We know school collaboration and outreach
to schools are both important. But how often do we take the time to stop and talk about the specifics? Why is it a priority and how are we building these important relationships?
Here at the Sacramento Public Library, we spent our February Youth Services staff meeting discussing school outreach, and outreach priorities. When asked what topics they would like to see more training and discussion on, the most requested topic was building relationships with schools. It was also identified as one of the most challenging aspects of outreach for staff. Why not take a moment in the lead-up to summer to talk with your colleagues about your strategy for building relationships with schools?
Some conversation starters to consider:
- How do I get in the door?
This deceptively simple question can be one of the biggest challenges. With frequent staff changes, how do we begin to build those meaningful relationships? We respect that our teachers and administrators are incredibly busy, which can make connecting a challenge, especially where our school libraries are no longer staffed. It’s worth taking the time to go over the basics, especially with any new staff, and to look at any specific or even unexpected successes you’ve had in the past.
- What are the expectations for outreach?
It can be overwhelming for someone new to their position to determine priorities. Knowing what the expectations are, whether it’s a number of visits, a number of schools, or identifying an under-served group can help staff at every level feel confident in their relationship building.
- What exactly do we do?
Best practices for school outreach are an easier topic to address compared to the more strategic considerations. From book talks to assembly skits, a wealth of information is available. But for a new staff member, or someone attempting to approach a new audience, taking the time to speak specifically and directly about what a successful visit might look like will provide a valuable example.
- How do I schedule time for outreach? How do I prioritize outreach?
We serve fourteen different school districts in our county, which leads to a range of demands on staff time. When every open house in the district is held on the same night, how do we choose which to attend?
- What are the expectations for support from branch staff?
This question is key for expanding our capacity to build relationships outside our branches. From staff creating library cards for card drives, or identifying teachers who come in as patrons, supporting outreach efforts to schools is everyone’s responsibility.
- What outcomes do we want from our school outreach?
The ALSC Core Competencies, the YALSA futures report, and your library’s strategic plan can all help shape your intended outcomes for school outreach. Determining your targeted outcomes supports prioritizing for staff at all levels of experience. Fine-tuning your message ahead of time allows you to be direct and efficient, which busy educators will appreciate.
Just one meeting was not enough time for all the conversations we need to have about school outreach, but being intentional about taking the time to address these topics was a valuable start. How does your library make time for these conversations?
Amanda Foulk is the K-12 Specialist for Sacramento Public Library and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.