School and Public Library Relationships: Essential Ingredients in Implementing Educational Reforms and Improving Student Learning

Shirley A. Fitzgibbons, Associate Professor Emerita, Indiana University

Printed with permission from the U.S. Department of Education. This manuscript was commissioned as part of a national study, Assessment of the Role of School and Public Libraries in Support of Educational Reform, Westat, Inc., 1998–2000.

This paper explores the range of successful, cooperative relationships between public libraries and school library media centers. The author delineates factors that need to be considered when building successful relationships. It is assumed that such relationships improve library services and ultimately provide youth better access to resources in their quests for information, knowledge, and learning. The work is based on the premise that cooperative relationships between the two separate institutional settings are essential ingredients in implementing educational reforms and improving student learning. A major literature review of both current and historical research studies, policy documents, and opinion articles sets the stage. Specific cooperative efforts, including combined school-public libraries, networks, and resource-sharing arrangements and general efforts at cooperation and collaboration are analyzed to elicit factors that lead to success in such projects. The factors identified include a shared vision and common goals; a process of formal planning that involves the establishment of joint policies and procedures; commitment on the part of administrators, decision makers, staff, and the general public; active communication and interaction; and adequate funding and staffing that allows innovation and risktaking.

Rationale | Historical Perspective | 1990s Perspective | Surveys and Statistics: Staffing | Roles and Goals | Cooperative Efforts | Types of Cooperative Relationships | Joint School-Public Library Facilities | Suggestions for Successful Cooperation | Recommendations | Notes | Works Cited |  Appendix: Combined U.S. School/Public Libraries

Cooperation may be the only solution to providing adequately for the library needs of children and young adults. What is important is that the best library services be provided for children and young adults—library services which will meet their total needs, including education, personal information, recreation, personal interests, and career needs. (Fitzgibbons 1989, 69)

This suggestion, posited almost ten years ago, is even more important today as we face a more technologically sophisticated information resource base, major educational reforms, a youth-rights advocacy movement, and changing, critical youth needs with regard to health, safety, and use of leisure time. The role of libraries in providing a foundation for lifelong learning should be influenced by these changes.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the range of successful, cooperative relationships between public libraries and school library media centers and to delineate factors that need to be considered in building such relationships. The work is based on two assumptions. First, it is assumed that cooperative relationships improve library services and ultimately provide youth better access to information, knowledge, and learning; second, that cooperative relationships between the two separate institutional settings are essential ingredients in achieving educational reform leading to improved student learning. The paper will explore how school libraries and public libraries are related to learning (and to each other in this process), including a brief look at the past, a more in-depth examination of the present, and recommendations for the future.

A close alliance of school library media centers and public libraries can be an effective support system for students. Currently such alliances take many forms, including joint libraries (combined school and public library facilities), networking and resource-sharing arrangements (use of technology), collaborative and cooperative services and programs, and communication networks. Most of these relationships are not mutually exclusive nor have they always been successful or considered mutually beneficial. The historical pattern, the current situation, and recommendations for the future will be presented based on a selective literature search from 1980 to present and the findings from past work of the author. Both relevant research and pertinent opinion pieces from the professional literature have been included in this review. The paper will be organized under the following categories:

  • Rationale for cooperative relationships
  • Historical perspective
  • 1990s perspective
  • Roles and goals of each library
  • Cooperative efforts and relationships
  • Joint school-public library facilities
  • Suggestions for successful cooperation
  • Recommendations for the future

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Rationale for Importance of Cooperation and Collaboration between School and Public Libraries

Several events in the 1990s have focused attention on the importance of the roles and relationships of school and public library services. The 1991 White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services emphasized the need for youth library services, both during the preparation process for the Conference and in the resulting top-ranked resolution, the Omnibus Children and Youth Literacy through Libraries Initiative.

This paper is one of several commissioned papers included in the current project Assessment of the Role of School and Public Libraries in Support of Educational Reform, planned and funded by the U.S. ED (ED). The project includes a national survey of school and public libraries, ten case studies of these libraries, and the set of commissioned papers.

An initial literature review for the Assessment included a two-page section on “Cooperation between Public Libraries and School Libraries” that pointed out the “logical partnership in support of the National Education Goals (of public and school libraries), since the missions of both have much in common.” That review identified several barriers to past cooperative efforts, including the lack of a coordinating body at both state and local levels, the battles over “turf,” the budgetary considerations that provide inadequate staffing and funding for joint activities, and certain “personality and style differences” between school and public librarians (Westat 1995).

It is therefore useful to examine the present status of the complementary and unique roles of school library media centers and public libraries, their current and potential relationships in meeting the needs of youth in individual communities, and the need for national, statewide, and local planning, policy making, and funding opportunities.

