Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Strengthening Partnerships with Public Libraries

Recently, I attended the inaugural Urban Librarians Conference, planned and organized primarily by Urban Librarians Unite (a NYC group that you all should be following/noting/volunteering for if you're not already!). Attendees came from urban centers in New York State and beyond (in some cases, far beyond), and most were either Public Librarians or library school students. Fellow HVLAer Kyle Lukoff and I were asked to help moderate a discussion group on partnerships between school libraries and public libraries in urban environments.

Kyle and I agreed that when it comes to forming relationships with our local libraries, the challenges of Independent Schools are in some cases very, very different from those of Public Schools. But as the link between our student populations and the tremendous library systems that serve them, we feel an enormous responsibility to promote our local libraries and to plant the seeds for lifelong library use. My big question coming into the discussion was, how do I get my students to recognize the value of the public library, and make sure that our single field trip is not the only time they explore a branch all year?

I have been troubled to find that when I bring a third, fourth, sixth, or eighth grade class to NYPL, nearly all of them need to sign up for library cards. This is the case even when the student has been on a former school trip to the library. It has become clear that the only time many of these young people have visited a branch is when I take them. My mind races with ideas for how to make the visits more compelling for the students: show them how to borrow eBooks, promote some shiny databases we don't have at school, don't forget audio materials and video games, social media!! In the meantime, the public librarians are running into walls simply trying to contact a teacher at their local P.S. to get the summer reading lists.

Rebecca Lubin of the Delaware Branch of Albany Public Library helped calm my racing mind by asking, "are we trying to do too much?" I think that perhaps we are, or at least that I am. Here's what Kyle said about what we want, and really can get out of a good PL relationship:
[To see] public libraries as physical structures that can be crucial to a kid’s well-being. Not just as a place to find books and resources and information, but as a place to go when you’re mad at your parents. And then, once you’re in that safe place, you can find information about anything you want without a grown-up breathing down your neck telling you that it’s inappropriate, or that you don’t need to know that yet. And that, since librarians respect patrons’ privacy, we can also be advocates and allies to patrons who need respectful adults in their lives.
Yes!! Absolutely right on, Kyle. No matter how well stocked one's school library or one's home collection is, nothing can take the place of the comfort and anonymity a great library branch (or even a so-so library branch) can provide. I would love it if even one or two of my students gained an appreciation for the library on these grounds because of a class visit. I cannot guarantee results like those, but it seems worth the try.

What are your experiences with class PL visits and field trips? Many of us noted that forming a strong relationship with an individual librarian can increase the success of such a visit intensely. Is this your experience? Are your kids more frequent PL visitors than mine? Is anybody else worried that we're looking at the future of library use, and it isn't pretty? Should I stop freaking out now?

Love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

May Book Club

Tuesday, May 14, 5:45

Elizabeth Irwin High School - meet in the library
40 Charlton Street
(between 6th Ave and Varick)

What We're Reading:
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens by Grace Whelan