Easy access to library services: public and school libraries working together

By Adie Johansen

Adie Johansen, Library Services Manager, Manawatū District Libraries, explores the value of public and school library collaboration.

School children using a makerspace kit

School children using a makerspace kit

Since 2015 we’ve been modernising our library service for the Manawatū community and embracing change. Our vision is simple: to be ‘the best little library in New Zealand’.

A library is more than just an avenue for books. Libraries are community hubs where you can learn, create, feel safe and engage with others. To achieve our vision we set four goals:
• Leading the way. Relevant to everyone.
• Act as a catalyst for learning, discovery and creation.
• Revolutionise our digital environment.
• Work with others to add value to our community.

One area we wanted to focus on to achieve these goals was our connection with young people in our region. And what better way to do that than with our school connections and a strong focus on digital literacy.

This resulted in three focus areas: makerspace programs in schools, our Digital Lending Program, and a school link to our e-resources.

Makerspace programs in schools

With schools finding it increasingly hard to make it to the library in Feilding, we started taking our programs out to the schools instead. We realised it was far easier to send a library team member out to schools with a program kit than to try and bus 30 children into town.

Don’t get me wrong, we love it when schools visit us, especially with the author tours. But by going out to them, we now see children engaging in programs far more often.

Our library team members head out to schools and run programs that are mostly based around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics), especially focusing on the new digital curriculum. These sessions range from structured class-time programs to school library activities at lunchtime. Sasha Eastwood-Bennitt from Manchester Street School says that her school has been involved in the STEAM program for two years:

These STEAM sessions have become popular additions to our school library lunchtime calendar, often with the same eager students regularly returning to take part. Feilding Library generously supplies the equipment and resources that allow the activities to be self-sustaining and therefore are not restricted by our school library budget. Students not only have fun – they go away with a sense of achievement (and sometimes a creation of their own making) and they have also developed an understanding and skills related to science and technology. These sessions establish quality interactions between our students and the Feilding Library staff which help to build positive relationships and connections with Feilding Library and within our community. We see great value in continuing with, and to look forward to future, collaborations with the team at Feilding Library.

... by going out to them, we now see children engaging in programs far more often.

Digital Lending Program

Teachers started noticing the program kits we were using, and some asked if we loaned them so they could continue with programs after we leave. This sparked the Digital Lending Program.

Our content collection houses items that aid in digital literacy, and rather than keeping these items for library use only, we now lend them to our region’s schools.

We started with three target schools (two town and one rural). The teachers who were already savvy with the equipment could borrow as much as they liked. We then ran some intro training sessions for other teachers who hadn’t used some of the kits, before they were loaned – a ‘teach the teachers’ kind of relationship. Our kits include robots for all ages, such as Sammy’s for new entrants, Edison robots for middle years, and Mbot robots for intermediate/high school. Physical engineering kits include KEVA blocks, water rockets and Strawbees.

We added to our portfolio when Active Minds Manawatū disbanded and we purchased a few of their kits, covering more of the science area – light, forensics, acids and bases, and more robots.

Our philosophy is: rather than let the collection sit and wait for us to use it with programs in the library, it’s better to help schools access equipment that many of them are unable to purchase for themselves. This provides access to digital resources the children in our community wouldn’t necessarily experience otherwise.

School link to our e-resources

Our further connection to schools came through partnering with Feilding High School. Due to school library funding, they chose to discontinue their own ebook service. As public library e-resource charges are population based, we were already including all the high school students in our membership. So to make it easy for them, we converted their student IDs into active library memberships and gave them instant access to our digital content. There was no risk of potential items going missing as the digital membership has no ability to issue physical items. But there’s nothing stopping the kids from signing up for a full membership card.

Achieving our goals

We’re pretty proud of the way we are ticking the boxes to achieve our goals:

  • Leading the way. Relevant to everyone. We’re ahead of the curve with lending to schools.
  • Act as a catalyst for learning, discovery and creation. Schools now have access to more resources to deliver the digital curriculum.
  • Revolutionise our digital environment. Our digital collection stays relevant and is updated to help bridge the digital divide.
  • Work with others to add value to our community. We partner with our schools to add value to our community by breaking down the barriers to library services.

Image credit

Image supplied by Adie Johansen

Adie Johansen

Library Services Manager

Manawatū District Libraries

Visit feildinglibrary.co.nz to discover Manawatū District Libraries.