When I started to look into strategic planning for our school services at our public library, I found out that we didn’t have a school services policy and we didn’t have something called an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA). I had never been in management, so I didn’t quite know what each of these things were. I just knew that as we were adding services and schools to our service area, more and more questions were coming up that we needed an organized front of answers to and the ability to provide more services. Our library had enough money and our schools were starting to drown in debt. We wanted to help them, but we needed parameters and permission. Apparently, all I could mostly do in the schools was booktalk, but we were so much more than that. I started exploring IGAs.
According to our state law (and probably yours), you cannot give library card numbers to places that do not pay taxes. Since schools do not pay taxes, they cannot get a card. We couldn’t check out to teachers or let them use our databases. But we had been doing database lessons in the schools and checking out teacher bags. I wanted to get down to the bottom of it and tie all the loose ends.
In our regional library system (RAILS, Reaching Across Illinois Libraries), there was information on IGAs, examples, and a consultant. We wrote down our questions and had an informational (and fun! Who knew?) conversation about how we could legally help out our schools. An IGA is a legal document that allows organizations within a town government to work together to expand services. You might already have several types of IGAs within your community.
After speaking with the consultant, we found a way to get access for students to use databases, and we started looking into partnerships with the vendors because we believed that schools and libraries shouldn’t pay twice for the same patron to use the same database in the same service area, as was happening with public library vendor agreements and school vendor pricing. Our schools couldn’t afford it, and if the students were our patrons and couldn’t use the databases at the school, we didn’t want ours either.
We also found that the IGA could give a teacher card to our schools so we could be covered in our teacher bag service where we gather supplemental resources for teachers to use in their classrooms fine free. The best thing about the IGA was that instead of the principals signing a contract every year for materials, the superintendent only has to sign it every 3-5 years (depending on what your library attorney decides). That is a lot less people to hunt down for paperwork every year.
Another great surprise that came out of the IGA talks is that we are discussing splitting black fiber cable (high quality, high speed internet) between the local fire department, police department, village hall, and all the local schools within different districts. This will give us cheaper and faster internet, with better bandwidth. The schools would get the majority of the bandwidth during the day and shift it to us when school closes. Students’ computers wouldn’t freeze up accessing sites during the day and library patrons could watch Netflix all night long.
- Add in future clauses to your IGA to cover projects not completed yet (ex: joint databases).
- Think about in-kind pricing as a service. For example, schools could allow you to come in for staff day to present services, school board meetings, curriculum meetings, book fairs, literacy nights. We had the school district sponsor our CPDU (teacher continuing education) workshops until we applied for an RCDT code to be approved providers ourselves.
- Make sure the IGA is approved by both your library board and the school board. Ask the schools what they want to get out of the agreement and what they can do for you.
- Add the specifics of your school services policy into this document. Which schools will you serve and to what extent? What are the limits and fines if any?
- Try to align the IGA to both the library and the school’s strategic plan points and mission statement.
- Your library attorney will have to approve and sign the document. But there are templates to save some time and money before handing it over to legal. For instance, Illinois’s is available at: https://www.railslibraries.info/system/files/rails-_ig_agreement_615.pdf
Rachel Reinwald is the school liaison librarian at Lake Villa District Library (IL). She is on the Interdivisional School & Public Library Collaboration Committee and she is the co-chair of the ALSC Education Committee.