Librarianship is intricately intertwined with education. The Library of the People was created after all to create an educated citizenry, which is at the basis of democracy. Regarding schools and libraries as community partners has been a step that has been taken by many library systems, and it is a concept that has been supported by research.
Benefits for Students
In my experience as an educator, I was keenly aware that children enjoy reading when there is something to read. Once that has been established, they then yearn for choices, and there are many occasions when classroom libraries, and even school libraries, cannot satisfy this demand. When there is limited choice, students do not enjoy the task of finding something new, and when they do not enjoy this, they step away from the bookcases. Of course, the consequence of this is less reading, and less learning. Carmen Monsegur, Manager of the Academy of the Americas’ Library, within the Detroit Public Schools system says that a partnership with the public library would “open doors” for the students in terms of exploration of reading material and choice. She mentions that it would be a great idea, but the practicality of the endeavor is not something she can envision currently. Following are two examples of public library and public school systems that have accomplished this goal.
MyLibraryNYC is a program that was established in 2012. With a healthy contribution from Citi Group, it has made a partnership between public libraries and public schools possible. The systems involved are the New York City Public Library (which provides services to Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx), Queens Library, and the Brooklyn Public Library, in cooperation with the New York City Department of Education. According to the MyLibraryNYC website, the benefits of participating in the program are that the books and other materials are delivered directly to the schools. Teachers can place holds on more materials and can keep them checked out for a longer period of time (http://mylibrarynyc.org/about, accessed October 30, 2013). Additionally, there is a way to get book sets to teachers, who generally must purchase these with their own money. A press release found on the MyLibraryNYC website presents the findings that:
Surveys conducted after the pilot showed that nearly 90 percent of participating
teachers said the program better equipped them to teach, and that students in
the pilot were three times more likely to check out a book from their public
library than those in non-participating schools
(http://mylibrarynyc.org/news/15, accessed October 30, 2013).
As a teacher, there were often times when I decidedly shied away from using book sets because I did not have them in my possession, and because there were no sets in the school library. Fortunately, many teachers who do have sets lend them to teachers who do not. A program like MyLibraryNYC would be a terrific asset to every school system.
There have been many places around the country where this model of partnerships has indeed been taken on. The article “Partners in Success: When school and public librarians join forces, kids win” by Marta Murvosh, illustrates these many examples. She has included the MyLibraryNYC program as well as partnerships in other big cities. Murvosh finds that because limited budgets are a big concern for public libraries and public schools, joining forces benefits both parties (2013). In terms of increasing student reading choice at the same time as being budget-conscious, “few school libraries could match the buying power of a large branch or a mid-size public library system” (Murvosh, 2013). In big cities, the collections are so massive, that the students really benefit from having them at their disposal, and so easily accessible.
Benefits for Libraries
A partnership entails benefits for both parties. As previously discussed, both parties benefit from forming partnerships because of budgeting concerns. The article titled “School and Public Library Relationships: Essential Ingredients in Implementing Educational Reforms and Improving Student Learning” by Shirley A. Fitzgibbons, explains a lot of the reforms that have altered funding for libraries, and how these can be an incentive for partnerships to flourish (August 2000). As Murvosh found to be true for the Nashville Public Library, the “circulation stats have soared by an unprecedented 60 percent” (2013). This increase in circulation was also found to have happened for the New York Public Library through the use of the MyLibraryNYC program. Finally, another benefit Murvosh (2013) mentions in her article is that many of the professionals felt that the partnerships created an opportunity for professional development. Librarians and educators came together and they also were able to learn from each other about best practices and supported the reasoning behind these partnerships.
Author interview with Carmen Monsegur.
Fitzgibbons, S.A. (August 2000). School and Public Library Relationships: Essential Ingredients in Implementing Educational Reforms and Improving Student Learning. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume32000/relationships (Accessed October 30, 2013)
Murvosh, M. (January 1, 2013). Partners in Success: When school and public librarians join forces, kids win. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2013/01/programs/partners-in-success-when-school-and-public-librarians-join-forces-kids-win/#_ (Accessed October 30, 2013)
MyLibraryNYC. (2012). About. Retrieved from http://mylibrarynyc.org/about (Accessed October 30, 2013)
MyLibraryNYC. Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Walcott, Public Libraries and Citi Announce Expansion of MyLibraryNYC Initiative to Connect Schools Citywide to Millions of Books and Other Learning Material. Retrieved from http://mylibrarynyc.org/news/15 (Accessed October 30, 2013)