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Public libraries and schools often have the same goal in mind – to create lifelong learners. One way to do that is to get students to become frequent patrons of their local library and discover all the resources that these anchor institutions have to offer.
So how can a public library partner with their local school district to make an even larger impact for patrons, especially PK-12 students and their families?
Connect with Your Local School District
The first step is forming a relationship with the educators, administrators, and parents within your local school district. Here are some people you should consider reaching out to when getting started:
- School Librarian or Media Specialist: These professionals can serve as your point of entry into the school, which will hopefully lead to ongoing communication and the sharing of resources, book recommendations, and best practices.
- Principal: It is always a good idea to get leadership involved, especially if you plan to develop new programs together or participate in school-based events.
- Parent Liaison: In many schools and districts, parents and PTAs support fundraising activities and in-school events. They can be a great resource when brainstorming ways to collaborate.
- Technology Lead: Whether it is a School Based Technology Specialist or a Director of Technology, it is important to understand how schools are using technology both inside and outside the classroom.
Support Existing Programs, Events, and Curriculum
Once you establish relationships within the school, partner on existing events and programs that lend themselves to natural collaboration:
- Back-to-School Orientations
- School Reading Competitions
- Author Readings & Story Times
- Summer Learning Programs
It may be as simple as sharing or re-posting about these events and programs on your social media account, featuring it in any outreach (newsletters, emails, SMS) you are already doing for patrons, or hanging up posters in your library. You can also offer to support any upcoming events and provide resources. For example, if the school has a story time event, you could volunteer to do a reading.
Consider setting up assignment alerts as a way to support a school’s specific curriculum and lessons. Here is an example form from Prince George’s County Memorial Library System. This allows you to be prepared for possible inquiries from students, and the opportunity to set up relevant lessons or take-home kits to support the assignment.
Engage with Students and Families
As you continue to build upon your relationships with the schools, you can find ways to help students understand all that the library has to offer. You can set this in motion by setting up class visits to the library, as well as in-classroom visits from your team. To engage families, you can work with the school to set up an open house event where parents can come to learn more about the library.
When you create these opportunities to meet with students and their families, you can:
- Encourage everyone to sign up for library cards
- Promote programs and events you offer year-round
- Get a better understanding of the needs of your community
Provide Access to Technology & Digital Resources
Digital Tools Being Leveraged in the Classroom
With more and more educational tools and resources being digitized, having access to technology is critical for students to be successful in school and beyond. As you work with your local schools, find out which digital tools they are leveraging in the classroom (i.e. BrainPOP, Google Classroom, Class Dojo). Offer these same apps and tools in your library to extend the classroom during the summer and weekends. [Read the Top 20 Educational Website Students Actually Visit]
Device Lending Program
Having a dedicated device lending program for students in your community is another great way to keep students learning all year long. WiFi hotspots and LTE-embedded Chromebooks and tablets can be offered through your existing check-out program. You can even include CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) filters to keep students safe and on-task while online. Pre-program devices to have the apps and tools they are familiar with for extra-focused learning.
Develop New Youth-Centered Programs
As your relationship with the districts and communities deepens, you can use the insights you have gained to develop new youth-centered programs at your library. These programs should complement the district’s curriculum, while also providing fresh perspectives on topics they might not have time to cover in the classroom.
Here are some ideas:
- Digital Literacy [Tools to Teach Digital Literacy from Common Sense Media]
- Digital Footprint [Cybersecurity Awareness with Digital Footprints for Students from Kajeet]
- STEM/STEAM [Check-out Tacoma Public Library’s S.T.E.A.M. Backpacks]
Ultimately, you should aim to launch programs that instill a sense of curiosity in students – encouraging them to never stop learning and safely navigate an increasingly digital world.
You can check-out the Public Library & School Library Collaboration Kit from ALA for more ideas on supporting the students and their families in your community.