Public Libraries Can Extend School Library Collections­­­­

By Dorcas Hand

Welcome back and Happy New Year. Today, let's look at how to expand our impact with minimal campus support. We who are school librarians talk often about how we should collaborate with our teachers and administrators. We also are constantly aware of how tight our budgets are. We are creative in many ways to provide our students access to resources to help them progress academically. But do we remember our local public library as a potential collaborator?

The holidays gave me a chance to actually read the January/February 2017 issue of American Libraries when it landed in my mail. “The Future of Library Cards” (p. 22-23) by Kaitlin Throgmorton talks about Harris County (TX) Public Library’s new digital library cards that offer residents of Harris and contiguous counties access to all HCPL’s digital content. Now, I knew – as a resident – that HCPL was here and thriving, but I had missed this new digital access that extends their traditional paper cards. I signed up in about a minute – simple. And now I can search all the databases from home, a collection that complements the TexQuest databases available to schools. There are public libraries across Texas with access to the same TexShare resources as HCPL, ready to work with local schools.

So how can you team with your local public library for the benefit of your students?
  • Help every child get a library card, digital or paper. You are helping everyone: students with more books to choose to read will gain more confidence and enthusiasm as they read books they love. Public libraries will appreciate stronger usage when they build budget requests.
  • Ask the public librarian to visit a PTA meeting to show families the benefits of library cards: in book desert* areas, the public library is a chance to have books at home and to access the internet beyond school hours. It’s a chance for a family adventure on the weekend to explore the world of books and take a few home.
  • Teach teachers how to extend their project resources by borrowing additional titles from the public library. There are often extended circulation rules to accommodate teachers. The public librarian may be able to visit a faculty meeting to meet the teachers.
  • Discover and share the databases that you don’t already have through TexQuest that support specific academic needs on your campus. Need TumbleBooks for little ones? ERIC resources for teachers in graduate school? Gale Biographies in Context for middle and high school?

Share these opportunities with your students, teachers and administrators. You are strengthening student research skills as they learn to look beyond what is on the shelf in your campus library. You can be building stronger classroom projects by collaborating with both teachers and public librarians, perhaps planning (virtual) field trips for classes. And you are modeling strong research skills by demonstrating that libraries work together.

The more you showcase your skills at connecting students with useful information, the stronger your visibility with teachers and administrators when you are asking for campus support for a better library.  The PL is not on campus; it will never replace the school library – but it can always supplement the resources any campus can own. Take advantage of this public resource! Increase your impact on student achievement by including public library resources in your arsenal of tools.

*Book deserts are areas where families have little access to books beyond the school campus. There are no bookstores and few branch libraries. Bus routes can alleviate the gap by helping families and teens visit the public library regularly.

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