School and public partnerships are one of THE most vital indicators of success in a community for a library. They are not always easy relationships to establish (who do I talk to; why don't they return my calls; why don't I return their calls; why do the projects we plan seem to fizzle?), but just like nurturing the tiny flames of a twiggy little fire, the results of that hard work are warming and renewing.
I just finished talking to an elementary ed student at our local university who wanted to know how teachers could benefit from the library. Between that visit and requests for ideas on school/public library partnerships that I see on various listservs, I decided to explore some ways that I have found success with schools in my public library career. Some are simple things we all do; some may be a re-working of ideas you have seen or done; some may be brand new.
Getting to Know You
Contact, talk to and meet your school colleagues. Don't just get to know your Library Media Center colleagues, though - include the reading coordinators, reading specialists, principals and staffers at each of the schools. They all need to be part of the partnerships and can bring many different skills, talents and ideas to the table. And they can help guide you to true success by being awesome collaborators with important insight and ideas to make any school service or project successful.
Providing cards that allow teachers to check out materials fine-free and often for extended periods of time for the classroom are an easy gimme. They are great PR; help teachers and caregivers expand their book offerings to kids and it means that teachers don't have to incur fines for classroom books. The trick with these is having great communication with the teachers and stopping abusers of the service cold (rather than making rules or guidelines that penalize everyone).
You are a Children's Literature specialist. Helping select great books for teachers on a variety of subjects is a real perk of the job! The collection materials can be prepared automatically on a rotating basis or by specific subject request from teachers. By preparing these collections you save teachers time and lend your expertise. And the subjects and authors requested give you insight into areas of the collection to boost in order to support community education efforts. Win-win-win!
Stay tuned for Part II where we explore a few more partnerships outside of the basics!