Part 5 - Keeping a Torch Lit - School Public Library Partnerships
The posts in this series came to mind first after a School Library Journal article last year reported that overall school/public library collaboration was very poor. I wrote a post about tag-team librarianship to share thoughts when that came out. The recent article in SLJ referenced in Part 1 of this series focused on some fairly large libraries and systems with big staff infrastructures - a sure recipe for the vast majority of libraries that serve far smaller populations to feel, "Well, jeez, we can't do that - we so lack those resources/staff/time."
I.do.not.believe.that. No matter size, staff, budget or time, we all can be great partners.
Here and there, over the years, I've heard a few librarians say they "couldn't get in at the schools". Then a story is shared about how that librarian purchased "useful" teacher books - without consulting school colleagues - and these materials were never checked out. Or I hear that a colleague refuses to collaborate or look for ways to do outreach in the schools because if the public library starts, it will be an excuse to remove school librarians.Or a homework center isn't well-used but in further conversation, I find out that the library has not mentioned a word of it's existence except through in-house PR. The link in all these "fails" is that the public librarian has not talked and listened to, explored or partnered with their school colleagues. Building a service in a vacuum is never a good idea.
If we want to create those links, we truly have to forge a partnership of mutual respect and listening. School colleagues are under alot of pressure. We need to think in ways that address those pressures and make the case that partnerships will benefit kids and staff and make a positive difference. It's good to be low-maintenance in terms of what we propose or ask of school colleagues. It's worth it to be a good listener and investigator - what is needed; what would help them or what suggestions do they have for us. And I find that flexibility on our part always makes the partnership better.
A first small step can open doors. Jen the Youth Services Librarian, who started a new job in August, was out in the schools promoting Teen Read Week programs in October. Colleagues I know invite their school partners to breakfast, for cocktails; initiate youth book discussion groups; invite them along to conferences and workshops or to visit the Cooperative Children's Book Center in Madison; give short, snappy presentations at in-services.They set up an occasional meeting with school media colleagues and see what ideas and conversations result.
With Common Core state standards coming into play, there are even more opportunities to chat, talk, plan and collaborate with school colleagues. Many public libraries have strong collections of narrative non-fiction that can be explored and celebrated.
The possibilities are exciting and endless.We can keep the fires burning and do amazing outreach with our school colleagues. Partnerships work - no matter what size library you work at.
Image: 'Tiki torch' http://www.flickr.com/photos/83261600@N00/8189871269 Found on flickrcc.net