Libraries and schools have a longstanding partnership, working together to support kids and teens in a variety of ways. The most obvious way libraries have assisted schools is through simply loaning books, but many take this further by providing tutors, carrying special collections aligned with school reading lists, and conducting school visits and research assistance in the library. And as the title of this post hints, lots of libraries offer afterschool programs specifically aimed at taking over where the school day ends.
Before getting into the wealth of assistance libraries provide, let’s look at the existing need. A 2014 study found that more than 15 million students are on their own without supervision from 3 to 6 p.m., the window with the highest levels of youth crime and high-risk behavior, and largest percentage of crimes committed against children and teens. On the flip side, participation in afterschool programs is correlated with lower crime levels, safer overall behavior, greater school attendance and engagement, higher test scores, better self-esteem, and much more. These outcomes are found across all sectors, and are strongest for at-risk students – a fact that may seem counterintuitive to some.
In 2015 over one third of public libraries reported offering regular afterschool programs, which doesn’t include standalone or ad hoc programs. With the increasing surge of STEM programming in libraries and establishment of maker spaces and learning labs for patrons of all ages, this number has certainly grown. Take a look at your local library’s program calendar and you are sure to find an array of afterschool offerings. Yay, libraries are awesome, and they change lives in very real and important ways!
But here’s the thing: you already knew this. You are currently reading the YALSA Blog on your lunch break while listening to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in your “I Love Libraries and I Vote” t-shirt. You know that libraries rock. But not everyone does. That is why we have District Days. Every year locally elected officials return to their districts during a several week long recess to focus more closely on their communities. This is the perfect time to remind them of the crucial and beautiful value of libraries! And, to make your job easier, YALSA has compiled tons of resources to help you with this!
And, since this post focuses on afterschool programs in libraries, I’ve compiled a few resources specifically for communicating the importance and value of these to your elected officials.
And here’s a tool to show you who your representatives are and how to contact them (You don’t need to fill out the form on the left, just enter your zip code in the box on the right)
Now go be awesome!
Tor Loney is a Youth Services Librarian at Albany Public Library in Albany, NY