One of my goals for this school year is to strengthen the (public) library’s relationships with our schools. It’s not that we have a BAD relationship, but other than our annual Summer Reading Club promo visits and our teacher library cards, we haven’t had much of a relationship with them at all.
This year, I contacted the public school principals in July and asked if we might come to one of their faculty meetings to briefly present the ways that the public library can support and work with teachers this year. We were able to visit half our public schools (five out of ten) and we sent information to the rest of them via the principals. (Private schools are on my list and I plan to contact them this fall to see if we might attend any upcoming faculty meetings they might have.)
At those meetings we explained our School Collection program where teachers can get free library cards and have materials for their classrooms selected and delivered to their school. We let everyone know that we’re more than happy to bring a program or library card sign-up station to parent nights or other special events. And I really pushed booktalking.
Our wonderful State Library Youth Consultant, Suzanne Walker, told me that she’d gotten into the schools at her previous library job by sending each teacher a chocolate bar with her picture/contact info and telling them that if they had fifteen minutes to spare she could come and booktalk. That’s the angle I took and I made up a flyer that explained what booktalks are (I’ve found that some teachers don’t know!) and that if they could spare 15 minutes, we could come and talk about some great books. (Part 2 of this plan is to videotape some booktalks and get them on our website, but we haven’t gotten there yet.)
One of the fourth grade teachers immediately responded to the flyers I left in the teachers’ mailboxes and wanted to set up monthly booktalks for all three fourth grade classrooms. Victory!!!!
So, what do we do in 15 minutes?
One of my librarians and I visit the school. We aim for 5-6 books per month and so far we’ve booktalked the same books to each of the three classrooms (by the end of the visit we really have our patter down pat). We work together to decide in advance which books we’re bringing and we bring bookmarks with the book covers and library info on them to encourage kids to actually come down and check out the books.
One of the teachers wanted to set up a School Collection card and have the books available in her classroom, so we fill that box with multiple copies of the books we’re talking about (if available) and perhaps sequels to the books or other books by that author. The teachers has reported that the students love having the books available. We try to leave at least one copy on the library shelves for other students who may visit the library to ask about the books.
We spend 15 minutes in each classroom, so we spend about 45 minutes at the school and we end up seeing about 60 kids and 3 teachers. At our first visit we spent a couple of minutes telling the kids about the library and asking them what books they were into so that we’d have a better idea about what books we might want to bring for them.
Since we know that we’ll be doing this every month, T and I keep an eye out constantly for books we might want to booktalk. It’s been so long since I had a regular booktalking gig that I felt overwhelmed with choices at first, but I’ve been keeping some lists of books I might want to read or reread for booktalks and that’s helped me keep organized.
If you’re at a public library, do you have a great relationship with your schools? If you’re a school librarian, do you partner with your public librarians for anything? I’d love to know details in the comments!
— Abby Johnson, Children’s Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN