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Leveraging School Partnerships

Building relationships with other organizations can take time and continued effort before you finally start to see the fruits of your labor.

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The results of these partnerships can go beyond what you thought possible at the onset and bring forth great benefits for both organizations and the community as a whole. This is made even more challenging with staff turnover (in both organizations) and having new people step in to maintain the relationship.

Our service area, Oklahoma County, has 15 public school districts, the largest of which is Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) which has about 34,000 students at 33 elementary schools, 12 middle schools, 8 high schools, 4 alternative schools, and 6 charter schools. 

ONEcard

In the fall of 2016, we began the ONEcard program with Oklahoma City Public Schools. This program automatically gives all OKCPS students a library card that matches their student ID/lunch number. Parents/guardians have the option to opt the children out of the program, although very few people have chosen to do so. ONEcard allows students to check out up to 10 items, access all digital resources and databases, and use the library’s internet computers. ONEcard eventually expanded to allow students to use their student ID number to use the Metro Transit Bus System, as well. 

Along with the introduction of ONEcard, we began offering in-service trainings for teachers and library media specialists. Offered in the spring and in the fall, we were able to library programs and resources, tailoring the content for the audience. Secondary teachers are shown our databases and e-resources, like Learning Express, HelpNow, and Mango Languages, which their students could access using their ONEcard to help with homework and research papers. Elementary teachers are shown Libby, Hoopla, HelpNow, and Tumblebooks.

Beanstack & Reading Challenges

Last year, OKCPS started using Beanstack to track their reading challenges throughout the year. Beanstack was able to work with both organizations to create tandums allowing students to have one account that tracked their reading for both the library and their school. This has helped increase participation in both Summer Reading programs and streamlined the process for teachers and library staff when helping students enroll in a reading program. Students receive medals for completing their school’s reading program and two free books for completing our library’s reading program.

Book Bus and Beyond

We also partner closely with the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation and their ReadOKC  task force, a group made up of stakeholders whose mission is to create a community of readers. The OKCPS Foundation has placed Free Little Libraries at each of their schools, offers Reading Buddies book clubs which some of our library staff participate in, and has a Book Bus that goes to schools and allows children to pick out books to keep. 

ReadOKC Book Bus
Child on Book Bus

We have benefited the community as a whole by leveraging our combined resources. This summer we partnered with the OKCPS Foundation on a grant they received to host author visits during the summer. We brought authors to three public libraries in underserved communities in June and July 2022. Thanks to additional grant funding, each child who attended the author visit received a signed copy of that author’s book and could go on the ReadOKC Book Bus to pick out another book that is theirs to keep. We also did two events at a local park with the ReadOKC Book Bus and library staff to promote Summer Reading and give out free books. 

Author visit with Alton Carter
Author visit with Rebecca Balcarcel

Through these efforts we were able to not only reach children from the schools, but other children in the community. Our combined efforts are helping to promote our library and ONEcard program, build a community of readers, and helping families to build their home libraries.

Today’s blog post was written by Kristin Williamson, Children’s Services Manager at the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at kwilliamson@metrolibrary.org and Twitter: @kristinerd. 

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competency V. Outreach and Advocacy.

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