Taking School Visits to the Next Level!

This program was a partnership between Saint Marys Area Middle School and the Saint Marys Public Library. It started when I was talking with the public librarian about coming for her annual visit to go on our televised morning announcements and talk about summer reading. Since I knew that she was willing to come for a full day, I asked if she wanted to add to her summer reading promotion. In addition to going on the morning announcements, she could be a station in an activity I was doing for the end of the year with 6th grade. We decided to give the students a list of questions that they had to ask the public librarian.
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Gimme a C (for Collaboration): Collaborate to Stop Summer Slide

As the school year wraps up and Summer Learning approaches, now is a perfect time to collaborate with your local school and public libraries. We all know how important it is for students to maintain literacies, math and other skills during summer vacation. It’s time to reach out and work together to give kids the best summer opportunities, especially those who need the most support.

For schools with summer reading expectations, providing summer reading lists to public libraries can help to ensure that they have listed books on hand for students. School library staff can help to facilitate the connection by reminding teachers to prepare and share lists in spring. Having reading lists early helps public libraries to purchase books before Youth Services Departments get too busy with summer programs.

Public library staff who serve youth can contact their local schools to promote summer learning opportunities. At the elementary level, visiting library classes to encourage students to participate in summer programs can get kids excited about the public library. They should have a flyer or brochure ready to send home with elementary students. Some libraries issue public library cards to students through school, and this can help kids take ownership of their library and strengthen the relationship between school and library.

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“Celebrate Yourself” during National Library Week

Library staff in school and public libraries are incredible! In your library, it can be easy to feel like you are a one person force of nature. Developing the library program and keeping up with day-to-day duties can be exhausting. Sometimes it feels like National Library Week is just “one more thing” to added to our to-do pile.

We have to remember that many of our community partners and non-library colleagues have a lot going on in their world and may not be aware that it’s National Library Week. If you don’t celebrate yourself, it can’t be guaranteed that others will be celebrating you.


How to celebrate National Library Week in simple ways:

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration): The Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit is here!

The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation (SPLC) is pleased to announce the publication of the Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit.  This toolkit is the result of a three-year collaborative effort with members of AASL, ALSC and YALSA. It is a collection of information, research, and examples that will help facilitate and incorporate collaborative initiatives between public and school libraries.

The Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit is organized into five chapters, and includes helpful links for additional examples or information.

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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Fine free.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Los Angeles Public Library system (LAPL) have created a system-wide collaborative effort similar to those discussed in the now completed Public Library & School Library Collaboration Toolkit (.pdf). The toolkit was published earlier this month by the AASL/ALSC/YALSA School and Public Library Cooperation Committee.  There are three System-wide Initiatives found in other parts of the nation described in the toolkit, but Los Angeles has cooperated in a way that is different, yet (you can view the other System-wide Initiatives and many other programs that will fit any public or school district on ALSC’s web site). 

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Connect & Collaborate to Create Teen Learning Experiences

The fourth competency area in YALSA’s Teen Services Competencies for Library Staff is Learning Experiences. With all the other responsibilities of our library jobs, it’s a tall order to “use a broad collection of effective teaching strategies, tools, and accommodations to meet individual teen needs, build on cultural strengths, address learning differences, and enhance learning.” So how does a librarian find new ways to make learning fun and relevant for teens? Recently, I spoke with Cathy Castelli, school library media specialist at Atlantic Technical College and High School (ATC) in Coconut Creek, Florida, about strategies that she uses to continually excite and engage her students in meaningful learning experiences

As any fan of Saturday Night Live can tell you, a “Celebrity Guest Host” adds new excitement to a show’s routine. And since Ms. Castelli is an aspiring YA novelist, she has been able to connect and collaborate with several local YA authors, who make “guest appearances” at the school to teach creative writing workshops. Students listen with rapt attention, write and share enthusiastically when authors such as Stacey Ramey (The Sister Pact, The Secrets We Bury), Gabby Triana (Summer of Yesterday, Wake the Hollow), Steven Dos Santos (The Culling trilogy), and Melody Maysonet (A Work of Art) speak about their career paths, discuss their novels, and inspire creativity with stimulating writing exercises. Teens are learning how to express themselves while discovering the joys of reading and writing.
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Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Reach Across the Aisle for Partnerships that Transform Youth Services

Through school-public library collaboration, librarians support one another in expanding and nurturing their communities’ literacy ecosystems. Patricia Jimenez is the school librarian at Sunnyslope High School (SHS) in the Glendale (Arizona) Union High School District. At the time of their collaborative work, Emily Howard was the young adult librarian at the Cholla Branch of the Phoenix Public Library (PPL); she is now the assistant branch manager at Desert Sage. Together, Patricia and Emily developed a series of programs based on their determination to take literacy “where teens are.”

