Monday, June 1, 2009

Help Me Help You: Teacher Edition

By popular demand: What do librarians wish teachers knew about the (public) library? If you've been tuning in lately you know that I've done several posts about what librarians wish people knew about the library. Teachers and librarians working together can accomplish great things and we have a lot of the same goals. How can teachers' interactions with the library go even more smoothly? Here's what we want you to know:

We would love to know about your assignments ahead of time. Believe me, by the time the third kid in a row has asked for a biography on a famous woman, we know someone has assigned a biography report. We can usually figure out what school and grade it's for and we do pass the information around our department. It would be wonderful to get a quick email from you giving us a head's up about an upcoming assignment, especially if the assignment contains multiple parts or asks for certain kinds of books. Sometimes kids lose their assignment sheets. Sometimes it's the parents coming in to pick up books and they don't know exactly what they need. We would love to find the right book or resource for every child, but it's not always easy when we don't know what, exactly, teachers are looking for.

We appreciate when you make sure there are resources available before giving your students an assignment. Yeah, I won't forget that spring we had students doing reports on endangered animals that were so rare that nothing was written about them! Or maybe you're asking your students to find historic newspaper articles, but the local library only has current newspapers. It's a frustrating experience for students and librarians. Please make sure there are resources available before you give out an assignment. If you're not sure, ask a librarian! We're happy to help.

Other teachers in your school (and in other schools) might be doing the same units that you are. Okay, this seems like a total no-brainer, but we often get requests for the same materials at the same time. I understand that sometimes teachers follow the same curricula and therefore the assignments might be the same, but please understand that we have limited resources. The library only has so many books on hibernation or butterflies and often we don't have the resources to purchase more. We'll all have to share what we've got.

There are lots of different book-leveling systems. Accelerated Reader, Lexile, Fountas & Pinnell... those are just a few of the different systems schools use to determine a book's reading level. If you require students to read books that are "at their level", please consider talking to one of your local librarians. We can better help your students if we know what leveling system you're using. Also, please talk to your parents. I can't tell you how many parents I've seen who are looking for a "Level F" book but have no idea what that means. We're happy to help educate parents about book levels, but an informational handout from a teacher might make the process easier. Or, better yet, invite a librarian to come to your open house or back-to-school night to talk about reading levels and booktalk a few books.

We are happy to have your class visit, and your visit will be better if we know you are coming (and when and for what purpose).
Different libraries have different rules about class visits, but I can tell you one thing - your visit will be smoother for all involved if we know you're coming. We can make sure that we are adequately staffed. We can pull books for you. We can put together a program if you'd like. We can suggest a time when the library is generally quieter and your students will have plenty of room to browse and work. I'm going to say that, generally, at least a week's notice is preferable (and more notice is even better).

We need your help to promote our programs over the summer and during the school year. A good word from a trusted teacher goes a lot farther than a paper (or online) schedule from the library. We'd love to be invited to your school or class to promote the summer reading club, talk about upcoming programs, show kids & teachers our online resources, and do booktalks and/or storytime. You want your kids to read and we do, too!

We'd love a copy of your summer reading list. Whether you're assigning summer reading or just offering a list of suggested titles, we'd love to have a copy before kids come in looking for the books. That way we can make sure we have enough copies on the shelves. Also, please remember that books sometimes go out of print (and if they're out of print, we can't get more copies!). If you're not sure about a book's availability, contact your local library and we are happy to help you find out. Using in-print books on your reading list will make it much more convenient for kids and parents to find and read these books.

The public library may have more freedom to buy materials that aren't approved by the school board. While school libraries must meet the needs of their students, public libraries aim to meet the needs of all patrons. If you're looking for a book that your school library doesn't own (for whatever reason), check the public library!

Many libraries offer teacher cards or school loan programs. If you want books to use for your classroom, ask your local public library if they have a special loan program for teachers. Benefits may include longer check-out times, no overdue fees, delivery to your school, and/or professional guidance in selecting books for your classroom. If you do take part in a school loan program, please remember that other teachers and patrons may want the same books you do, so it's important to get those books back on time.

So, readers, what else would we like teachers to know about the library? Teachers, what would you like librarians to know about schools? Any school media folk have something to add?

Be sure and check out Help Me Help You Parts 1: Research and Reference, 2: Storytime, and 3: Library Logistics. And I got so many great suggestions in the comments, that I'll wrap it all up with Part 5 later this week.


Anonymous said...

Great. Post. Working in schools, this made for great reading.

Kait said...

Nothing to add except that this list is equally applicable to local bookstores! If you tell your students, "You can go to [Bookstore] and buy your own copy of the book!" please call us and let us know! We have absolutely no problem ordering extra copies for you, but we normally don't stock more than a handful of copies of any given title. This leaves us with many disgruntled parents.

(The same thing goes for summer reading lists--we can't know what books to order for your classes if we don't get a copy of what your kids are reading.)

Alicia said...

Great post! As a school librarian, I thought I'd chime in here. Sadly, we too also get assignments sprung on us! With a school full of teachers and one librarian it's hard to be on top of everyone's curriculum and know what assignments they're giving - especially when they change the curriculum over the summer! Of course, it's a two-way street. My life (and yours as a public librarian or bookseller) can certainly be a lot easier with more planned outreach. It's the teachers with whom you have a personal relationship that you always find let you know in advance about assignments and the like.

Sami said...

That also goes for university and college professors. I once had a professor assign Stephen King books and asking her students to only use scholarly articles or books and one website. What she didn't realize is that there AREN'T enough scholarly articles out there for Stephen King. Outside of his older works (Carrie, The Stand and maybe one other) there just isn't enough literary study to satisfy the professors criteria. So I had to tell the students to talk to their professor and see what could be done.

Mrs. Karen said...

Your suggestion to have a librarian visit to promote the summer reading program is one that really works. The week before school got out this year, our library's youth librarian talked to our 1st through 8th graders about the program and brought age appropriate materials (books, CD's, DVD's) to show the kids what they could find at the library. I ran into her about a week after her visit and she told me she had issued 7 new library cards to kids from our school because they wanted to join the summer reading program!

Dan said...

I'd love my local teachers to know what a database is.

1. They contain proprietary information that _cannot_ be found on a google search.
2. They would cost them lots of money to personally subscribe to, but we give them away for free.
3. They are often full of information from real books.
4. Most of them can be accessed via internet from from the school or home for free.

Every time I tell a high school teacher that their students can take practice SAT exams (or Praxis exams for that matter) online for free and be scored and notified of their strengths and weaknesses through LearningExpress Library, or print out handouts for their classes from Teacher Reference Center, they look at me like I just parted the Red Sea.

Tasha Squires said...


Great blog that my friend pointed out to me. A lot of these things can be aimed at the school librarian (if a school has one that is) and public and school libraries should be working more together. My book on this subject just came out called "Library Partnerships: Making Connections between School and Public Libraries" and it hits many of the points you are making.

Keep up the good work!

Tasha Squires

Anonymous said...

I would like to invite you to spend days throughout the school year with me. We work on 6 day cycles not a calendar system and library is a special - this means the teacher is not present so I too would like to know what my students are doing in the thier classes. I attend up to 4 meetings every cycle within my building and anouther outside it and getting information to flow both ways is a artform I am still working on. Teachers are locked into instructional schedules and if it isn't on a standardized test we don't get to cover it until after testing in the spring. I don't have a trained aide so I do everything to run the library and only do those after I finish teaching 7 45 min classes everyday. I am a longtime ALA member and a PSLA member. Public librarians and school librarians need to try on each others shoes, only then can we truely understand how to help one another.