Blogger Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee

Partnerships Make the (Library) World Go ‘Round

Black and white bus with stacks of colorful books in the windows.

I am an only child.  While I do like quiet time to myself, I have always gravitated towards being around other people, and I love collaborating.  Of course, as a school librarian, it is natural that I spend my days working in partnerships–with other teachers, with my student patrons, and with my administration.  

But, I also love forming community partnerships–partnerships with local nonprofits, independent bookstores, and public libraries.  How have I found partners?  Wherever I go in New Orleans (for example: the theatre, the zoo, a farm, or an event), I am always looking for ways to collaborate and for partnerships that will create opportunities for my students and for the other organization.  (*Tip!:  One of the local theatres in New Orleans hosts a non-profit fair every year.  Attending fairs and festivals is a great way to learn about other groups in the community.  Talking to local nonprofits is a great way to determine how we can work with each other to form partnerships that are beneficial for both organizations.  See if there is something similar in your community!)     

Seven years into being a school librarian, I now have some “regular” partnerships. We annually partner with our public library for Library Card Sign up month in September, with our local chapter of Project 826 for Pizza Poetry month in April, and with the New Orleans Opera for various events.  I also partner with local, independent bookstores for author and illustrator visits.  

I am very excited for this summer when we are going to be building on some of these existing partnerships to bring a community engagement project to life for our students and community.

This all grew out of the strong partnership that I have with my administrator.  I have bimonthly meetings with my principal to discuss ideas and plan literacy activities.  This partnership has been awesome–She is incredibly supportive, inspiring, and creates a safe space for brainstorming and collaboration.  For all of these reasons and more, in 2022, I nominated my principal for the 2022-2024 American Association of School Librarians (AASL) School Leader Collaborative, and she was selected for the cohort to represent elementary schools.  As a part of this, she and I attended the AASL conference together in October, 2023.  The fact that we attended together allowed us to brainstorm and encouraged us to pursue opportunities that we might not have followed up on if we had not both been there together.

After attending the poster session, we were inspired to create our own Bookmobile to deliver books to children in New Orleans.  Rather than just being a service project, we want this to be a learning experience, so our student participants (who will be entering third and fourth grade) will first learn about the importance of literacy through a three-day community experience.  On the first day, participants will visit bookstores.  We are working closely with our partners at two local independent bookstores and are creating a new partnership to visit a Barnes and Noble.  (Our students will be able to observe the differences between independent bookstores and a chain bookstore.)  

On the second day, students will be able to see and learn about the differences between bookstores and libraries as we visit branches of the New Orleans Public Library and the Jefferson Parish Public Library.  At the libraries, our participants are going to learn about the elements of a storytime and will build their own storytime program.  On the final day, they will then share their storytime with community members.  Following the storytime, attendees will get to come on our school bus-turned-bookmobile to choose a book (or two) to keep.  We are building on our partnership with the State Library of Louisiana for book donations.  

Through this community engagement project, we want our students to explore the world with intellectual curiosity and cultural literacy, recognize and value diverse perspectives, communicate with agility and engage in respectful dialogue, and take responsible action that promotes peace and justice.  To achieve these goals, throughout the three days, each student will have a journal (inspired by the ones that the American Library Association creates for LibLearnX!) to reflect on what they have seen and learned. 

As with any partnership, it is important to us that we are giving back to the community and to our partners.  The hope is that we create a synergy that makes each of our organizations stronger than we would be individually.  Ultimately, as a school librarian (which, similar to being an only child, can sometimes feel like you are in a silo), I am so grateful and excited for these partnerships.  

Interested in forming your own partnerships but don’t know where to start?  ALSC has a Toolkit about building partnerships between public and school libraries.  Check out the Public Library and School Library Collaboration Toolkit for ideas about how to build partnerships and work together to make your library stronger.   

This post addresses ALSC competencies 1.1 Demonstrates respect for diversity and inclusion of cultural values, and continually develops cultural awareness and works to address implicit bias in order to provide inclusive and equitable service to diverse populations; 3.9 Delivers programs outside or inside the library, as well as digitally, to meet users where they are, addressing community and educational needs, including those of unserved and underserved populations; and 5.1 Defines and communicates the role and scope of library service for children and their families to administrators, other library staff, and members of the larger community.

Soline Holmes is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee.  She can be reached at solineholmes@gmail.com.

One comment

  1. Aryssa

    What great ideas!

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