Paying a visit

At next month’s conference in LA, school library visits are sure to once again be a key part of the annual event. During the rest of the year, I know I am one of many who benefit from visiting other schools’ libraries as part of regional/provincial/state library groups. And I know I’m preaching to the converted when I say that seeing school libraries in action, in person, has proven invaluable to both the improvement of my own library, and to my growth as a librarian.

So much so that I often take advantage of my personal travel to visit other libraries – school, public, academic (or special, if possible). Some visits are serendipitous, some planned. This break, I’ve been lucky to be in Florida, and reached out to the librarian at an independent school in the area, who was kind to welcome me for a visit. Visits such as this allow me the opportunity to:

  • Explore physical library space, see different furniture and equipment in use and get great leads on recommended vendors (as well as finding out what hasn’t lived up to expectations)
  • Examine physical collections, talk about digital collections and be inspired by creative displays
  • At school libraries, see class scheduling in action and think about what how it might inform what I’m currently doing; discuss similar program and service challenges and possible resolutions, in and out of the library; learn about school culture and speak with students; and talk about the benefits of AISL with independent school librarians, some who may not belong (yet 🙂 )
  • At public libraries, pick the brains of the teen librarian (hot titles! cool programs!) and talk with staff about any partnerships they may have with local schools
  • At university libraries, ask about what skills they would like first-year students to have already mastered (and consider how aligned my programme is with these expectations), and look into special programming (eg. supporting students during exams)

Why do YOU like to visit other libraries?

4 thoughts on “Paying a visit

  1. Nail on the head, Shelagh – that’s exactly why we do it. Any city I’m in, I visit a museum and a library and I learn from both in equal measure. Several years ago I vacationed in St. Augustine and stopped by Flagler College. They don’t routinely let in non-affiliated visitors, but I explained who I was and the head librarian was very welcoming and allowed me to roam . . . where I discovered they were in the middle of converting from Dewey to LC! All along we’re told that public libraries and small collections are “always” Dewey and college libraries are “always” LC, so there was a rare specimen to add to my mental collection, and I spent some time wondering why the original decision was made that way. Thought-provoking, to say the least.

    Next time you’re in Florida, come by this part of the peninsula! Hope to see you in New Orleans in 2017.

    • Thank you for this, Alyssa – will look forward to planning for both New Orleans and a future trip to your school!

  2. You are the embodiment of the smart, professional librarian, Shelagh. What an awesome idea. When vacationing, I do visit libraries and take pictures of displays, furniture, signage, etc. but I don’t do enough conversing. Thank you for planting that seed.
    When I visit libraries, I look at lighting, access to electrical ports, teaching space(s), technology, student work on display, new books, magazine/newspaper collections, students’ use of space and furniture. I’m looking at the micro: spine labels, which automation system they are using, their library homepage, all the way to the macro: evidence of collaboration, information literacy initiatives, etc. I’m inspired by displays, programming, even practical things like supply station contents.
    I think that this is one of the most powerful pieces of the AISL conference and the thing that both fills my phone camera and my inspiration cup each year.
    I’ll have to be as proactive on vacation and widen the types of libraries I seek out. Thank you for the invaluable reminder!

  3. This is the best thing about the AISL conference. The chance to have a poke around someone else’s library is my favourite way to learn!

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