School and Public Librarian Partnerships

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With approximately 875 school librarians left in California, it’s time to re-evaluate school library staffing and services. To the remaining  district library administrators, this is not merely a statistic but a day-to-day reality. How do we provide services in an ever-changing library world with inadequate staffing? The United We Stand  project is the result of these concerns and conversations with Kate MacMillan and Jennifer Baker and school and public librarians in northern California. The first presentation will be discussion in a round-table format at the California Library Association’s fall conference and will be moderated by the California Department of Education’s School Library Technology Consultant.  Proposals have also been submitted to the CUE (Computer Using Educators) fall conference and the California School Library Association’s spring 2017 conference.

United We Stand: The future of school and public library partnerships.
School and public libraries ought to be a natural partnership. We serve the same constituents, share the same concerns and mission, use the same tools, and face the same challenges. From an outside perspective, we are on the same team. Yet for a variety of reasons, many institutionalized, we operate in separate sectors, and that needs to change.

It’s time to start the conversation with representatives from public and school libraries to determine what keeps us from achieving true collaboration and, more importantly, what we can do about it. We need to create a vision of what a true partnership between school and public libraries at the local, regional, and state levels can look like. Together we should begin to take the first steps on a path to jointly advocating for resources, collectively promoting our services, aligning our goals (if not our acronyms), identifying common problems and developing integrated, smart solutions that serve families across the state.

This is a true call to action! This is more than just addressing “how can I get my teen librarian into a classroom to book talk?” Or “how can we promote summer reading together?” The goal must be to have a raw discussion about what keeps public and school libraries from coordinated advocacy. Which barriers are institutionalized and which are just cultural? What can we do about them locally and possibly on a larger scale?

If school and public librarians are being called to swing into action, we need to do it together with our fellow professionals. With everyone at the table we can create a new coalition of librarians from both sides of the same coin who can partner to provide much needed services  and come up with an action plan for making a real difference. It’s time to begin the discussion!


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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4 replies

  1. Having been a public librarian for over 15 years and a new school librarian entering my third year, I find that many subjects are taboo in the school library due to the age of students (pre-K to 5th grade is what I have experienced.) The public library is open access and not as filtered as the school library. Also, kids in the public library are there voluntarily, not because the class is assigned a certain time to visit the school library. I would not think of providing resources about Black Lives Matter at the elementary school level because of a perceived notion (on my part) that that information is not for 10 year olds and under. However, I could do this in an open space area of the public library. I would love to engage in more collaboration with the public library. There is more of a time constraint in the school library as well because classes are 30 mins. to an hour and you see different classes everyday and every week. Also, the elementary school library is not available after school is dismissed, as is the case in a high school library. I would welcome engaging some of the 4th and 5th graders in assisting with library projects but it would have to be done after school time and that just isn’t an option.

  2. I too have been a school librarian and a public librarian. I love both jobs, and I can see in both jobs that the time constraints are a natural barrier to collaboration, even for those with good intentions. Perhaps school administrators could be more flexible with what their librarians do on professional development days–giving their librarians the time to reach out to the public library. And public librarians could reach out by finding out when the local teacher training days are, and scheduling time to meet on those calendar days each year. The results of sharing goals, ideals and inspiration might be well worth it!

  3. I am not a librarian. I have, however, served on my local school board (Iowa) as well as the local public library BoD. I led the community levy drive for all new elementary schools (all with outstanding media centers) as well as being in on the design and construction a new $12.6m public library for the city I grew up in. What propelled me into those long, hard campaigns? Because I knew that the only path to my success had come through reading and my public education. Libraries are worth fighting for! Though it may be easy to see that these two entities (public libraries and school libraries) serve two differing pools of patrons, they serve one great, grand purpose. I remember being very young and so excited when my mom let (LET) me start checking out books from the adult stacks at the public library on her adult library card (1960’s). You could only check out six books at a time in the children’s department. However, there was NO LIMIT to what you could check out through my mom’s adult library card! Finally! I had something worth reading and all kinds of it! I think I was twelve years old when I first read Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Yes, I loved the books in my elementary school library but my goodness…they were they boring… simple… you know… easy. So, while it might be seen to be a good idea to somehow protect children from what might be found in the public library remember that there is a sizeable cohort in any school that is capable of reading beyond the levels of whatever can be found on the shelves of the school library. Schools that work with public libraries can champion the effort they are making to open up the literary and educational horizon for their students, beyond what they can manage on their school library shelves. This is a message that has the potential to appeal to every parent that cares about their child and wants them to succeed. Each needs to be identified in the public’s mind that they are both truly indispensable to the other. For me, what a public library means to a child is an open ended equation. We need to see this opportunity for what it could be… and say “why not!” Joe

  4. I perform daily deliveries to schools in my district and the issue of children requesting inappropriate materials to schools is, for the most part, a non-issue. We as a library do not promote censorship, however, if the librarian or secretary who receive the books on the schools end DO have the authority to censor if they feel it is necessary. In the four years I have performed these deliveries I can only recall about ten items, out of about 64,000, that were clearly inappropriate and therefore returned. Sometimes the teachers will just give the parent a call to double check, but this does not hurt our workflow, it is a minor issue that is easily and painlessly resolved. As a previous comment stated, it is important to make sure that kids whose interests and/or reading levels stretch beyond what their school’s library can reasonably provide then they need to be accommodated, and not everyone has access to the public library. It is also worth remembering that kids do self-censor. Most of the time they just want a book on Captain Underpants, or wrestling, or whatever. These partnerships are incredibly valuable and worth the extra effort! Our public library to school library delivery program, Library Link, is now in its thirteenth year and going strong. Our community adores our service and it also has helped to redefine what the library means to the community as well as its relationship to learning and resources.

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