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.

We are all different, and that’s okay.  I say this statement out loud at minimum once a month, usually when confronted with the unsavory news about banned and challenged books, book burnings, etc.; activities that are, at best, seriously misguided attempts to protect young minds from being exposed to topics deemed to be above their maturity level. The empath in me is always seeking to fully understand and walk in the proverbial shoes of someone else. However, the more I peruse the list of challenged titles, the more confused I become. Our country is a gumbo of cultures enhanced by the lived experiences and traditions of diverse people whose uniqueness adds flavor to our Americanness.  Just as there is no such thing as a one ingredient recipe, neither should there be the promotion and elevation of one singular story. To say that there is not room for more than one type of story is to belie this country’s composition. Yet, somehow, in an increasingly diverse society, books featuring BIPOC and LBGTQ characters and authors continue to be targeted for such efforts.

Children and teens need to see themselves, their family structure and their communities reflected back to them in books. I won’t belabor the importance of access to materials that are windows, mirrors and/or sliding doors to their worlds and those that are different from them. However, there is an urgency in continuing this charge. To the librarians in school and public libraries, I salute you for your work in standing firm in the face of serious opposition and working to create a more inclusive and just world one book at a time, one child at a time.  Your work is instrumental in normalizing and honoring differences without “othering” and a testament to the ways our differences make for a better collective. 

The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation has been hard at work on a resource list that will hopefully make our jobs easier in the face of so much uncertainty. Keep an eye out; it should be coming very soon!

Tamela Chambers is a branch manager at the Chicago Public Library and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation.

This post was first published on the ALSC Blog on April 23, 2019

Jillian Woychowski is the Library Media Specialist at West Haven High School and a member of the ALA Interdivisional Committee for School and Public Library Cooperation

Kymberlee Powe is the Head of Children’s and Teen Library Services at the West Haven Public Library

I am very lucky as a school librarian to work so well with my public librarians. Our city’s children’s and teen services librarian has held card drives and visits me on a regular basis. We’ve coordinated getting materials for each other and worked together on summer reading. We also share the experience of serving on our state book award committee. I served on the High School Level 2018 Nutmeg Committee and Kym just wrapped serving on the Middle Grades Nutmeg Committee for 2020 (see nutmegaward.org). Being on the committee for a state book is a serious time commitment, requiring reading 75-150 books and monthly meetings to discuss them. For both of us, making sure our students were represented in the eventual nominees was very important.

Kym comes to West Haven High School once a week to hold a book club with students in our Program for Accelerated Credit-recovery in Education (PACE) program. Students in PACE “have had difficulty succeeding in the regular setting. The program offers credit recovery and and intensive support system so that these students can learn the appropriate skills and behaviors needed to be successful in school and beyond. The program takes a unique outside-the-box approach to teaching and learning in order to re-engage students in their own education, with a focus on college and career readiness” (Program of Studies, whhs.whschools.org). Students receive 90 minutes each of Language Arts and Mathematics a day, along with contemporary issues and environmental education to give students an awareness of their own community. Technological literacy rounds out their curriculum.

This March, Kym and I sat down for a conversation with two PACE students to talk about being an urban librarian and the challenges for equity, diversity, and inclusion in potential award-winning literature.

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As a public librarian, I’ve found that book talks for state-wide award list titles are a great opportunity to collaborate with school librarians, teachers, and staff at the beginning of each school year. Teaming up to promote the lists aligns with ALSC’s core competencies by collaborating with other agencies serving children (6.4) and the programming guidelines established from YALSA’s Future of Library Services report by engaging teens via outreach to schools (3.2) and developing rich, mutually beneficial partnerships between public libraries and schools (5.0).

Many states sponsor young readers’ choice awards that provide many benefits to young readers, such as the opportunity to discover and read books that they will enjoy. The lists typically include a diverse selection of genres and voices. Deciding on titles to vote for presents opportunities for open discussion among students, library staff, and teachers.

Students in Illinois are served from kindergarten through twelfth grade by four different awards, all sponsored by the Illinois School Library Media Association. As a teen librarian, I read and book talk the nominees for the Rebecca Caudill Book Award at two different middle schools. This list includes 20 titles, so sharing the book talking load with other librarians saves my time and voice. At one school we split the list 50/50 (top half/bottom half), while at the other we just agree to read as many as we can.

Book talking together helps us to learn book talking techniques from each other. I openly admit to memorizing the best, most interesting bits from other peoples’ book talks to use whenever I am book talking on my own. The diversity of the Caudill list means there are always a few titles that I love, and a few that just don’t appeal to me. I can’t fake enthusiasm for a book, but another person’s enthusiasm – whether it comes from listening to their book talk or talking with them between talks about what they like about the book – is often contagious. At the very least, I can truthfully tell students that I know another great reader who loved the book.

Finally, collaborative book talking is a fantastic opportunity to introduce students to staff from both school and public libraries, while supporting and promoting each other’s library collections. If a title is checked out at one library, then we can invite students seek it at the other.

Since we are always pressed for time, here are some time-saving techniques:

  1.   Arrange the books so that the students can see the covers, and let them choose what titles get talked.
  2.   Have a 30-second “elevator pitch” prepared for each book, so that you can cram any that aren’t picked into the last few minutes of your talk.
  3.   Ask the class whether they’ve read popular books on the list like Hunger Games or Cinder. If they have, then skip those and segue into a similar title: “If you liked that one, then you may like this one…”

Donna Block is a teen librarian at Niles (Ill.) Public Library District and a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation.

Posted originally: http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2015/09/gimme-a-c-for-collaboration-collaborative-book-talks/