In case you haven’t heard, the YALSA Committee: Partnerships Advocating for Teens is transitioning to an Interest Group in 2010. If you don’t have time or $$ to commit to conferences and traditional committee work, but still want to get involved with YALSA, consider joining an Interest Group!
Now… on to the pep talk!
Information Today, Inc. has published a great book on partnerships entitled, Library Partnerships: Making Connections Between School and Public Libraries. I asked the author, Tasha Squires, some questions about her book.
Amy: Tell us a bit about your background and what prompted you to write the book.
Tasha: Over the years I spent working as a teen librarian for Fountaindale Public Library District in Bolingbrook and Romeoville, IL, I spent a tremendous amount of time interacting with the schools, especially the middle schools, and became close with many of the teachers and the two school librarians. It became clear early on in my tenure; the school librarians were woefully understaffed and underfunded. There were four middle schools in the district the public library served, yet only two school librarians who split their time between the four schools. Each school ended up with close to 1,000 students. As you can imagine this was a daunting job, trying to serve all the students and teachers. I began doing booktalks for a few teachers and it quickly became a huge part of my job.
Working so closely with the librarians and the teachers, and seeing the students as they came into the public library, I realized we had so many more resources at our fingertips than the schools. It became important for me to see where our public library could reach out and assist the school libraries, which were struggling. We worked together to promote programs, share print resources and give teachers and students an expanded resource base. Still even with things we did, I realized later, looking back, there were many missed opportunities for strengthening our bond. It was thinking of the things that could have been done, but weren’t that let me to contemplate the broader picture for collaboration between school and public libraries and hence the book.
Amy: It would seem that school and public library connections/partnerships could mean different things for different schools and organizations? What are some of the things that define those partnerships?
Tasha: Each library has its own needs, whether that library is based in a school or public setting. Yet, first and foremost, libraries are libraries, and we have the same basic purposes, regardless of where they are located. The beautiful thing about school and public libraries is we share the same clientele, the same community and often the same resources. This just makes for opportunities, rather than creating limits. So while at first glance libraries might seem very different, at the core, common ground is abundant. Obviously, one school library might need more print resources while another is starving for technology. A public library might be serving a vast population that covers five school districts, or perhaps a huge geographic area. It is important before beginning any partnership that each entity knows what they want to gain from the relationship before seeking one.
Amy: I had a library school student ask me for reasons why NOT to partner. The idea being that he was looking at both sides of a difficult issue. Can you speak to that at all?
Tasha: I think the most important thing to be cognizant of when entering a partnership is that both people involved want it to succeed. If you have one person who is being forced into the collaboration, or doesn’t truly believe there is a need or even that the two libraries should be partnering, it is doomed from the start. Do libraries need to collaborate on everything? No, of course not. Everyone’s time is limited, so only focus on areas where you can help each other, rather than hinder.
Amy: What surprised you the most while doing research and discovery on this topic?
Tasha: It was surprising just how many libraries are collaborating with each other, and not even thinking of it in terms of partnering. It does just naturally happen in many instances. In others, a little more work is involved. In either case, just start small, work to get to know people at each location and you’ll be amazed with what can happen.
For more specifics on partnering and ideas for working together, check out this podcast interview of Tasha Squires by Sarah Long here: http://www.librarybeat.org/longshots/play/150.
If you’d like to purchase Tasha’s book, check out Information Today, Inc.’s website at http://books.infotoday.com/books/librarypartnerships.shtml