Blogger AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee

Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): The Scene from San Francisco



JENNA and a group of seven school and public librarians are gathered around a flip chart in the corner of a crowded co-working space at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference. JENNA steps forward to start an informal, high-energy information exchange between library professionals.

(smiling and beyond excited)

SPLC Committee WordleHi, everyone! My name is Jenna Nemec-Loise, Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Thanks so much for joining us this morning to talk about ways we can work together to improve outcomes for the youth and families we collectively serve!

We’ll be starting from a very basic but very important premise: We all want to work together. School librarians want to collaborate with public librarians, and vice-versa. But even though our spirits are willing, we know there can be barriers to the effective collaborations we want to create and maintain.

So what can we do? Build bridges to understanding between school and public librarians. Learn what our counterparts’ typical days are like and the unique successes and challenges we encounter in our respective settings. From this understanding, we can start building relationships that foster effective collaboration and deliver the maximum benefit to youth and families.

Today we’ll be using the guerilla-style format made awesome by Storytime Underground. I’ve placed 20 prompts into this cup for us to use as starting points for our discussion. Let’s get started!

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

How much involvement do school librarians have in creating assignments that require library use? For example, “Read a biography about Abraham Lincoln that’s at least 100 pages.”

(several hands raise at once)

The short answer? It depends! School-public library collaboration depends largely on the collaboration happening within the school building. Classroom teachers often bypass us when planning for assignments, so often we find out about them at the same time you do.

Public librarians should know we have very little planning time, and things can change very quickly in schools. Your positive tone and approach mean everything when trying to work with us. Relationships are definitely key!

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

What aspects or outcomes of your school or public library job do you consider most essential?


Even though we work in different settings, we’re all working toward the same goals: To facilitate positive relationships that benefit youth; to inspire kids to read and learn; to successfully integrate technology into kids’ lives; to improve outcomes for youth and families; and to prepare kids and teens for success both in school and in life.

(draws prompt from cup and reads it aloud)

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work as a school or public librarian?


(1) Advocating for my program and additional resources, which are very limited; (2) Administrators, parents, and teachers don’t know what we do; (3) Staff shortages; (4) Communicating and marketing services; (5) Not enough time to focus on the big picture/more meaningful work because of day-to-day responsibilities; and (6) Unpredictability!


What I’m hearing from our conversation is that we’ve got a lot of common ground. We’re facing similar challenges in our day-to-day work, but we remain steadfast in our belief that what we do makes a difference for kids.

(heads nodding in agreement)

Two complementary questions as we start wrapping up our time together: How can public librarians best support their local school librarians? And how can school librarians support their local public librarians?


Spend time just getting to know one another. There may be growing pains the first few times you meet, but definitely take the time to meet regularly. Plan events together. Make things happen for the community. Most of all, learn how to be better advocates for one another’s roles and one another’s programs!


One final question: What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to ask/tell school or public librarians?


We’re so impressed with what public librarians do! Keep trying to work with us. And let schools know what’s new at your library, from collections and services to programs and special events!


How can public librarians best support their school library counterparts without stepping on their toes?


Thank you so much for this rich exchange today! As the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation moves into its next year of work, we’ll definitely capitalize on everything we’ve gathered from this session. Stay tuned for next steps in building our momentum and keeping the conversation going!

As participants begin to disperse, there’s another flurry of brainstorming about possible next steps: collections of best practices, Twitter chats, Google hangouts, asynchronous online working groups, and additional in-person meet-ups. JENNA can’t wait.




Today’s guest contributor is Jenna Nemec-Loise, ALSC Division Councilor, Member Content Editor of the ALSC Everyday Advocacy website, and Chairperson of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Collaboration. Jenna writes the Everyday Advocacy column for Children and Libraries and blogs at Miss Jack & Mister Jill.


  1. Bryce

    Thank you so much for writing this up, Jenna! It seems as though it was a productive conversation.

  2. Rachel Reinwald

    This is great! I wish I could have been at ALA this year. It’s so hard with schedules and different agendas to meet with with our counterparts and plan lessons/activities. But we have to keep in mind we’re serving the same people (students) with the same goals (school and life success). If you have any advice or examples of collaboration to add, I’m teaching an ALSC online class, It’s Mutual: School and Public Library Collaboration, and I’d be happy to add your content to where it fits in our curriculum. Also, if you would like to take the class, look for a possible fall offering. The current one began July 13th.

  3. Renee Perron

    Oh, I really wanted to hear a school librarian’s response to the last question that didn’t get answered:

    How can public librarians best support their school library counterparts without stepping on their toes?

    Did it or will it get answered?

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