School librarian Patricia and public librarian Emily’s partnership began when Emily reached out about visiting the Sunnyslope campus to discuss what the Desert Sage Branch had to offer SHS students. Patricia was thrilled because she had been meaning to do exactly the same thing.

After their initial meeting, Patricia arranged for Emily and a colleague to visit SHS’s library during lunch periods, helping students sign up for PPL library cards when they are most frequently in and out of the media center. The visits offered a low-key way for the collaborators to get to know one another better. They chatted during the set-up, the time between lunches, and during the tear-down as well.

The collaborators learned they had a great deal in common. Patricia showed Emily some typical SHS library programming, sparking the idea of having Patricia bring that programming to the Cholla Branch. A month later, Patricia boxed up her FebROARary activities and headed to Emily’s PPL branch. Participants in the joint program made dinosaur buttons, colored dinosaur bookmarks, and applied dinosaur tattoos. While the PPL teens were not as excited to participate as SHS students usually are, parents with their younger children stopped in and got involved. Patricia was able to work with a different audience, which was truly fun for her.

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MAKING Time for Maker Programming!

“I love all the maker programming ideas, but I just don’t have the time in the my day to make it work.” This phrase has been uttered by so many library staff, all of whom wear way too many hats in their daily jobs. So, instead of sharing out ideas for developing programming, today we’re going to focus on different ways to implement maker programming into our schedule.

If you are the type of library worker who is looking for new maker ideas, don’t forget to check out YALSA’s maker resources.

Students creating “galaxy pinwheels”

Before we begin…

Remember that library staff develop programming based on their community needs. Maker programming may be a need in your community, but there may be another organization filling that need. There also may be library staff who have embedded STEM programming in their library programs, but they may not be labelling it as STEM (children’s librarians are amazing at doing this during craft time at story hour). Knowing what your community needs will help you work it in the right way.

Option 1: Embed it in a program/lesson you already do.

Starting a new program can be a challenge. The best way to start a maker program is to start small. For some stakeholders, hearing an idea about a maker program doesn’t mean anything, but seeing a small maker program can make stakeholders understand the library’s goals.

Work with a group that you meet with already, such as a TAB group, book club (ex: challenge them to make a popsicle stick harmonica when discussing Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo), story hour, study halls). Throw in a quick challenge that they will like and make them come back for more (My favorite is the duck call challenge).

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I Love My Librarian Award Spotlight: Sheikla Blount

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Sheikla Blount, library media specialist at Columbiana Middle School in Columbiana, Alabama. Ms. Blount was recently named one of the recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award.  The award is a collaborative program of Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Public Library, The New York Times and the American Library Association.  A graduate of Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama, Sheikla clearly has a passion for libraries and children. She’s involved in the middle school, even outside the library, and the sponsor for the Junior United Nations Assembly and yearbook club. Continue reading

How Student Engagement is Important for Libraries

A recent survey conducted by YouthTruth discusses whether or not students feel engaged in their school studies. Understanding student engagement is important for educators and librarians because it can give great insight into challenges affecting learning both inside and outside of the classroom. YouthTruth analyzed survey responses from over 230,000 students in grades three through twelve. The information was gathered through YouthTruth’s anonymous online climate and culture survey across 36 states. View the entire report here.

The survey targeted four specific statements, which followed with percentages of their findings. The first was that, “across all grade levels, the majority of students feel engaged.” The results to this statement showed 78 percent of elementary school students, 59 percent of middle school students and 60 percent of high school students respectively felt engaged in school work. It is interesting to see that number drop from the time a student left elementary school and finally made it to high school. However, it isn’t surprising. In elementary school students are constantly praised for the work they do and are often times engaged in more “fun programs” than those who entered the older grades.

This isn’t to say that middle schools and high schools aren’t doing their job of praising students or that they are not having fun. They are – I see it on a daily basis on the social media websites and social media accounts that the schools and teachers at middle and high school levels use. A lot happens in middle school and high school: Life changes occur, college prep begins and suddenly the fun of school is hidden beneath the requirements needed to leave and enter the real world. Students may not feel engaged, not because their teachers aren’t showing how important they are but because so much is happening that education gets lost in the shuffle.

According to the survey, “most students take pride in their school work.” This result shows 72 percent of middle school students taking pride and 68 percent of high school students. The survey broke it down even further to state that females are slightly more likely to take pride in school work than males or students who identify as other than male or female.

The last two survey findings were interesting to me, as they speak a lot to an area I feel public libraries can step in and help fill the gap.

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