In these days of budget cuts and less than optimal school libraries and school library staffing, what can a public library system do to help? Many of us front-line youth and teen services librarians work diligently to make and foster connections with teachers, administrators, and school media specialists with varying degrees of success. Nearly ten years ago in 2005, my employer, Deschutes Public Library (DPL) ,was ready to take the next step: enter Library Linx.
As stated on DPL’s website,
“Library Linx is a partnership between Deschutes County schools and Deschutes Public Library. It provides the opportunity for students and teachers to place holds on public library materials and have the materials delivered to their school. The materials are then checked out in the school’s media center by the media manager/specialist. It creates library users out of students who might not otherwise be able to visit a public library, and allows for teachers to have quick and easy access to materials that supplement what they have at school.”
While there are other school libraries circulating public library materials, what sets Linx apart are the requirements and participation benchmarks we have put in place to ensure that this program goes beyond materials circulation and enters the realm of an active partnership. Schools who choose to apply for Library Linx agree to the following:
- School has regular staffing in the school’s library or media center (communicating the importance of this position to school administrators)
- School library staff will schedule DPL Youth Services Librarians to visit students at least twice per year to provide library resource training that supports the school’s curriculum.
- School library staff will schedule DPL Youth Services Librarians to visit faculty meetings at least once per year to review and promote library resources and services.
- School will support a library card campaign to all students & faculty, with a goal of 80% receiving Linx cards to secure access to DPL databases, place holds, or check out DPL materials at the school.
- School will meet circulation benchmarks to continue on in the Linx program; one probationary year is acceptable.
There are several other requisites addressing user confidentiality, equipment and software needs that support materials circulation, school library staff training on DPL policies and resources, etc. The biggest challenge, at the start of the Linx program, was getting the commitment of the school courier service to deliver materials to each school. By encouraging everyone at the table to focus on the ultimate goal of providing library resources to students and teachers we achieved wonderful cooperation.
While accessing public library material at school is an incredible service to students and staff, a valuable synergy develops between Linx schools and the public library through the required in-person visits. My face time with school staff results in relationships with area teachers who now know they can call or email with an informational need and find support. Working closely with school media staff leads to new in-school public library programs and increases invitations to open houses and other school-sponsored events.
It is exciting to meet brand new 6th graders and know that by the time they leave 8th grade they will have seen me present and geek out about books and library programs at least 6 times. Requiring these visits as opposed to providing them as an optional opportunity shows schools that we take this project seriously and are committed to increasing awareness about all their local public library has to offer.
A secondary goal for Linx is to also promote the school’s own library; getting school library and media staff involved in Linx puts their work in the spotlight at school. We have heard anecdotal statements about school library circulation increasing in addition to circulating public library materials, all because library awareness in general is on the rise with students and teachers.
Linx is a highly coveted partnership that now connects DPL with 25 area public schools from at least two school districts. We have been contacted by numerous private schools for inclusion and will be examining the possibilities for expanding the reach of this program.
How about you? Are you involved in a great school/library partnership? I’m looking to cover this topic a bit more in the upcoming year, and will also be looking to the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Joint Committee on School/Public Library Partnerships to provide more resources and ideas. Leave a comment or drop me a line: aprilw (at) deschuteslibrary (dot) org.