In one of my classes this week, we spent a lot of time talking about school and public libraries collaborating. What struck me is that schools -- both teachers and school media specialists -- and public librarians have a lot in common. We both want to serve children and teens in our community. We both want to instill a love of reading a learning. There's also so much potential for collaboration and serving patrons in complementary ways. Yet at the same time, there is so much hostility on both sides.
In class, we discussed ways to start relationships between public and school librarians and with teachers to better serve teens in particular. I realized today, however, how intentional librarians -- OK, how intentional I have to be in this. I've been reading articles in preparation for tomorrow's class, and a lot of the articles so far are related to serving teachers by having materials for their professional development. For example, according to Patricia Wilson, "In the ideal situation a professional collection is centrally located in a special facility within the school district, and small collections of professional materials are located within each elementary and secondary school library" (17). My first mental response was, "Alright, but what does that have to do with me in the public library?" My collaboration skills at work, right?
So, what is the public library's role? Perhaps a better question is what could it be? Why not have professional development materials available? What about asking the schools what journals they provide, and buying one or two that the teachers or school media specialist suggests? This could either supplement their materials or be a "second copy" of a very popular journal title. What about being one of the satellite locations of smaller professional collections suggested by Patricia Wilson? After all, teachers are a part of the community too. If that's not reason enough, homeschooling parents would certainly benefit from that collection as well.
Obviously, schools and librarians could do a better job of getting along and working together. Instead of worrying what my role is and trying to define it narrowly as a public librarian, I think it's important to think about the bigger picture. What's the best way I can serve children, teens, adults, and teachers in my community? How can I best accomplish this? Collaboration is an opportunity that shouldn't be overlooked because of my own ego. I need to strive for the ideal instead.
Wilson, Patricia. "Professional Collections in Library Media Centers." Teacher Librarian. 27:5 (2000): 16-21. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Simmons College Library. 18 November 2007. http://0-web.ebscohost.com.library.simmons.edu.