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Historical Perspective

Before 1950

As early as 1876, in an influential report entitled Public Libraries in the United States of America, William Fletcher contributed a section titled “Public Libraries and the Young” that conveyed the message that public libraries were auxiliaries to education. In 1897 John Cotton Dana, then president of the American Library Association (ALA) urged the National Education Association (NEA) to appoint a committee to study the interrelationships between the two organizations. The committee’s report recommended “cooperation between the school and the public library” (Report 1897, 2). It is important to recognize that school libraries were almost nonexistent at the time; this situation encouraged the public library to assume an educational role for almost forty years, supporting the needs of students and teachers. At annual ALA meetings during these early years, there were reports on the reading of the young (reported each year by Library Journal), with most of the activities involving cooperation with public schools (Thomas 1990). Between 1880 and 1920, as public library children’s services were beginning to develop, public libraries began to initiate direct book loans to teachers’ classrooms and to form “school departments” within the public libraries. Also during this early development period, teacher rooms were established in some public libraries, some attention was given to reference service to high school students, and there were reports of school and public library cooperative reading projects, such as book week celebrations.

During the 1920s, high school libraries were developed, and as early as the 1930s, school-housed public libraries (usually as branches of a public library) were established as one model of service.

A 1941 report of a joint committee of NEA and ALA, School and Public Libraries Working Together in School Library Service, gave the responsibility of school library services to boards of education but still emphasized the importance of school and public library cooperation (Joint Committee 1941). The Committee’s report clearly stated that both elementary schools and high schools must have libraries in order to carry out their educational responsibilities to their pupils; adequate library services cannot be provided through classroom collections alone. In that report, they included the findings of a 1938 study indicating that some school libraries were being administered jointly by the public library and the schools. Schools in twenty-one cities (of 175 cities with a population over 30,000), as well as many rural communities were said to depend a great deal on public libraries. There was evidence that schools and public libraries were working together to improve services in at least ten communities.

1950s and 1960s

In the 1950s elementary school libraries became fairly common, and public libraries served more of a complementary role, rather than providing direct service to schools. Many public libraries continued to provide bulk book collections to schools, especially in large cities and in school systems without elementary libraries. Even today, some public libraries preserve remains of these practices, especially in areas with inadequately funded and inadequately staffed school library media centers.

Student demands on public libraries, especially for reference and school-based needs, during the late 1950s and early 1960s led to an ALA-sponsored conference and 1964 report, Student Use of Libraries, which presented a picture of students whose library needs could not be met with available resources and services.

Federal aid to education and to libraries was an important development of the late 1950s and increasingly in the 1960s through the National Defense Education Act (1958), the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA 65), and the Library Services Act (1956, later changed to the Library Services and Construction Act, or LSCA). This funding led to better stocked book collections in school libraries and major building projects of public library facilities. Cooperation was mandated in LSCA’s Title III, which provided funding for interlibrary cooperation. In many states, regional library networks were established with cooperative services including book (and other material) lending and reference services as a result of this federal legislation and funding.

Professional standards and guidelines throughout that time period and continuing today have also encouraged cooperation between school and public libraries. For example, cooperation between the two institutions was mentioned even in the first set of national school library standards, published in 1945. The 1960 Public Library Association (PLA) guidelines, including those for children’s services and young adult services, made a strong plea for “total community library service” ( PLA 1960; 1964). This phrase became a common theme through the 1970s and 1980s.

1970s and 1980s

In the 1970s, many public libraries began to use a planning and evaluation process rather than either quantitative or qualitative standards. The 1970s Public Library Mission Statement emphasized cooperation. The PLA manual, Planning and Role Setting in Public Libraries (McClure et al. 1987), suggested several potential roles of public libraries that emphasize education: the preschoolers’ door to learning, formal education support center, and an independent learning center, that included both formal and informal educational roles. More public libraries began to offer programs and services for preschoolers at younger ages, including toddlers and babies along with parents and caretakers, in recognition of this educational role to facilitate language and literacy development of the young child.

Between 1970 and the late 1980s, libraries were forming networks in many states, but school libraries were usually not included. In recognition of this situation, the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) named a task force on school library media centers to investigate. Their 1978 report, The Role of the School Library Media Program in Networking, recommended the inclusion of school libraries in statewide networks.

The question of responsibility for library service to children was raised in the early 1970s after a report submitted by a committee of the New York State’s Commissioner of Education recommended that all school-aged children be served solely by school libraries (Broderick 1967). The negative response that followed this suggestion in the professional literature and by professional organizations deterred further action at that time. In 1975, NCLIS issued Toward a National Program for Library and Information Services, which included the following statement: “Despite its fundamental role in educating the child and in shaping his future information habits, the school library is deficient in many ways” (NCLIS 1975, xii).

From the late 1950s up to the 1980s, there had been direct funding for school libraries under ESEA. In the mid-1980s, the substitution of block grants rather than categorical funding created competition for such funding at state and local levels. In some states, monies from ESEA, Chapter 2, continued to buy library books for schools; in Iowa, for example, a study showed that 34% of the total monies for library books and an even higher percentage of technology and software expenditures came from these funds (Open Forum, Des Moines 1993).

