The School and Public Library Collaboration Survey conducted this fall by the Children’s Services Division was successful in helping us determine how well public libraries are communicating and collaboration with area schools. We received responses from 36 libraries.
Although most libraries indicated the many typical ways public libraries communicate with school–such as phone calls and mailings–some responses were unique. For instance, one library has the public library programs listed on the back of the school lunch menus that go home with each student. Many librarians also attend PTA and SEPTA meetings as well as open school nights and other events where parents are in attendance. These responses seem to indicate that communicating with the school and students directly is important but that the school also can be used as a way to get information directly to parents, whether in backpacks or at a meeting.
Over half of the respondents believe their attempts at communicating with schools are ineffective. While some take responsibility for perhaps not reaching out enough or making enough of an effort, it seems overall there is a lack of responsiveness or willingness on behalf of the schools to work with the public library and promote it. It could be inferred that pressures–such as implementing the Common Core State Standards–have overwhelmed the schools and the focus on new standards has made public library collaboration less of a priority.
Many respondents noted teacher frustration and confusion surrounding the Common Core curriculum as well as a lack of direction in how to implement it. Some indicated that they feel the schools are forgetting that public libraries can be a resource to them in this complicated process. It would seem that since so many teachers feel they are lost and lacking support in this area that the public library resources and assistance would be appreciated and welcomed. Perhaps more needs to be done to get this message across to schools.
Many of the respondents expressed frustration at the obstacles encountered when trying to work with the schools, whether it be with the school’s overburdened teachers and agendas or the lack of an appropriate liaison at the school. Some expressed a feeling that the efforts at communicating are one-sided with public libraries doing all the giving.
Despite these complications many of our libraries are running successful programs in conjunction with the schools. We’re hosting art exhibits, applying jointly for grants, planning events to promote school reading programs, making book lists, sharing databases and other resources, assisting with Parents as Reading Partners, and hosting literacy events. It seems as though when collaboration works it exceeds expectations of both the school and public library and it is mutually beneficial.
Overwhelmingly, respondents agreed that schools and public libraries work better when they work together. Public libraries seem to be thinking outside of the box and are certainly not at a loss for ideas when it comes to planning joint programs or coming up with ways to support the school curriculum. The challenge is getting schools to listen and understand the public library’s value. This is where we need to apply our creativity.
–Jaclyn Kunz, Children’s Librarian
Henry Waldinger Memorial Library