Blogger Kary Henry

Public – School Library Collaboration

As School Outreach Coordinator, the collaboration I have with the amazing school librarians is priceless. From storytimes to starring in Summer Reading Program videos, from booktalks to program promotion, the school librarians are up for just about anything! In this post, I’ll share five simple ideas for collaboration.

Idea #1: Kindergarten Storytimes

Andrea Lathan, the wonderful Library Information Specialist at Wilmot Elementary School, felt that Kindergarten storytimes would be a natural progression from my preschool outreach storytimes. The children were already familiar with me from the year before! The storytimes are a great way to highlight books from our collection. We meet over Zoom so that I can visit everyone at once, but the engagement level is high. To make it easier on my end, I use the same monthly themes as my early childhood storytimes and just select age-appropriate books. I share a digital handout (created on Canva), with clickable links to our catalog. The teachers share the handout so that parents can see what we’ve done.

Storytime handout for Boxes, Boxes, Boxes storytime
Storytime handout created in Canva with clickable book covers, linked to our catalog

Idea #2: Elementary School Booktalks

I love creating booktalks for the other elementary students. These are also held over Zoom, again so that we only have to schedule one visit for the entire grade level. My goal is always to support the curriculum the students are learning in their classrooms. Here are some of the booktalks I’ve offered so far:

  • Genre booktalk
  • Series booktalk
  • Great Summer Reads (for graduating 5th graders)
  • Fantasy booktalk
  • “Library Time Machine” booktalk (books from the past, present, and future [Coming Soon titles])
  • Non-fiction booktalk
  • Poetry presentation (combination of booktalk and poetry writing activities)

Idea #3: Program Promotion

The school librarians are so generous in promoting our programs to their students. The biggest collaboration in this area is my annual Tournament of Books. You can find the details of that program here. The school librarians encourage their students to vote in the Tournament. Andrea Lathan goes so far as to set up a voting station in her school library! With all of their support, last year there were over 17,000 votes in this six-week long program! Based on feedback from the school librarians, I moved the Tournament later in the school year to avoid conflict with voting for our Illinois Readers Choice Awards. Based on feedback from the students, there are now eight brackets! Students vote for their favorite picture book, early reader, chapter book, graphic novel, manga, series, non-fiction, and teen titles. This year’s 10th annual Tournament will be bigger and better than ever!

Idea #4: Summer Reading Program Video

Since we show our Summer Reading Program (SRP) video in all of the schools before summer break, having the school librarians as the stars made perfect sense! The students are absolutely thrilled to see their librarian up on the big screen. The school librarians have danced and lip-synched for the “It’s Showtime At Your Library” theme. They have paraded in front of various green screen scenes for “Reading Takes You Everywhere!” Last year, they gamely read “Beyond the Beaten Path” in a variety of fun locations!

Deerfield Public Library YouTube video, used with permission

Idea #5: Middle School Fun

Another favorite collaboration is with one of our awesome middle school librarians. Andrea Trudeau, at Shepard Middle School, is wonderful at coming up with ideas for collaboration and being open to the ideas we have. Together with a colleague from my department, I have offered:

  • Biography database presentation, complete with a game of “Stump the Librarian” when the students call out the person they’re researching, and we prove that you can find (almost) anyone in our databases.
  • Picture book storytime for 7th graders! I spoke briefly to the students about story arcs and then read four picture books to them. This was in advance of a project where they wrote a picture book for their 2nd grade buddy and read it aloud to them.
  • Open House table: we set up a table, shared information about programs and materials, and offered remote library card sign-up!

In closing, I’m fortunate to have developed great relationships with our school librarians. I am intentional about reaching out with offers to support their work as well as ideas on ways to collaborate. We are, as Andrea Trudeau likes to say, “better together!” Please share the ways in which you collaborate with your public/school librarian counterpart in the comments below.

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and V. Outreach and Advocacy.

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