Collaboration is an important word in librarianship. We all accept that it’s vital in giving students the best possible learning opportunities. Most often, the word is used when we talk about collaborating with teachers. It’s time to think past the school building when developing collaboration.
The easiest bridge to build is with your local public librarians. Are you aware of what programs they are offering? Do they know what you are doing? Is there a way you can work together? In many places the children’s librarian visits the public school to promote a summer reading program, but you can invite them to come in during September for Library Card Sign-up Month. It’s sometimes surprising to discover how many students don’t go to the public library. Talk with the librarian about creating a joint program, possibly a Makerspace and alternate venues. Have the librarian showcase some of your programs and events on their bulletin board and/or website and do the same in return.
If at all possible, try to schedule a field trip to the public library. Even middle and some high school students might be interested to see the “back rooms” to find out how materials get processed and get a chance to speak with the different levels of librarians as well as the clerks. Most public libraries now have a teen section and, of course, they circulate DVDs audio books, and video games. Since their collection is larger than yours, it is good for students to know what’s available. Their online databases also tend to be more extensive and those with library cards can access them from home. The more students become aware of the existence and value of all types of libraries, the more likely they are to become lifelong learners and library advocates.
You can also collaborate with other schools in your district. Some of you run district-wide Battle of the Books contests, but you can also do joint projects with your students working the students from another school using Skype, Google Docs, or other tech to connect. Perhaps their final product can be displayed one night at the public library.
Visits by older students to lower grades can be beneficial to both groups. On Read-Across-America Day, some high school students go to elementary schools to read books to younger ones. I once had a U.S. History project where students had to take a topic, such as the Great Depression, and create a picture book. First we borrowed historical fiction picture books from an elementary school library and discussed how the authors made a complex idea comprehensible to young children. What background knowledge would they lack and need to be informed about in order for the book to make sense? With that understanding, they went to work. They field tested their results by reading their creations to kids in the elementary school.
Consider collaborating with 2 and 4 year colleges in your area. The latest issue of Knowledge Quest, the magazine from AASL has numerous articles dealing with different ways to do this. Field trips, again, acquaint students of the huge jump from a high school to a college library including the size, number of databases, and Library of Congress replacing the familiar Dewey Decimal System.
A visit from a college librarian talking about research projects at the college level is an eye-opener for students. Years ago, a colleague of mine, arranged with a college professor to grade research papers that had already been graded by their teacher. They were stunned when the college grade was returned as it was a full grade lower on average. Check Knowledge Quest for more ideas.
Once you start thinking outside the box—and outside your school—look for ways to involve the community. Is there a Historical Society in your town? Could you come up with a project to collaborate with them? Check to see what is out there, reach out to their contact person (with the knowledge and approval of your administrator) and see what projects you can create together.
Go worldwide. A number of librarians are connecting their students with students in another country. In the August/ September 2014 issue of School Librarian’s Workshop Shannon McClintock Miller explained how she devised a project that had her students making Rainbow Looms and sharing them first with students in an orphanage in India. She found the location in India by tweeting about her project and posting it on her Facebook page.
Besides your teachers, with whom can you collaborate? Start thinking.