Embrace the Embers - School/Library Partnerships Part 4

"But Marge", you say, "we just are so overwhelmed. We want to do great partnerships but time, money, staff and energy are hard to come by. What can we do?" Lots! There are plenty of laid-back partnerships and efforts that even a part-time, one person library staffer can do.

Email Newsletters to School
Periodically mail out a brief, colorful newsletter to school staff (through each school's office - with permission of the principal of course) with children's lit or book news; services you offer; invites to take field trips to the library; suggestions of great new book read-alouds and maybe an announcement or two of perfect programs for school-agers. This kind of communication breaks down barriers and let's your colleagues know about the library and your services and collections.

Invite Classes to Visit
Field trips are fun and you can make them more inviting by using a stuffed book character as tour host for younger kids (Clifford; Very Hungry Caterpillar; Maisy) or jazzing up field trips for older kids by exploring non-fiction and making origami or cataloging and shelving the kids or playing Book Character Bingo in the fiction. Make the library fun and they will come!

Outreach Visits to the Schools
These are absolute bread-and-butter! Outreach gets you out of the library and into the schools where kids are. Offer to come to Literacy Nights and Parent Nights, do storytelling at schools, present book talks - and leave the books in the classroom for a month for kids to devour - and never forget - summer reading promotional visits are some of the best times to reach out to kids and entice them into good reading fun in the summer.

Art Displays
Offer to transform the library into an art gallery for student art and host a reception for the young artists and their families. Art teachers are often looking for end-of-the-year venues to display their students' creativity and the library makes a great gallery!

Book Lists
We often develop these to help staff and patrons find goodies in the collection. But consider developing graded booklists before summer and distributing to the schools. By recommending books that are age appropriate and in the collection, you make kids successful searchers during the summer for reads. Many teachers support these efforts and would love a list like this.

No matter where you are in partnerships with your schools, these ideas can really sparkle and help you create closer relationships with your school colleagues. A big tip of the hat to all my peeps on PUBYAC for sharing ideas and making me think about the vitality of school and library partnerships!


Starting a Blaze - School/Library Partnerships Part 3

Now you are cooking - teachers use your services,you have some great partner mojo working....what else can you do to make your school partnerships smoke?

School-Created Programs
Talk to school staffers who have cool hobbies, skills, passions and see if they would like to be part of a program or present a program for kids - or be open to them suggesting programs. It is amazing what colleagues who are knowledgable in how to talk to and reach kids can do. I have had teachers present Japanese and German culture programs for kids, a National Adoption Day program, as well as spearheading a monthly bi-lingual Spanish program series.

Shared Book Collections
If you and your school library media colleagues identify a mutual area of both of your collections that need beefing up, consider sharing a collection. We wrote a small grant for easy readers (90 at each school) housed at the schools Sept-May and then at the public library during the summer rush. It was a wonderful project and when we no longer needed to share the collection, simply divided it up between the public library and schools. It took a little oversight but really worked well to make more materials available to kids.

Kids as Book Buyers
What's better than getting a kids-eye-view of what books your collection should have. Book buying with kids for the library is a treat. We worked with our schools to identify at-risk third grade readers to join a public library club and visit a bookstore to select a non-fiction book for the public library. The kids picked carefully, we let them keep the books in their classroom for the first month and then had a party at the public library where the books were housed in a special display. It made a huge difference to the kids and us!

Early Literacy Projects
Gaining school support for library efforts to prepare kids for success in school is golden. If we can make the sale and help staffers see how we are helping them by working with preschoolers to increase literacy, school staffers can become our strongest advocates. It's worth the effort to bring them on board in initial efforts - or ask for a place at the table as they are planning literacy activities so you can let them know how many preschoolers and their families that you see!!

We'll tamp our fire down to embers for our final post and look at some simple ways to be a great partner even if you have no time, money or staff.


Nurturing the Fire - School/Library Partnerships - Part 2

Ok, your teachers have fine-free and extended loan cards; you provide classroom collections and you are getting to know the schoool folks. What's next?

