Back To School? Don't Forget the Library!

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The summer is drawing to a close, and many children and adults are beginning to anticipate the start of a new school year. Amidst all your planning – supplies, registration materials, new clothes, arranging the logistics of the commute – don’t forget to make good use of ALL the libraries in your community.

How can my public library help?

For Children and Teens:

What do your children need to be school-ready this fall? Aside from the material objects that will help them succeed, they may also need some help preparing emotionally. Many kids – especially incoming kindergarteners or children and teenagers who are attending a new school for the first time – are nervous about starting school, and your public library can help them find some stories to help them prepare for what’s coming. The Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, IN, publishes this list of “Going to School” books and DVDs for children. A similar book list is published by the Wakefield Library in Wakefield, MA. Teens wanting to go beyond the standard curriculum in their literature classes this fall can check out this reading list compiled by the Carollton Public Library in Carollton, TX. The children’s or young adults' librarian at your public library may have gathered some recommended reading on the subject as well – so take your child to the public library, and together, look for some books to ease this transition.

Also, whether your children are cautious or thrilled about the start of a new school year, they’ll likely enjoy back-to-school programming at your public library. Teenagers in Brooklyn, NY, were invited to a Back-to-School Library Jam at the Brooklyn Public Library, to acquaint them with the library and its services. In Oneida, NY, the Oneida Public Library runs a KinderKids program to acclimate incoming kindergarteners to the pace of the school day. The Shaler Public Library in Glenshaw, PA, offered a July Back-to-School Craft event, and the Jacksonville Public Library in Jacksonville, FL will throw a Back-to-School Bonanza with “board games, Dance Dance Revolution, and more” in August. Once school is in full swing, the Hennepin County Library in Minnetonka, MN will celebrate with a Back to School Carnival, complete with carnival games and homework resources for kids and teens. Contact your local library and children’s or young adults' librarian for information on what they’re doing in your community.

And don’t forget homework help once the kids are back in school! Many libraries offer homework assistance after school. Check with your local library to be one step ahead when school starts.

For Adults:

Looking for information on area community colleges? Want to find out how to get to school via your local public transportation system? Need help finding a good study guide for the GED, GRE, LSAT, or MCAT? Just can’t find that obscure government student loan form? Chances are, your public library’s reference librarian can help. 

According to the American Library Association’s Library Fact Sheet #6, “Of those respondents who reported using the public library in person in the last year, 67% said they had taken out books, 47% had consulted a librarian, 47% used reference materials, 31% read newspapers or magazines, 26% connected to the Internet, 25% took out CDs or videos, and 14% heard a speaker, saw a movie or attended a special program.” There are lots of ways your public library and librarians can help you apply or prepare for continuing education – or, for parents, give you something great to read while you wait for the kids to come home!

What are school libraries doing to get ready for the new year?

School libraries – and the school library media specialists who make them work – are busy right now preparing for the coming academic year. From becoming experts on new technology, to working with teachers on curriculum planning, to assessing and fine-tuning their collections, library professionals in the schools have a lot to do before the students walk through the doors in the fall.

In Westminster, CO, the Witt Elementary School library stayed open all summer to provide summer reading programs to local children. In the fall, they’ll have incoming kindergarteners who already have a place to call home in their new school. Children at another summer reading program in Waterbury, CT, were lucky enough this July to meet one of the most famous librarians in America today – First Lady Laura Bush, who stopped by to read them a story and announce the awarding of $18 million in grants to libraries in struggling schools across the country.

Some schools, however, have more work to do than others. A devastating fire hit the library at Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY, in early August, creating nearly a million dollars in damages and lost books. The school will be working to raise the money to rebuild the more than 100 year old library and recreate its collection.

Want to get involved in your school library? The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) gives parents some excellent ideas for ways to help their childrens' libraries and school library media specialists. Read this article about "What Parents Should Know" for more information.

Whether you find yourself more often in your local school or public library, be sure to take a few moments to thank the librarians and school library media specialists for helping to get your entire community ready for school.


Library schools start the year


The librarians and school library media specialists who work in your public and school libraries are all trained professionals who study for their certifications in accredited library science programs across the country. A masters degree in library science can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take several years to complete. As the school year begins for a new crop of future library professionals, many are facing an uncertain future.

Fortunately, some of them will be getting some help this year from First Lady Laura Bush. A three year grant to twenty bilingual library science students in Texas will provide them with tuition, textbooks, a laptop computer, and the cost of their certification exam. Congratulations to this group of future information professionals.