Summer Partnerships Between Public Libraries and Schools Bring Big Rewards

Nearly a quarter of public libraries partner with schools on programming, whether that means getting the word out about contests and events or formally collaborating to mitigate the summer slide.



When it comes to getting K–12 students fired up about summer programs, libraries often highlight contests and events to bring them through the door. With schools, however, branches shift that focus, emphasizing the impact of summer slide, and how their reading programs may mitigate the effect of being out of a classroom for months.

SLJ ’s recent survey about summer programming found that 24 percent of public libraries also partner with schools over the summer, from simply getting the word out about programs to more in-depth connections.

These partnerships occur more often in the U.S. South, where 34 percent of public libraries reaching out to schools, and in large libraries across the nation, with 33 percent of facilities serving 500,000 thousand patrons or more form alliances. Often these are the result of working community groups in their areas.

“We have served on committees that have discussed how summer reading can help to prevent the ‘summer slide’ of academic performance,” said Jamie Long, programming and outreach manager at Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, IN. “We are partners with our local school system and work together to promote summer reading.”

In some cases, libraries create promotional materials that are sent to schools— ideally reaching parents as well—that highlight how summer reading can offset the summer slide. That’s what Milton Public Library in Ontario, Canada, does, according to children’s services associate Eileen Gallagher. It is also the path used by Curlew (WA) Public Library , whose staff visit local schools to talk about the positive impact of summer reading, says librarian Emily Patterson.

Some partnerships are maintained year-round—a good way to keep the connection strong, so that teachers and administrators remain invested and excited about what public libraries offer during vacation.

"We partner with the local school district when possible, awarding a [Summer Reading Program] SRP trophy each year to the school that has the highest [percent] of participation,” said Debbie Allen, program coordinator for Lewiston City (ID) Library. “This has gotten the principals excited to get their students signed up so they have bragging rights. In the fall, we go back into the school to award certificates to all students who signed up and participated in summer reading.”

Lauren Barack is the executive editor of GearBrain and a Loeb Award-winning journalist.

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