When it comes to getting more books into kid’s hands, schools and libraries are natural partners. For many students, the school library is the first line of defense against the growing word gap, or a deficit in exposure to vocabulary that affects reading and writing ability, as well as academic performance.
We know that school libraries play a key role in student learning and success, helping to build literacy, improve students’ critical thinking skills, and foster a love of reading and learning. In a nutshell, school libraries serve as central location where students can find the support and resources they need to succeed.
Unfortunately, many school libraries face shortfalls in staffing and funding that make it difficult to fulfill these needs. Public libraries can step in and help fill the gaps through partnerships.
School Library Staffing Challenges and Shortages
While 91 percent of schools have libraries, research indicates that only 61 percent employ full-time librarians. That number has been declining for over a decade, and funding levels simply aren’t keeping up with schools’—and students’—needs.
Take, for instance, changes in staff workloads due to the COVID pandemic. Many school libraries still require in-depth sterilization of books and media before recirculation. This means time that was once spent researching and adding resources, or in librarian-student interaction, is now spent cleaning books.
Many librarians also find they need twice the amount of items, because materials sit out of circulation for longer periods. Students simply don’t have as many books available as they did pre-pandemic, and school library staff simply have less time.
Library-school partnerships offer a solution when staffing and resource levels fall short.
The Value of Library and School Partnerships
Public libraries are well-positioned to partner with schools. Through cooperative program and projects, public libraries can work closely with school libraries to identify needs and step in. The Association for Library Service to Children suggests collaborations such as:
- Working with teachers to set up assignment alerts. Educators let public libraries know which assignments are in the pipeline. Then librarians prepare materials such as bibliographies or website lists.
- Creating curriculum-related kits. These could include thematic collections of media items, related teaching guides, annotated lists of other books and resources, and pathfinder guides.
- Setting up and maintaining a school resource center. It could contain reusable items, donated by businesses and community members, for use by teachers in the classroom (such as books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc.).
- Offering book discussion and reading groups for students; groups can be organized by age, grade level, or topic, and can include food and other activities to attract student participation.
- Delivering books to schools. Students work with teachers to place holds on library materials, which are then delivered on a regular basis.
One of the best ways to support local schools is also one of the easiest ways to get more books into young learners’ hands: a library vending machine. The ILS Lending Library Kiosk can be placed anywhere, making it easy for kids to check out materials, place holds, and return books.
A library book kiosk uses innovative technology to supplement school library resources. When school libraries are short-staffed, a library vending machine fills the gap… all while expanding your library’s reach and supporting local schools.