This is a guest blog post from the 2021-2022 AASL/ALSC/YALSA School & Public Library Cooperation Committee.

It’s that magical time of year. Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and Summer Reading planning is in full swing! This is the time of year when I get to work most closely with my school librarian colleagues. I am a Family Services librarian in a suburban public library. I’m lucky to be in a town that really loves its libraries, both public and school. We get to see kids after school all year, and we hear a lot about the fabulous author visits and book recs that their school librarians bring to them. We plan programs and recommend reading to build on the learning that happens at school, and the school librarians likewise guide students to further develop learning they’ve started in public library programs. Summer, of course, is different. That daily exchange of learning changes shape, as school days transform into summer camp days and engagement in our public library’s Summer Reading program. Still, even without physically entering their schools, families’ connections to their school libraries remain strong. The biggest question that we get over the summer is, “What do the schools say that we should read?”

What a child should read is always a tricky question to answer. Our school librarians and reading specialists fully agree with my Family Services team that children should read books that interest them, not simply books that fall at a particular reading level. Yet “What do the schools say that we should read?” expresses a lot of valid concerns, which should not be brushed off with a simple, “Read whatever you like!” There’s the question, “What should we read to be ready for class next year?” of course. There’s also, “I miss my fabulous school librarian. What would they recommend?” School, and the school library, is so central to students’ lives all year—it’s only logical that we should do what we can to celebrate that connection and keep it strong over the summer!

To make the transition to Summer Reading as seamless as possible this year, my school librarian colleagues and I started meeting in March to plan a joint Summer Reading list. We’re working together to create online and print book lists, centered around a guide to text complexities that the schools share with parents. We’ll all throw in the books that we know our students love, along with new favorites. We will ensure that the public library owns every book on the recommended reading lists so that access will be easy for families. We will also build information about our public library’s Summer Reading activities and theme—and even some thematic recs!—into the Summer Reading guide that the schools distribute. The schools will provide guidance for parents to create thematic text sets for their kids over the summer, and all of our Family Services team will be ready to help families in this endeavor. Our Family Services team will visit every school for a Summer Reading kickoff assembly in June. All of the schools’ Summer Reading info will include links to our public library’s webpage, and our webpage will link to the schools’ lists. We’ll bring a little of the schools into the public library for the summer (including the best-loved books of all the kids’ favorite school librarians!), and the schools will welcome us into their classrooms as the year winds down. “What do the schools say that we should read?” Exactly what your public library says you should! And a marvelous variety it is! 

Rebecca Fox is the Assistant Manager of Family Services at New Canaan Library. When she’s not at the library, you can find her curled up with a book or a crossword, or crafting goofy bead animals. You can reach Rebecca at rfox@newcanaanlibrary.org. 

The ‘School-Pub’ Update

Last year, the AASL/ALSC/YALSA School & Public Library Cooperation Committee was charged with developing an informational list of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) resources and brainstorming ways to ensure the resources remain relevant and up to date. The committee is pleased to announce it has presented the ‘Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Resource Exchange for ALA Youth Divisions (AASL, ALSC, YALSA)’ to the three divisional presidents and now await guidance on where it will be hosted. On behalf of last year’s committee chair and myself, I thank all of our committee members for their hard work and insight in developing this document. 

Our committee now looks forward to working on our next charge: constructing some strategies for how our youth services libraries can all work together in the face of the current climate of book challenges. 

Jodi Silverman is the Youth Services Department Supervisor of the North Plainfield branch of the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey. She is a 2020-2021 ALA Emerging Leader and the 2021-2022 Chair of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA School & Public Library Cooperation Committee. When not designing escape rooms for teens, you can find her playing MMOs and running virtual karaoke get-togethers. You can reach Jodi at jsilverman@sclibnj.org.

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