#RL2013 – Linking the Public Library and School

TL09 View of School Libraries
View of school libraries by vanhookc via CC license on FLickr

Last night I attended the third Reality Librarianship session for 2013 offered by Heroes Mingle – a partnership made up of Sally Pewhairangi (@sallyheroes) and Megan Ingle (@megingle). This is my summary of the main points of the talk :) 

You can read my previous summaries:

This talk was:
Linking the Public Library and School
Paula Eskett, Programme Advisor – Learning Futures, Services to Schools, National Library of New Zealand. (@librarypaula).

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Quick links to resources

How did this joint-use library start?

  • Back in 2003, the Riccarton high school principal principal, Gary Coburn, was keen to showcase spectacular students to the community; he felt that the “amazingness” was locked up inside the school
  • Sue Sutherland, manager of Christchurch city libraries at the top, became involved.
  • There was a shortage of libraries in Christchruch, and one suburb had missed out on their community library due to lack of land.
  • So Gary and Sue collaborated with some others in a meeting to come up with a joint-use public library on the school grounds.
  • Library was built on grounds of Riccarton High School.
  • Lots of preparation work done in the school prior to building to change the mindset/philosophy over “What is a school library? How can it support student learning?”
  • A really good partnership, but it was important to change the overall philosophy behind what school libraries are all about.

You don’t see a lot of joint-use libraries, except typically in small communities. This is unusual in a large urban setting, right?

  • Yes, it is unusual 🙂
  • Not based on finances or economic necessity, but mutual good will and collaboration.
  • It is a co-location library; a very intertwined model.

What are the challenges for staffing with both school library staff and public library staff? How does that work?

  • Dr. Alan Bundy (expert based in Adelaide on co-use libraries) was the advisor.
  • Original model was set up as a co-staff model.
  • School set up a library manager, and public library had some staff.
  • It was recommended after two years to move from a co-management model to single-management model.
  • Joan employed the public library team, and Paula employed school librarians.
  • As partnership involved, Paula became involved with recruiting reference librarians and had input on appointment on the school side, so that both sides could see the skills they were bringing.

What about student volunteers/shelvers/peer mentors?

  • There was a medium-sized pool of volunteers in old school library.
  • This transition was opportunity to teach more about the difference between a librarian and a library assistant and role-model how a library worked.
  • Offered library as place where students could do work towards their Duke of Edinburgh Young Service Award.
  • Double bonus. They had volunteer help from the student and the students gained more skills than they thought they would get.
  • The kids were on show in the library.
  • They both got the Duke of Edinburgh award and a reference from Paula for their CV.
  • This did involve a change to the volunteer policy and typical student shelver system.
  • The students worked out in the workroom with community library staff and received instruction from a number of people. It was all about community.

How did you balance curriculum needs with collection development as well as the library as space and teaching room?

  • The library allowed for break-out spaced that could be personalized.
  • It is rectangular shaped and breaks off into three separate classrooms/learning collections.
  • They are separated by big clear sliding doors.
  • Some teachers felt they were too visible in these spaces so we ended up frosting at least 2/3 of the windows at least 2/3 of them with library messages and patterns.
  • It has the largest young adult lounge of any library in Christchurch at the moment.
  • Kids learned to ask public library staff as well, but were more comfortable with school librarians as they knew them more.

If you’re a student at school, you’re automatically enrolled. With a public library, there are some issues with signing up people under 16 or 18. How did you approach this ‘difficulty’?

  • Prior to opening, Christchurch CC libraries marketed it really well that the library was coming.
  • Took membership out to community places/events and signed up heaps of people.
  • Some registered from the school.
  • Many came equipped with library cards, and others took a form home that they could sign up for.
  • Last year, 100% of students in year 9 classes were armed with library cards!
  • Not just a school library, but a school community library.
  • Community very multicultural, so great place for people to hang out in and use the computer.
  • Debt-collection stage – students couldn’t be identified from Riccarton high school at this stage, but later they were identified as school students and referred to Paula to deal with. Removed the ‘big brother’ aspect.

