School and Public Library Collaborations

Reading The Library Book by Susan Orlean caused me to reminisce about my lifelong love for public libraries. In the beginning of the book, she describes trips to the library with her mother, and how special these times were for her. I fondly remember similar trips with my own mother, taking the bus to the local library when I was five years old. How grown up I felt when I checked out books for myself! When I was in high school the public library was my refuge; I spent countless hours reading through their (small but growing) teen section, and checked out many a DVD and CD (remember those?).

As a high school librarian, one of my goals is to continually stress the importance of and resources offered by local public libraries. Living in Pittsburgh, we are lucky to have access not only to numerous community libraries and the Carnegie Library system. The Carnegie is a network of city libraries anchored by the beautiful Main branch in the Oakland neighborhood. Over the years, I have collaborated with my faculty and the librarians at the public libraries to offer my students the opportunity to discover these valuable institutions. Below are a few examples!

Community Library Collaborations:

The closest library to our campus is the Cooper-Siegel Community Library. This lovely space offers so many digital and print resources to our students, as well as study space. Throughout the past years, we have collaborated with the amazing staff at Cooper-Siegel to share resources with students and conduct different events. Here are some examples of what we have done thus far:

  • Library Card Sign-Up Day
    • Some of our students have grown up going to the library, but others have not had that wonderful experience. To encourage students to use the library resources, I work with the librarians at Cooper-Siegel to offer “Library Card Sign-Up Day” at least once a year (sometimes during Library Card Month in September, but it can be done whenever!). We create packets of information and the sign up form, and I visit classes to explain the event and encourage students and faculty/staff to sign up. On Sign-Up Day, librarians come from Cooper-Siegel and camp out in our library, signing up students, renewing cards, and answering questions about library resources. Not only is it a great opportunity for students to sign up, but it also is a great PR moment for the public library!
  • Boarding Student Library Visits
    • We have a growing boarding community, and we do want to give our boarding students the same opportunity to visit the library as our day students. So, we work with the librarians to offer cards to boarding students, and take them to the library various times throughout the year to explore. This is a simple and fun way to connect with these students while promoting the library!
  • Library Club- Story Time
    • I have a wonderful group of students who take part in the Library Ambassadors (our version of the Library Club!). We have various events throughout the year, but one of the students’ favorites is to design and perform a Story TIme at Cooper-Siegel. We select a theme, choose books, and prepare a craft.  We always have a great crowd, and the students enjoy seeing the happy faces of the various children and caregivers in attendance.
  • Battle of the Books
    • Many of the Library Ambassadors eagerly await the yearly Battle of the Books. They break into teams and read a set list of books, and then participate in a trivia contest at the library. In the past the event was held at a Carnegie Library branch, but this year Cooper-Siegel hosted, and it was wonderful! We had a short trip to the library, and a more personal experience with the librarians and staff.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: Field Trip!

All students at my independent school are required to complete an extensive research paper as part of their U.S. History course. This research project typically lasts an entire term, and asks students to put to use all of the research tools in their arsenal to explore a topic of interest to them. Though at first overwhelmed, many students find themselves quickly immersed in their topic and enjoy locating information. Because of the extensive print collection available at the Carnegie Library Main Branch, I always encourage students to visit the library or at least review the catalog and have books sent to their closest branch.  In the past, I made myself available various Saturdays or Sundays at the Main Library, assisting students with locating materials and making use of the wonderful staff of librarians at the library. This year, working with the history department, we organized a field trip for all of the U.S. History classes to go to the Main Library. Students were given a brief tour of the space, and then spent a few hours on their own, researching to their heart’s content. Many students mentioned making return visits to the library- music to any librarian’s ears!

In the future, I hope to extend my collaborations with public libraries to include more frequent visits and possibly even some joint programing. Have you completed any fun projects with or field trips to the public libraries in your neighborhoods? Please share in the comments below!

What should I read next? Facilitating Book Tastings for students and faculty

Way back when I was a young doe, fresh out of graduate school and ready to take on the world of a high school library, I often read blog posts by Buffy Hamilton, the Unquiet Librarian. Her blog was filled with wonderful ideas, and I eagerly awaited each new installment.

Her posts and lessons often sparked new ideas in my own mind, and led me down wonderful paths of inquiry and discovery. One favorite activity she shared was on “Book Tastings,” in which students were exposed to a variety of books in different genres, and given time to explore.

