Are you familiar with the intertwined roots of redwood trees? Walking in a redwood forest, the size and strength of the trees amaze you. They have lived for centuries and grown so tall. And yet, as I learned to my surprise, they have shallow roots. But the reason they can stand and are not knocked down by strong winds is because their roots are intertwined. Linked as they are, they help each other, and in so doing they are all strengthened.
We are all aware of the challenges school libraries and school librarians are facing, but our colleagues in public and academic libraries are dealing with a similar situation and we should look for ways to connect our roots to strengthen us all. In the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, the Key Commitment of Shared Foundation III Collaborate is “Work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals.” We share many common goals with all types of libraries. Together, we are stronger.
On the national level, ALA has the Libraries Transform initiative. The opening sound bite is “Because Transformation Is Essential to the Communities We Serve.” The statement is true of many libraries. Many of the other “hooks” are equally universal to libraries. When you click on pieces of the initiative, they all have additional information, perfect for helping you discuss this to anyone. (If you haven’t signed on to the site, it’s worth doing.)
Additionally, the ALA Youth Council Caucus (YALSA, ALSC, and AASL) have launched the State Ecosystem Initiative. Headed by Dorcas Hand, she offers the following definition and explanation:
A library ecosystem is the interconnected network of all types of libraries, library workers, volunteers, and associations that provide and facilitate library services for community members; families; K-20 learners; college and university communities; local, state and federal legislatures and government offices; businesses; nonprofits; and other organizations with specific information needs.
A patron of one library is the potential patron of any other library at a different time of life or location. No library exists independent of the library ecosystem. When we stand together in mutual support using common messaging themes that demonstrate this interconnectedness, every library is stronger.
So to support these roots, what is your state school library association doing and what are you doing? Ideally, you should have representation on the board of the state association — and on the state association of ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) and they should have a liaison to your board. This keeps you aware of what is happening to libraries throughout your state.
You, too, need to create a library ecosystem in your community. First connect with the other school librarians in your district. Together, reach out to the Children’s and YA librarians in the local public library. Build a relationship and start sharing. You can learn handouts are the public librarians giving to their patrons and find out if you distribute them to students. Would they be willing to post work by your students? They can then promote them on their website and or e-bulletin they send. In return, you can report about this collaboration on your website.
You could ask the Children’s Librarian if she would visit and do a shared story telling session with your students and leave information about getting a library card. Consider having the Children’s Librarian visit before school ends to talk about their summer reading program.
Another possibility is to devote a space in your library to post “happenings” in the public library. Promote public library events on your website. If you are doing something special such as “Read Across America,” (Monday, March 20, 2020) have the public library do the same for your program.
Don’t forget the academic librarians. If you are in a high school, reach out to librarians in local community colleges and/or any local 4-year colleges and universities. Invite them to visit when you are starting–or even in the middle of-a research project. The students who may tune you out could be differently willing to listen to a college librarian who tells them what they can expect.
You want the people in your district to see the libraries as that interconnected strength that transforms the community. We are all in the relationship and information business. By being present in different venues, parents and other community members will see how we work together and enrich all. Lead the way in building your library ecosystem and become a tall, strong redwood.