Last night we held the third Reality Librarianship 2013 event with Paula Eskett Programme Advisor – Learning Futures, Services to Schools, National Library of New Zealand.
Riccarton High School partners with Christchurch City Libraries is New Zealand’s largest urban, School / Community joint use library. Paula was the school library manager at Riccarton High School before taking up a one year contract with Services to Schools at the end of 2012.
Paula shared the successes of this library, and the enthusiasm with which staff and students embrace all it can offer, have created exciting chances to incorporate new projects linking the library and school.
As I was listening to Paula share her thoughts on this new way of working and learning I couldn’t help but think that many librarians (and teachers) would approach this partnership with a very large dose of intrepidation – we usually imagine the worst-case scenario before we believe that the best could actually happen. But Paula’s experience put those worst-case scenarios completely into perspective. For example:
- Worst-case: Everyone needs to be a member of the public library in order to borrow. What about students? We’ll never get permission from their parents.
Paula’s reality: Before the library opened Christchurch City Libraries put an enormous effort into marketing the new library and encouraging the community to sign up for a library card, the school followed up with parents, whanau and caregivers and by the time the library opened many students were library members. Today some classes have 100% library membership.
- Worst-case: The school library’s collection development will be based on the curriculum and the public library’s collection will be much broader. We’ll never be able to ensure students only have access to age-appropriate resources.
Paula’s reality: Yes it was a concern and it was something the school kept an eye on, but since 2006 Paula has only questioned the appropriateness of 3 books, after-all we can’t monitor what teenagers are looking at on their smartphones. Our discussions with staff, students and the community became less about age-appropriateness and more about critical thinking, responsibility and trust.
- Worst-case: What about the senior citizens who use the library during the day? If students are using the library it will put them off.
Paula’s reality: We found that some senior citizens were coming in because students were in the library – they wanted to be a part of that energy and excitement that only students have. Staff also spent a lot of time with students talking about behaviours and ‘being on show’ in the library. As a result students would offer to assist senior citizens with using self-issue kiosks or allow senior citizens to be served first. There were many more compliments than complaints.
Paula spoke a lot about inclusiveness and the importance of relationships, honesty and trust between the school, library, teachers, students and the community. It is a new way of thinking, working and learning for everyone. Creating a culture of respect and trust within the school, library and community is absolutely vital for a partnership to flourish and be sustainable. It’s time to get over it or get out.
We’ve also created a Storify of the Twitter chat, rounding up the comments with #RL2013 hashtag.
Next week we’ll be discussing Wikipedia in the classroom with Sara Roberts of Canterbury University Library. This will be our last Reality Librarianship: community partnership event for the year. We’d love it if you could join us.