You’ve stepped back from Riccarton high school model and now moved into National Library job. For people in school/public libraries now, there is still a place for that partnership. With your role at National Library, where do you see these partnerships happening even though people aren’t co-located?

  • For libraries not based in main/urban centres, it’s a no-brainer.
  • Scary statistics as to how many schools actually have a professional librarian (particularly at primary level).
  • Amazing work being done by advisors throughout New Zealand.
  • National library looking outward to best practice models in the education sector.
  • Almost a revolution in the way teaching/learning has evolved – particularly with inquiry-based learning.
  • Just google MLE (Modern Learning Environment) and see how they are deconstructing the material so that students are owning the material.
  • The library is the original MLE.
  • Not just a primary school thing, but being adopted over the entire curriculum. Inquiry based learning is very much like the library!
  • Schools are equipping students at citizens in the 21st century to think about what they are needing, and why they need to learn it.
  • It’s all about developing literacy and educating citizens.
  • Reading together program, summer reading clubs, etc.. which encourage literacy are vital across New Zealand.
  • It’s about trust, letting people let go of 100% control, thinking about the users and their whole experience.
  • Important to grow the community for life-long learning.

How do the non-school public make use of the joint-use library? For example, a group of senior citizens? And does the joint use make anything better?

  • We had senior citizens who chose to come in at lunch time because they liked the energy and seeing the kids in action.
  • Layout made sure that everyone’s’ needs were met.
  • A community library means that you will always have a good mix of people in there.
  • Also timing – lunch time is probably not the best time to come in if you want a quiet library.
  • Had lots of positive verbal comments about the kids
  • Embedded culture of thinking into the kids when they were oriented to the library; reminding them that they are ‘on show’ to the community
  • It gives the kids the opportunity to be embedded in a community space.
  • Respect was a huge part of it.
  • The school librarians were treated with the same respect as the teachers received.
  • It make a big difference – the message was spread across the school.
  • The library was a continuation of school.
  • There was a large staff presence there, and a sense of ownership.

What was the relationship between the public library staff and the teachers?

  • Community library staff came into classes and got introduced.
  • Developed models that triangulated school librarians with public librarians and teachers.
  • Also asked the students what their perspective was.
  • Ran some sessions on behavior management.
  • Problems were approached from a team attitude. It was about learning a different way to day things.

Final thoughts

  • It always comes back to people.
  • Trust and honesty – clear dialogue with people. Being transparent.
  • As librarians we are part of the Life long Learning model – having this dialogue with the community is very important.
  • Students were included until they left – regardless of their age.
  • Special needs department so kids go up sometimes up to 23-24-25. Sometimes you have younger students – a 4 year old from Iraq.
  • A student was a student until they signed out of Riccarton high school.
  • You’re a student until you are no longer part of the school community.
  • It’s important to see things from multiple points of view – including stakeholders and school teachers.

How do you encourage high school students to sign up to the public library? Should we target the students or the teachers?

  • What’s in it for the student?
  • For example, show the public library has resources that are pre-selected for school assignments.
  • Create a need; fill a need. Show that you are there to help them out. Show the library adds value.
  • Free WiFi is great to encourage students too! Great for engaging the non-library user.

What do you do about censorship? Particularly in school libraries?

  • There have been a few instances with challenges over the stock.
  • 2 of 3 books were given to Paula by the students so encouraged dialogue.
  • The internet makes it harder to censor. Students can access anything!
  • Censorship is more about processing and thinking about the issues than protecting.
  • Never going to be perfect, but lots of consultation with Paula and buyers at the public library.
  • Important to talk about the values of the school.
  • Realize that we can’t control the content of every book.
  • Censorship offers opportunity to look at wider content. Not a problem, but an opportunity address the issue.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Paula on Twitter @librarypaula or by e-mail.

I’m looking forward to the final #RL2013 session next week on Wikipedia in the classroom – you can still sign up for that!