Your Partner Down the Street: School and Public Library Collaboration

It seems obvious, right, to collaborate with your public library partner, especially during this challenging pandemic year. But like all partnerships under crisis, it’s easy to fall into our respective silos. 

So I thought a post reminding us about this vital relationship was worth writing.  

Instructional Allies

School librarians teach information literacy and research skills through the inquiry process. In a nutshell, that’s our pedagogical purpose. 

Of course, we do so much more for our students and teachers–instill a passion for lifelong reading, creative programming, resource vetting and curation, collection development, digital citizenship, news literacy, etc. But our instructional core is to teach students to think critically and problem solve through inquiry. Public librarians support our students in this process by providing them with access to additional digital resources and e-books. In this time of fiscal crisis and cuts, the public library’s ability to purchase expensive and scholarly databases such as Credo Reference or AMC-CLIO databases on the American Indian Experience is invaluable. The Internet is great for teaching about misinformation and bias, but students need quality information sources with primary sources, diverse viewpoints, and astute analysis for rigorous inquiry and research.


The strength of public libraries lies with their extensive programming for every age group. 

School librarians can maximize support for their school community by connecting families to parent workshops, events for children birth to five, and teen programs. We can invite public librarians to host library card sign-ups and present to families about their community offerings. During this time of remote/hybrid learning, schedule public librarians to host webinars on specific topics and discuss their virtual programming options for families and students. Often, public libraries can sponsor events like an author presentation or a reading to a therapy dog that schools cannot.

Professional Development

Invite public librarians to present to your teachers about their digital resources, collections, and programming options to support curricular units and instruction. Better yet, co-present with your public librarian on how you both can collaborate with teachers to provide additional resources to students, reinforce critical thinking skills, and extend their learning with activities and project applications.


Most public libraries have larger budgets than we do. They also have more experience and history with e-books. Meet with your public librarians to find out which titles are popular with students, which vendors and platforms are most accessible, and which types of access make the most sense (metered, one book/one user, simultaneous use, etc.). Use this as a foundation to develop your e-book collection development plan. E-books are often more expensive than print, so each decision on what to order is crucial. We want our collections to complement and extend what the public library provides.  

The Whole Child

Public librarians help us meet the whole child’s needs through their programming, collections, and professional development. They are open evenings and weekends. They target their services to bolster families. They are natural partners to help our students achieve successful and happy lives.


If you missed it, please watch a record of the fantastic webinar from December 6th sponsored by the Black Caucus American Library Association titled Working Together: How Can Public and School Librarians Support Each Other”: 


Author: Leanne Ellis

I am a School Library Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and am program coordinator for MyLibraryNYC, a program administered with our three public library systems.

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

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.