It’s been a tough time to be a school-aged kid. School libraries are losing their librarians at an astounding rate, and schools with libraries don’t always have the time to utilize their resources. Public librarians can support kids and school libraries by stepping in to help: class visits and outreach into the schools lets kids and teachers know we are here and available, and by working with teachers and school librarians, we can offer kids an expanded selection of books and topics.
A lot of time is spent trying to find the right person to talk to in each school. If the school doesn’t have a dedicated librarian, look for other partners. Some schools have a community coordinator or a parent coordinator to work on relationships between the community at large and the school community. Some schools have class trip organizers for each grade. Once you find a person or two, ask them to keep you up to date on what types of projects come up throughout the year: Does the school have a science fair, where kids will need project books and ideas? What types of social studies or science units will they be studying? Can you get an early look at their Summer Reading list, so you can make sure you have enough copies of those books ready for the rush? Once you get information from the school, offer curated reading lists of your own that teachers can share with their students. Put together easy-to-make bookmarks with History book selections that follow a specific unit, like the Civil War, or “If you liked Harry Potter… you may like these” suggestions.
If you’re a school librarian, look for your local public library. It may not be right next door, but I guarantee you, that phone call or email is going to open the door to a great partnership. Ask to talk to a children’s librarian, and see what your local library can do for you. What books do you and the public library have in common? Where is one stronger than the other? Where can the public library help you and your students the most? What projects can you work on together that will benefit the kids in your communities?
Class trips are a great way to get in front of the kids and the teachers. Giving each teacher your contact information increases the chance of creating a partnership in that school. Teachers can get in touch with you to ask for books: I end up putting together book bundles for pre-k teachers that need books on the five senses, upcoming holidays, and themes like Back to School or Seasons. If I have extra bookmarks or stickers, I toss them in for a little prize to the kids.
These potential partnerships are right in front of us. A phone call, a quick text, or an email is all it takes to start a good relationship, and our kids win!
Rosemary Kiladitis is an Assistant Community Library Manager at the Corona Library (part of the Queens Public Library System). She is a member of the Building Partnerships Committee and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: V. Outreach and Advocacy