At a large public school with big classes, this activity was a lifesaver. Often, English teachers would bring in classes to self-select books for various projects. Students would listen to a few book talks given by me, and then be free to roam the shelves. And forever did they roam, I must say. Most used the opportunity to chat with friends, and/or pull random books off the shelves and ask me if I thought they would like it. While I was happy to give recommendations, I was also disappointed that students could not simply browse, read descriptions, discover new authors. They wanted the perfect book to fly off the shelves and hit them in the chest, yelling “pick me!” It was exhausting, and most students ended up with a book they didn’t want. It’s hard to perform reader’s advisory with 30 students…and I wanted better for my students.

So, enter the Book Tasting! It was popular at the public school, and continues to be a mainstay in my independent school. I go through the activity every year with freshman, a month or so before their Free Reading Week. I do this to give them tips on how to self-select a book and time to explore some of the best titles in each genre. Book Tasting, or Speed Dating with Books (for the older crowd), also gives me the chance to book talk some of my favorite books from each represented genre. I LOVE talking about books I have enjoyed. I always get goosebumps when reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimon. For some of my book talks, I like to read aloud to the students, even if they are in high school! They still enjoy it, and this book especially keeps them on the edge of their seats.

I count it as a successful day when most of the books I have book talked are checked out by the time the last class leaves. It is an easy, fun, yet fulfilling activity. I even recently hosted a professional development “Speed Dating with Books.” Faculty loved going through different titles, especially during an afternoon Professional Development activity!

To hold your own Book Tasting or Speed Dating with Books session, follow these easy steps:

  1. Select at least 8-9 genres that you love and/or that you know students will gravitate towards.
  2. Create some signage for each genre.
  3. Select books to put on tables for each genre- choose at least 4-5 in each category that you can book talk!
  4. When students arrive, hand out a worksheet to guide them through the activity- an example is linked in the resources below.
  5. Give some book talks for each genre (depending on your time).
  6. Then, give students 4-6 minutes to go through their favorite tables, encouraging them to choose a new genre each time.
  7. Be ready to check out loads of books!

I look forward to hearing about how your book tastings go, or please share advice if you conduct a similar activity!

Resources:

Check out the original blog that inspired this activity: Unquiet Librarian Blog

Feel free to use this sheet for your own book tasting: Book Tasting Worksheet

Hello from Pittsburgh!

Hello, fellow AISLers!  My name is Lindsey Myers, and I am excited to begin blogging for AISL.  After attending the conference for the first time last April and learning from and collaborating with other amazing independent school librarians, I knew that I wanted to become more involved in the organization. My first post will be an introduction, and include upcoming ideas and projects that I will be sharing in the next few months.

I spent my first four years as a public school librarian in a medium-sized (about 1500 students) suburban high school. While I enjoyed the work and my coworkers, I was intrigued when the opportunity arose to apply at a local independent coed boarding and day school, Shady Side Academy Senior School. Shady Side offered the opportunity to explore a different educational setting, and challenge myself in various ways. I began my career here in the fall of 2015.

Shady Side is a wonderful place to work. Not only do I have amazingly talented colleagues who are open to collaborating with the library, but I also find myself with more time to talk with and assist students on a one-on-one basis. Our library collaborates closely with different departments to develop research skills, promote independent reading, and generally offer a welcoming and supportive environment to all members of our community.

One goal when writing this blog is to spend more time reflecting on the various projects I have completed, and discover ways to improve for the future. I welcome your constructive feedback, and look forward to learning from all of you!

Upcoming Posts*:

  • Book Tasting- not just for kids!
  • Adventures in Book Club
  • Collaborating with your local public library
  • Digital Citizenship PSAs

*Full disclosure: I am pregnant and due in late March, so some of my posts will be from projects earlier in the year. These are yearly projects, so again,  I welcome your feedback!

A second goal is to share and receive more book recommendations. Falling into a new story is absolutely what keeps me going when times get stressed/busy/etc. Some of my posts will highlight some of the best books I have read recently (and, if I have strong negative feelings about a title, possibly those as well!). I just finished The Library Book by Susan Orlean, and I have to admit that I was captivated from page 1. She begins the story describing trips to the library with her mother, which brought me back to my own childhood. I cannot wait to repeat this ritual with my own child. And, I want to plan a trip to see the beautiful Central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Last year, my husband and I made a trip to Cleveland, OH to see the downtown Heinen’s grocery store after reading Grocery: the buying and selling of food in America by Mark Ruhlman. This title will make your weekly (daily?) trips to the grocery store much more enlightening. I am trying to convince my husband that we should make a yearly event of visiting places we read about in books! Since we have friends that just moved to LA, that trip might be an easy sell for this coming summer…

Have you read anything amazing lately? Please share in the comments! I look forward to learning from, and collaborating with you, in the posts to come.