I know. You are charged with maintaining a 21st-century learning environment while simultaneously wrangling students, shelving books, balancing a paltry budget, and occasionally hosting the odd baby shower or staff meeting. All this while trying to develop a collection of reliable and useful resources for students as well as creating engaging learning activities. Who has time to do another thing? Right?
Well, I’m here to tell you that getting to know your public librarian could be very beneficial for your school library program and especially for your students. Although we may be different species, we are still the same animal. Librarians, whether it public or school, share a common love of literacy and freedom of information.
As school librarians, we follow AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, the ISTE Standards for Students (updated 2016), as well as any guidelines put out by our state or school district. But ultimately our goal is to put students first and to foster their ability to become empowered learners, global thinkers, and good digital citizens. Public librarians share very similar goals. Inviting your public librarian to come into your school by way of a book club, library card drive, a research project, or some other collaboration will give students an opportunity to make connections and build relationships to help enable them to become lifelong learners.
Here are some reasons why you and your students should get to know your public librarian:
They are open longer hours. As school librarians, we are able to serve our students during school hours, but what about evenings, weekends, and extended holidays? Encourage your students to use the public library.
Public libraries can often supplement print resources that school collections may lack. Are you needing extra copies for a book club or a special research project? Is your budget tight? Public libraries tend to have larger budgets than school libraries and can carry a wider variety of materials. Your local branch doesn’t have it? Maybe your public librarian can get it through interlibrary loan.
Free Internet for students that need it. In my neighborhood, students with Internet access isn’t a given. In high-poverty areas, whether urban or rural, public libraries provide users with computer and Internet access free of charge.
SUMMER READING! For decades, public libraries have put blood, sweat, and tears into their summer reading programs. After all, it is their busy season when school is out. Collaborating with your public librarian to share the information about summer reading with students and adults can help to stave off the summer slide when schools are closed for the summer.
Free digital resources. Public libraries may subscribe to digital resources that your school doesn’t. They often belong to consortia, or there may be a statewide network that subscribes to resources. Public libraries love to see usage on these resources! If asked, they may even come to your school to host a professional development for teachers or work with groups of students teaching them how to access databases. Why not, our tax dollars pay for it!
More trusted adults. Children’s and young adult librarians share the same love of young people that we as school librarians do. Not all families bring their children to the public library, but we may have the opportunity to bring the public library to our students. Helping to introduce students to their public librarian gives them another trusted adult in their community that they may not have known before.
Public libraries serve all ages. You may teach K-5, middle grades, or high school. If so, you only have your students for a season and then they move on. Public libraries have the capability of serving youngsters throughout their life, from the very young to the very old.
You might make a new friend! Not all professional relationships are a match made in heaven, but you won’t know if you don’t try. I work hard to foster those relationships at my public library and have benefited both personally and professionally from those efforts.
Any comments about relationships between school librarians and public librarians? Continue the conversation below.
Author: Sedley Abercrombie
Sedley Abercrombie is the current past president for the North Carolina School Library Media Association. She is also the lead library media coordinator for 32 school libraries in Davidson County, NC as well as an adjunct instructor at East Carolina University.