Libraries, Partnerships, and Lights on Afterschool

This post was written by Megan Burton, STEM and Learning Supervisor at Kitsap Regional Library in Washington State and originally published by the Afterschool Alliance on August 30, 2018. Read the original post.

photo of youth at STEM activity“It is a real collaboration,” said Nicole Rawlinson, Teen Services Librarian at the Sylvan Way branch of the Kitsap Regional Library describing her work with the local Boys and Girls Club.

In the middle of summer, a large construction project near the Boys and Girls Club put a damper on their planned activities. The Club’s Site Coordinators had to think fast. Where could they bring nearly 80 youth where they knew they could continue to offer high quality youth programming? They had a lightbulb moment– the library.

The partnership between the Library and the Boys and Girls Club is one built on trust, strengthened by a mutual understanding and a shared purpose. Over time these partners moved beyond simply sharing resources and began to think of ways they could engage in deeper partner activities. Throughout the summer, the Library and the Boys and Girls Club hosted an 8-week journalism program with the goal of co-supporting youth in creating their own magazine.

It might be difficult to imagine taking your services and staff outside your walls, or outside your comfort zone, but by being open to ideas like these, it’s possible to work towards impact that will make a difference in the lives of youth in your community. Partnerships between afterschool programs and libraries around the country provide unique opportunities to bring a wide array of hands-on, engaging learning opportunities to youth.

According to the National Science Foundation funded LIFE Center, school age children spend 19 percent of their waking hours in school, while they spend 81 percent of their waking hours in informal learning environments. “A key factor in informal learning settings is their highly social nature.” Not only do informal learning environments encourage better outcomes for social emotional learning in youth, they expand the social capital of all the community partners involved.

As you get ready for this year’s Lights On Afterschool event, consider reaching out to and partnering with a community organization in your area. Together you will boost both the capacity and impact for your celebration. Our lights shine brightest when we shine together.