School Van Delivery
Many districts have a van(s) that make deliveries between sites. If you can arrange weekly or biweekly school van stops at the library to pick up and drop off materials, it is money in the bank. This takes a little initial negotiation but if this can be arranged, it creates a way to get materials, information and projects back and forth between the school and public libraries. For parochial schools, seek out willing parent-partners from each school willing to help with these kinds of deliveries.

Outreach Visits to the Schools
This is bread and butter stuff! Let your schools know you are available to come to Literacy Nights, offer storytelling at schools, consider book talking, present at parent nights, and the ubiquitous summer reading promo visits. All these activities stress the public library's literacy role and expertise.

Cooperative Winter Reading Program
Many schools run their own winter reading-encouragement programs -why not see if school staffers are interested in pooling resources, talent and ideas to create one community-wide effort. Working together can result in a program run by the schools and supported by the public library. Perhaps the library can provide design or printing muscle; extra programs and even small incentives to encourage kids to stop by during the reading program weeks.

Kids Read One Book
Classrooms make great partners in this kind of project. Work closely with a committee from the school to select a title; seek out funding together and provide book discussions at the schools as well as the library. With enough lead time this can be a tremendous project.

Author/Illustrator Visits
Another gimme! If you are bringing in a book creator, partner with the schools and other local organizations to give the author plenty of places to present and a great way to support both schools and public library. Our most successful ongoing project involved working with colleagues to bring in authors for third graders on an annual basis. We were able to sustain interest and funding from the library, PTOs and community funding sources for many years.

Watch for Part 3 when we start to get really jiggy with it.


Starting a Fire - School/Library Partnerships - Part 1

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.

Teacher Cards
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).

Deposit Collections
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!


More Library Week Celebrations

In honor of National Library Workers Day, Lisa Chellman over at Under the Covers has the best shout-out to all the wonderful staffers throughout the library that I have seen. It makes you proud to be part of the crowd that makes libraries work...from bottom to top to in-between. I think in the hustle bustle of busy library work it can be easy to overlook everybody's vital contributions. This post reminds me again about how important each and every person who works in a building is to the overall success of our efforts in libraries. Thanks Lisa!


Happy Library Week

Time to celebrate a fave week. When kids come in for field trips I love to tell them that this week is like a birthday party for the library. We get to celebrate the fun of a great place - and a place that many communities and people have access to. Communities love their police, their firefighters, even their street departments. But it is the library that opens up its doors wide and the staffers that say, "Come on in!" with smiles on their faces that make libraries the truly extraordinary community resource that they are.

So a big round of applause to libraries and the dedicated staffers who work there. You provide amazing materials for communities to share; meeting rooms; strong partnerships with other groups and organizations to enhance services; fab programs for all ages; outreach to all ages; information and internet access; and support for literacy and learning throughout people's lives. Put on those party hats and celebrate!


Navigating the Day

Today was one of those days most of us dread. Many currents, rocks and shoals to navigate with personnel issues, a very tough patron behavior situation and competing staff needs and opinions all coming to rest against, under and around my little canoe. Much of the tumult is ongoing and swirls around many of the other managament staff as well. One or two are the management staff!

As a five month newbie on the job as Youth Services Coordinator, I'd like to have the luxury and a little grace time to let these currents swirl and simply float above a few situations, letting them play out as they will. But I'm paid to look at, observe, listen, represent the department and staffers, represent the public, build consensus, make recommendations, participate in and make decisions and communicate all along the way. I am here to look for ways to smooth the waters rather than stay in the middle of a maelstrom where we all get sucked down lower.

So I talked honestly with two other managers, listened to their concerns and shared some of mine. I listened as a staffer shared her frustration and promised no solution other than that I would think more on it. We will talk again and see if there is some common ground we can find in this stalemate involving another staffer. Neither is right, neither is wrong - always the hardest to mediate.

And that tough patron situation. Like many others I have had to take care of since I started, I talked as directly and as honestly as I could with the aide for a special needs adult to help reach a solution that honored both her client's needs and that of the children who use our area. I kept my director informed as well as my staffers about the situation, my communication and what actions they could take if the problem re-occurs.

Honesty, listening, communication and staying out of knee-jerk emotional reactions helped me steer the course. I am as bone-tired right now as if I had paddled all day long in my canoe in the beautiful Canadian wilderness of Quetico. And also, for today, as satisfied.