Those of us who work in the educational community are always contemplating effective ways to connect the school with the community. In my opinion, joint-use libraries are one of the best ways to accomplish this. I have had the pleasure of working in my school’s joint-use library for the past four years. During the day, the library is used by the students and staff. In the evenings, weekends, and school vacations, the library becomes the public facility which serves our local community.
Our joint-use library offers a wealth of resources to students and teachers, all conveniently located right here on our campus. Print books, reference materials, DVDs, audiobooks, and magazines are among the offerings available through the public library. And here’s the thing I think is really great: if a particular item is not available in the on-site collection, it can be ordered from one of the other 43 branches in the public library system. The item is transported to our campus where the student can check it out with their public library card, and when the patron is finished, the item is returned to its home branch. It’s very convenient, and best of all, it’s free!
In a joint-use facility, another convenience is added if the public library will provide a limited-access password to school personnel so that public library materials can be checked out to students and staff during school hours. The manager of the public library at our facility allows me to do this. This is just one example of the many ways we all work together to provide the best services and resources to everyone.
I absolutely adore the public librarians that are employed in our joint-use library. These dedicated public servants work tirelessly to provide our students and teachers with useful resources, pleasurable leisure reading materials, and meaningful teen programming. Our library has truly become a popular gathering place for kids after school, not only for the high school students, but for the junior high and elementary students in our neighborhood as well. And the public librarians accomplish all this in addition to providing the family story time and craft programs, adult programming, and community resources that many patrons have come to expect from their local library.
As modern educators, we are committed to the concept of lifelong learning, and joint-use facilities are a great way to foster this. The first time I saw a former student of mine come back to the library as an adult patron, I got really excited! It’s gratifying to know that we have instilled a love of books and learning that extends beyond the fleeting years our students spend with us. For this reason, every year in the fall I campaign to get public library cards into the hands of as many students as possible.
Many established communities already offer great library facilities, but in new or growing areas, it might be worth considering the installation of a joint-use library in your community!