Written by: Stephanie Rodriguez
Spending 40+ hours a week working in a library may leave you thinking that the last thing you need to do during your “free time” is check out your local public library. But your local library can help you turn the page and offer brand new ways of providing resources to your students.
In 2009, Nashville Public Library (NPL) piloted a program in conjunction with Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). Limitless Libraries sought to remove barriers that students had in accessing materials from the public library. Over the last nine years, Limitless Libraries has developed a partnership that provides MNPS students with access to all 21 NPL locations by creating library accounts that use the students’ ID number as their public library card. We realize that students may have difficulty getting to a branch, so we make daily deliveries to 125 schools across Davidson County. Students can place public library material on hold, and it will be delivered to their school library. A third component of Limitless Libraries is collection development support. We are able to provide additional funding to each school, enabling them to bring their library up to state standards and to purchase material that kids want to read, not just what they need to supplement classroom curriculum.
“That’s great,” you say, “but I don’t live in Davidson County.”
Have no fear!
Creating partnerships with school systems is a hot topic right now within the public library community. I receive one to two calls every week from libraries across the country who want to know about Limitless Libraries and how they might begin collaborating with their local school system.
Here are some ways in which your school might team up with your local library:
- Student accounts
- It can take some time and many conversations between the school system, the library, and your ILS vendor to use student ID numbers as library cards. But it can be pretty easy to make sure that students have library cards. Library card registration can be included in packets that go out to parents over the summer so that cards can be distributed early in the school year.
- Electronic resources
- Many of the licenses that public libraries have for their online resources allow for use by anyone in their “service community” – i.e. anyone that has a library card. So, once your students have cards they should be able to access databases through the library’s website. You will, of course, want to verify this with your local library because contracts can be written many different ways, but this can greatly expand the digital resources your students have access to.
- Literacy nights – Professional development days – Faculty meetings
- Limitless Libraries staff participate in one to two school functions each month. Sometimes we just set up a table at a school literacy night and talk with parents and students as they move from booth to booth. We highlight upcoming library programs; pass out calendars; and give away pens, pencils, and temporary tattoos.
- Other times we are invited to be a part of a professional development day or a faculty meeting. In those settings, we may spend 10-15 minutes talking about a particular resource that teachers might find helpful.
- Inviting local library staff to come to your events is mutually beneficial. Public libraries are always looking for outreach opportunities; you can take credit for planning a learning opportunity for which all you had to do was send an email or make a phone call; and the professional contacts you will build through opportunities like these are immensely valuable.
- Educator cards
- In addition to making sure your students have public library cards, you want your educators to have cards – so that they have access to the same resources your students do. Nashville Public Library offers a little incentive to educators that regular card holders don’t get: items checked out on an educator card are loaned for 6 weeks instead of 21 days. This is helpful if a teacher is doing a unit on butterflies, for example, and they want to keep the books for the entire teaching segment.
- Book club in a bag
- School librarians that I talk with, and teachers too, are often interested in leading book clubs but they don’t know what book to select or they are limited by how many copies of a title they can purchase. Your public library likely already has multiple copies of a title gathered together, along with age-appropriate discussion questions. This makes it incredibly easier to incorporate this activity into library time or the classroom.
But what do you do if your local public library and your local school system just aren’t interested in a formal partnership? Back to the top of this post…you visit your local library branch; you introduce yourself to the children’s librarian, the teen librarian, or the branch manager. Talk about the partnership you would like to create with them. Build those professional relationships, invite them to school events or to promote public library resources when classes come to your school library. Doing this can breathe new life into services you offer. You will forge community connections. And you may find that you become the inspiration for someone else in your system to do the very same thing…and before you know it, there’s a partnership between your public library and your school system.
Stephanie Rodriguez is the Limitless Libraries program manager at Nashville Public Library. She has been with NPL since 2014. Stephanie’s library career now covers the gamut – special libraries, academic libraries, public libraries, vendors, and school libraries. And after over 20 years in the library field, she is certain that Albert Einstein had it right when he said, “the only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”