibrary, centers on the importance of libraries creating inclusive spaces. Although this topic is pertinent–especially since some schools in my district are pulling Raina Telgameier’s Drama, which landed on the ALA’s Top Ten Most Challenged Books for 2018 for the same reasons my district colleagues are feeling pressure to remove Drama from the shelves, namely including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes–we have been inspired by ALA’s National Library Week theme: Libraries = Strong Communities.

Initially my co-librarian and I felt this theme skewed more toward public libraries that offer a variety of services available to the community year round, but then we thought about how we would define community within the school environment. Three different communities stood out as areas of focus for us: parents, teachers, and students.

For us, an easy way to create community with parents is through our PTO. Because we needed a new circulation desk, our principal suggested that we ask the PTO for funding. We made a poster including a silly picture of us photoshopped behind the desk we wanted. The PTO really enjoyed the display, and we felt more confident talking with them. After seeing our need for a new desk, the PTO held a fundraiser asking for cash donations and the library hosted a PTO book fair. Working with PTO members, my co-librarian and I promoted the fundraising events, helping them help us to get a new desk. Even though communication was initiated because we wanted something, we found out that we have some pretty awesome parents who are more than willing and happy to help create and maintain a community with us, the library, and the school.

Another way we establish community is encouraging teachers and staff to get to know each other outside school contract hours. During the school year all varieties of showers and retirement parties are held in the school library. We see teachers during library visits and host professional development (PD) classes and most staff meetings. Our teachers mostly all get along with each other, but generally scatter in different directions when school’s out for summer. We thought about hosting a PD event during the summer, but that felt too basic since we’re always having PD in the library. Instead of PD, we talked to our principal about hosting a summer get-together for new teachers to meet our established teachers. It’s still work-related, but it’s not actual work (like a PD session) and hopefully this will support our teacher community during the summer and carry over to the school year.

Our biggest community-building project is for our students. We are opening the school library through the summer on a modified schedule. This enables us to stay connected to students and keeps students connected to the library and school community. Plans for the summer library include (but aren’t limited to) makerspace/makercare projects we’ve not been able to do during the regular school schedule. Even though this is for students, this project could have positive outcomes for the community at large both now and long term.

Building a strong community out of the library is more than advocacy, though it is circular in that we really care about our school community and things we do show our stakeholders how invested we are and encourages support for our library program. How do libraries = strong communities for you?

Also, we aren’t completely ignoring School Library Month either. AASL has provided some awesome resources like printable posters, social media banner images, and a chance to win a library visit from Dav Pilkey. How are you celebrating April’s library events?

Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Makerspaces/Learning Commons, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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