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Bringing Classes into the Public Library: A Handbook for Librarians


There is a great opportunity right now in public libraries for Youth Services librarians to work with schools. If our goal is to provide the best possible service to our student patrons, then collaboration with the schools is mandatory. As public librarians, we understand this after more than two decades of partnering with school media specialists and teachers. The realization that we serve the same children and teens led to our recently adopted phrase: "The schools have them from 8 to 2 and the public librarians have them from 2 to 8!" This simple mantra epitomizes the essence of this book.

The commitment for a program of class visits at your library could begin as a discussion with a single teacher, a directive from a school or library administrator, or even from the ideas presented in this book. It is our intent to present a framework that has been successful for us along with variations and situations that we have experienced or envisioned. It is meant to be a workbook and a work in progress. It is a nuts-and-bolts approach to get you started by describing in detail how a structured series of class visits across a grade level can be accomplished. Chapters address procedures, planning, and implementation of the class visits. Also included are discussions of possible challenges, workable solutions, and an analysis of the outcomes and impact of the program. The appendices contain reproducible documents such as sample schedules, letters to teachers, evaluation forms, several types of student activity sheets, and other templates to enable you to begin your own program of class visits once you have made the decision to provide this important service.

Currently, many public libraries do allow for occasional in individual class visits, which are usually set up at the request of a teacher. Your library may already have one or more "class visit programs" - that is, regular presentations that you do whenever a teacher calls to arrange a field trip to the public library. But this hit-or-miss approach does not guarantee that other classes of that grade level will follow suit, nor is it any assurance that the same teacher will return the following year.

A successful program of class visits means that every class of a certain grade in every school in your community visits the public library during every school year to receive a well-organized orientation to the library's materials and services. Successful programs are approved and even mandated by the school system, because school officials believe in the value of the program as much as librarians do.

Admittedly, this is a big order to fill. You must be absolutely committed to accomplishing this task, and then convince your co-workers, administration, school system (or public library, if you are a teacher or media specialist), and others that the program is worthwhile and essential to the success of the children and teens in your community. We speak from personal experience when we tell you it can be done.

As children's and teen librarians, we feel that now, more than ever, the implementation of a program of class visits is crucial in all public libraries. We have witnessed firsthand the benefits of this true collaboration between public librarians, media specialists, and teachers, and we are committed to its growth and development. This book is the first resource to address this need and to provide a comprehensive guide to help other librarians successfully start their own programs.

The goals of this book are:

- To articulate the reasons and define a strategy for promoting a program of class visits to the public library
- To highlight how a program of class visits can benefit the students, teachers, public library, and the community as a whole
- To provide detailed instructions and easily adaptable templates to assist librarians in initiating an organized program of class visits
- To encourage professionals in both public libraries and schools to seize this opportunity to partner and forge new relationships

We hope this presentation is of value to you as you either attempt to begin a program of class visits or further enrich your current program. In either case, we applaud your efforts and wish you continued success!

--Martha Seif Simpson and Lucretia I. Duwel