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!

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