For the past two weeks I have been blogging about meeting the challenge of collaboration. So many librarians are unable to make the connections which combine the expertise of all participants and create a larger result than if the librarian worked alone. On a more subtle, but no less vital, level these collaborations build a deeper understanding of the library program and develop the advocates who fight to retain librarians and their programs.
You must find and use the assets that are within your reach.
Once again here is the first Guideline under “Teaching for Learning” in AASL’s Empowering Learners which focuses on collaboration:
The school library program promotes collaboration among members of the learning community and encourages learners to be independent, lifelong users and producers of ideas and information. (p. 20)
The actions supporting the Guideline expect the librarian to:
- “collaborate with a core team of classroom teachers and specialists to design, implement, and evaluate inquiry lessons and units
- collaborate with an extended team including parents, community members, … museums, academic and public libraries… to include their expertise and assistance in inquiry lessons and units
- work with administrators to actively promote, support, and implement collaboration
- seek input from students on the learning process.”
The one most librarians feel is beyond their reach is the second bullet point. As with the others, the best way to incorporate this is by starting small and building on it. The Makerspace movement is an excellent way to begin collaborating with parents and community members.
Once you have launched your Makerspace, use your website, Twitter account, or however you reach parents and invite them to share their expertise with students. Whether it’s building an app or knitting, you will find volunteers who will be glad to teach and help students. You provide the materials along with print and online resources. Take pictures and do a video of your “expert” and students at work and their final products.
If the students are willing, see if the public librarian will let you set up a display to showcase what occurred. Add an “advertisement” for community members to lead a Makerspace. Find out in advance from your administrator what needs to be done to permit this.
High school librarians can contact academic librarians if there is a community or four-year college in the area. With some planning, set up a field trip for a class beginning a research project. The college librarian can teach students how to access and choose the extensive databases available, letting them see and experience what research will be like once they graduate. The local media outlet can be invited to cover the event and record student reactions.
Most towns have some sort of historical society or other museum area. Find out what they are, what they have on exhibit, and any special ones that are upcoming. Look to see if this matches with curricular units. Either arrange for a field visit or have the curator bring the items to your library to share with students, giving them a deeper understanding of what they will be exploring. Again invite the media – and your administrator.
Educators have been stressing authentic learning, and our national standards enjoin us to develop inquiry-base units. The two combine when you develop a large network of people with whom you collaborate. Each project spreads the word on what a 21st century library program is. The groups you collaborate with, the more people are invested in continuing the success of your program.
Advocacy is an on-going, never stopping campaign. It’s not about begging people for our jobs. It’s about everyone recognizing that what we do is invaluable for our school community and the success now and in the future of our students.
How are you reaching out and building collaborative partnerships?