A close friendship between two librarians, a school librarian and a teen services librarian, led to the creation of the Jane Addams Book Club, a collaborative program between Southold Free Library and the Southold Junior/Senior High School Library, featured in the Public Library and School Library Collaboration Toolkit. Students in grades 5-7 read the winners of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, which recognizes children’s literature that encourages young people to think critically about “peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.” Through lively discussion, database research, and making connections to their own lives, students learned how social justice and equity can impact their lives and the wider global community.
The book club met at the public library and book club members used both the public and school library resources for their research. The subject matter of the books wasn’t the only topic up for discussion. Book club members did research on, and discussed their findings about, the authors and illustrators of the award winners in preparation for a trip to New York City to attend the award presentation. Penny Kelley, the Teen Services Librarian at Southold Free Library and co-creator of the book club, observed that, “meeting the authors and illustrators and hearing their stories, had a lasting effect on the students.” Students were inspired by the connections they had to the authors and were motivated to use art as a platform for change.
When asked for tips and tricks for building a collaborative relationship between public and school libraries, Ms. Kelley said an important thing to do is get school administration involved. She has developed an excellent relationship with the school principal and works closely with the school social workers and the guidance counselor. The school librarian is her most important ally. They collaborate on a number of additional projects including an Escape Room program and a talent show.
The Jane Addams Book Club hasn’t met since 2016, but Ms. Kelley mentioned that it’s time to reconvene. She is inspired to start the program again and is excited to get students together to talk about the newest award winners. “It really was a remarkable experience for the students and for the adults, too.”
Abby Moore is Associate Professor and Education Librarian at University of North Carolina Charlotte, and a member of the Interdivisional Committee on School and Public Library Cooperation.