Blogger AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee

A Novel Idea: One Example of Public and School Library Collaboration

One foundational piece of being a librarian, either in a public library or school setting, is the relationships we develop with our patrons.  In my community of Bend, Oregon, I work in one of the local high schools where we had a long-term substitute teacher who also completed her student teaching here, and was serving on our local public library board.  Through our working relationships, she connected me to the public library’s program supervisor, Liz, who oversees the A Novel Idea project. Liz reached out to me interested in partnering with a high school teacher-librarian to help read and vet the community nominations for A Novel Idea. The hope was that I would read with my high-school-student mentality to make suggestions about student interest in the nominated novels as a way to engage our teen readers. I was honored and thrilled at the opportunity to be part of this team.

Initially, I was given shared access to the nominations by community members and could decide to read anything on the list that seemed interesting. The community title nomination window started in late summer.  My involvement would increase after the initial phase of nominations when the list was reduced down to around a dozen titles. This list was completed in late spring. From there, I met virtually with a small group of community readers to discuss the remaining titles.  This group had a focus of finding a title that would engage the whole community with a newer author that could also have a children’s title selected of a similar theme. That leaves a demographic of readers, like my high school students, trying to determine if they should read the children’s book or select the adult title.

There were a variety of titles discussed. Some had themes of grief, divorce, historical examinations, culture and way of life. How do I sit in on these discussions as the high school voice and ensure that the title selected would appeal to teens?  After 20 years of working here at BSHS and through my conversations and experiences with high school students I was confident that if I kept the goal of believing in teens’ ability to think for themselves, demonstrate empathy, and have an open mind, that I could vote for the titles that they would find the most appealing.

After all of the meetings and discussions, Liz submitted our top two choices to the library director to decide and the 2024 title Shark Heart by Emily Habeck was chosen.  Is that the title that I felt would most connect with my students? Maybe, but maybe not. However, I am thankful to have been invited to be part of this process and hope to continue to be invited to represent teen readers in Central Oregon. I think I was able to share insights about teens to the community readers and help them recognize how capable they are of independent thought and voice.  I don’t yet have any feedback about Shark Heart from my readers, but I am confident there is some forthcoming as the announcement was only recently made public in early December.

How are you networking and collaborating with your public library? I would love to know!


Jessica Lorentz Smith is aTeacher Librarian at Bend Senior High School in Bend, Oregon. She wrote this post on behalf of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *