Welcome back to Challenge Monday! This month’s topic is: Outreach to schools. What are some ways that you can connect with local schools and develop partnerships with teachers, school librarians, or other staff?
Here are what some of the TSU Agents think….
My experiences have either been AMAZING or DREADFUL. I’ve been extremely lucky that I have 3 or 4 middle school library specialists who are always excited to partner with me. I usually have no trouble getting into those few school for booktalks or programming. In fact, I’m in the works to set up something monthly visits with them to get my face in the schools beyond just May.
On the other hand, I have some schools that it’s like pulling teeth to talk to me. My high schools are almost impossible to get into, although, I keep trying! I also have troubles when the media specialist changes. Any good repertoire I had never transfers over. I have a couple this year that I can’t get them to answer a single email, which leaves me frustrated to say the least.
My most successful partnership has probably been with one of my middle schools. For 3 years, I bused a select group of students from the school to the library to participate in an after-school technology grant. We got a considerable amount from the state/LSTA funds that were able to support doing this in addition to buying technology/supplies. It was such an awesome experience for both the teens and the school/library as a partnership. We built so many great bonds over the 3 years we did that. Sadly, both myself and the school media specialist got burnt out on the intense sessions/amount of work it demanded. While our library still receives this grant, we decided not to do the busing this year. However, this school will be one that I partner/do a monthly program with this fall.
Having said all that, my most important tip is to remember outreach/partnerships are every changing. I know it can sometimes feel like you’re banging your head against a wall trying to get it, but once you do it’s so worth it! I would say as long as you can see the benefit for you/your community don’t give up!
I’m here as much for the suggestions and tips as anyone else! I think that most individual teachers would be really happy if the library came in and did a little program or book talk with their classes/clubs, but it’s getting past the monolithic public school system that’s the issue. Plus, getting into a high school here is like getting into Fort Knox: you have to describe your car, sign a release, wear a badge… I’m surprised they don’t ask for a blood sample and a retinal scan!
I’ve tried lots of ways of contacting teachers, librarians, and school media specialists. I’m a bit leery of phoning them again because the last time I did that, a school librarian accused me of trying to take her job. That was … awkward.
It’s so unbearably frustrating because the teens we do manage to bring in are always amazed at what the library offers. They didn’t know that we had a PS4 or video games to check out or a fandom group or lock-ins.
I have had middling success with getting into schools in my area. There are three schools that fall into my service area, one middle school (grades 6-8), one high school, and one tribal school (all grades). Over the course of about a year and a half, I have brought outside presenters to two of the schools (the history group Living Voices), done a series of library introduction presentations to the ninth grade orientation classes, and done summer reading booktalks to most of the sixth grade classes at the middle school. I have also attempted to start a lunchtime book club at the high school in conjunction with the school librarian there, but we did not have success getting students to attend. It can be difficult to connect with the school librarians at times and I know they are often being pulled in many directions, so trying to coordinate visits isn’t always their top priority.
Together with the other teen librarian and the children’s librarians at our branches, we have had some success doing outreach at events outside of the school day. The district has a couple evening parent engagement events throughout the year and we have had tables at those events and did some presentations about the library. We also had a table at one of the high school registration days where students come to pick up their schedules, get school photos taken, etc. At that event, we were able to bring circulation laptops and create cards for students on the spot. I have also participated in a couple high school career fairs put on by the school district.
Some other things I have tried include: emailing club advisors to see if they are interested in partnering on projects (mostly not successful, but I did get the robotics club to do a demo at a program last summer), contacting the high school paper to write an article (not successful at all!), and holding an ebook demo in the school library (not successful, but I might try again!). I also send a monthly email newsletter listing all of our events and will send targeted emails for larger-scale events separately to try to drum up interest.
Overall, my advice is to be persistent and work to develop relationships with people at the schools. You might not get a full slate of booktalks lined up right away, but maybe you can get one class visit or a small amount of time at a school assembly. Also try to work as many angles as you can! If your schools have school librarians, that’s the best place to start, but it’s not the only way in. For example, I have a good relationship with the librarian at the middle school and she introduced me to the principal. I found out the principal sends a weekly email newsletter to parents and I asked if I could occasionally send him event notices and other library blurbs to include and he was very amenable to that!