Independent School and Public School Librarian Collaboration Initiative

By: Patricia Aakre,
PS 89

The meeting was intended to continue the independent and public school librarians collaboration initiative started early this year.  

The keynote speaker, Melissa Jacobs, addressed  around 30 school librarians at Horace Mann to discuss three things we can do:   advocate, lead, and collaborate. For the past fifteen years she has directed the New York City School Library System (mjacobs@schoolnyc.gov).  The NYCSLS website has a wealth of resources : everything from a directory of school libraries and the librarians that work there, to a way to write your collection development policy, and a host of professional workshops that will increase your skills and improve your credentials.  There is a calendar with summer workshops on information literacy and databases. The next big city wide meeting of school librarians takes place on November 5 at Citi Field, so hold the date. All independent school librarians are part of the system, so get on board!

Jacobs filled us in on some shocking numbers:  Even though there are 1800 public schools, and 1200 buildings in the New York City system, and New York State mandates that every school must have a library, there are less than 300 school librarians currently employed in those schools.  These statistics do not include the estimated 1,000 more non-public schools, but how many of those schools have librarians? This is a statistical challenge that would improve our ability to argue for our profession.

The mission of school librarians is to teach students how to find books, and how to be literate information users.  Without school librarians, students are not learning these essential skills. Jacobs made us feel the urgency of advocating for the hiring of more librarians in schools, and to enlist the help of private school librarians to do so.

Each school controls its own budget, but when it is time to cut costs, librarians and the arts go first.  Principals often don’t understand what we do. Books remain in rooms unsupervised or managed by non-librarians.  We need to find the data that prove the effectiveness of school library programs, and bring it to the public eye.  Breakout sessions explored three ways:

Advocacy

–share the data that prove test scores improve with an active school library

–have principals and administrators visit your library

–make sure the board and PTA and parents know what you are doing by promoting your program in newsletters and other school media

–organize one day to advocate to alumni

–join New York Library Association – the state controls the money that goes to the schools in the city

Collaboration

–make connections with nearby public school librarians (easy to find on this map)

–research how to lobby local politicians, use data on school libraries’ effect on grades to convince need for librarians

–students joining over common interests can work together across public/private schools

–crafting nights — one is coming up on May 23 at LREI – here is the link to rsvp

–school visits to each other for sharing what we do

–if possible, shared authors

Leadership

— getting certified as a public school librarian means you can host interns who are about to graduate library school

–connect public and private schools to advocate jointly to city leaders (city council representatives in your district and community boards) who control funds

–have a joint meeting with both private and public schools to advocate – start letter writing campaigns, create advocacy kits

The meeting ended with a social hour at Jakes Steakhouse which we reached by travelling a back alley and stairway deserving of a Hitchcock movie.  Then we were served delicious small plates and beverages. Thanks to Horace Mann also who provided a wonderful spread and wine during the meeting itself, which as Melissa Jacobs remarked, makes the meeting much nicer!  Also remarked upon were the cots in the Horace Mann upper school library. How civilized is that!

Have a great summer everyone, and see you in the new academic year.

Here are the links mentioned in this article:

New York City School Library Association

New York Library Association

Map of School Librarians in New York City

RSVP to Crafting Meetup at LREI May 23

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