The publication of A Nation at Risk created an awareness of a crisis in education and the need for improvement (National Commission on Excellence in Education 1983). The library community, recognizing that they were being overlooked as an important resource and contributor to educational improvement, responded first with Alliance for Excellence: Librarians Respond to a Nation at Risk (U.S. ED 1984) and second, with Realities: Educational Reform in a Learning Society (ALA 1984). Building on A Nation at Risk’s recommendation of an alliance of home and school for excellence in education, Alliance for Excellence suggested a third dimension to the alliance— libraries working with the home and school. The report also recommended planning to meet community needs and networking between libraries to provide library services including those for youth. Four basic concepts of the Realities report have implications for cooperation between school and public libraries:

  • Learning begins before schooling.
  • Good schools require good school libraries.
  • People in a learning society need libraries throughout their lives.
  • Public support of libraries is an investment in people and communities.

At the end of the 1980s, the need for information literacy (including computer literacy) became a major issue for schools. For example, NCLIS, in cooperation with the American Association of School Libraries (AASL), sponsored a conference in 1989 on the importance of teaching information skills in schools. Though public libraries were not included, the need for public libraries to support students in both information seeking and access to resources is increasingly being recognized (Sager 1992; Gorman 1995).

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1990s Perspective

The 1990s have seen major initiatives for educational change centering on national and statewide reform efforts. There have been several national efforts that affect library services: surveys on public and school libraries (staffing, services, resources) conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, a White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services, and a series of forums sponsored by NCLIS that focused on the federal role for library service for youth.

Educational Changes

Started in the late 1980s by President Bush and the governors, the most recent initiative began with the statement of the National Education Goals and has focused on national standards, testing, and more effective models of schooling. The goals were implemented by federal law in March 1994 as the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. A separate paper reviewing educational reform efforts and their implications for school library media centers has been completed by Hartzell (1998) as part of the current ED project. Preschoolers’ needs and the relationship with public library services has been addressed by Herb and Willoughby-Herb (1998) in another ED-commissioned paper. An emphasis on meeting the needs of preschoolers, along with their parents and caretakers, has been extended through cooperative projects between Head Start programs and public libraries. Another initiative by President Clinton, Reading in Infancy, calls for “every community to come together using its local library in partnership with health providers . . . to ensure that every child under age five is read to regularly by the year 2000” (ALA Washington Office 1997). Preparing preschoolers for school is an essential responsibility of both public libraries and schools and is best accomplished cooperatively.

These educational trends influence the roles of both school libraries and public libraries. For example, the use of literature in educational programs (both in reading programs—the whole language approach—and across curriculum areas—especially social studies) has increased the need for expertise in children’s literature (through well-qualified children’s and school librarians), and for rich fiction collections in libraries. Computer-assisted instruction and learning, as well as computer-based information databases such as Infotrac and CD-ROM encyclopedias, have revitalized the use of both the public, community library and the school library for better access to these resources and as an introduction to information literacy skills for students.

The U.S. ED has responded in several ways: providing funding in 1993 to support training institutes for school and public libraries on ways to implement the National Education Goals; the expansion of efforts to collect data on library services for youth through public libraries and school library media centers; and the current assessment of roles project.

It is still not clear if the national educational initiatives and their extensions to the state and local levels clearly recognize the importance of both school and public libraries in these efforts. For example, the recent initiative by President Clinton’s administration, the America Reads Challenge, has as its goal to ensure that all third graders can read at a nationally tested standard with remedies (remedial reading teachers and extensive individual tutoring through volunteers) for those who can not. This initiative, however, does not sufficiently address the inadequate school library media centers and lack of professional staffing in many schools, the insufficient and aging school library book collections, and the lack of well-trained teachers and librarians who could initiate techniques to encourage reading and learning. Access to both books and librarians are essential if youth are to develop both information-seeking and reading skills. According to a recent ALA Washington Office Report (1997, 6), ALA has made recommendations to “include explicit references to libraries and the inclusion of materials as an eligible use of funds for reading programs,” so that “both school and public libraries could apply for grants” within the America Reads Challenge reading initiative.

Libraries and Youth Services

The work for, during, and after the 1991 White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services resulted in the proposed Youth Omnibus Act: The Partnership with Libraries for Youth, which is intended to invigorate library and information services for student learning and literacy through programs aimed at school library media centers and public libraries through a combination of demonstration programs and school and public library partnerships that emphasize the essential role of libraries in promoting resource-based learning and instructional activities, parent/family education projects for early childhood services, intergenerational demonstration programs for latchkey children and young adolescents, and outreach services for youth at risk.

This proposed act contains a philosophy of cooperation between school and public libraries, recommending programs planned and provided by both types of libraries to provide “comprehensive library services to children and young adults,” including networks and collaboration with helpful organizations, such as the American Association of Retired Persons, with an emphasis on both family and multicultural programs.

Two developments have followed up on this initiative. First, the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) held three open forums on “Children and Youth Services: Redefining the Federal Role for Libraries,” in Boston, Sacramento, and Des Moines, and published the proceedings of each (Open Forum 1993). The purpose of the forums was to provide the commission advice to share with Congress and the administration in formulating future programs and plans. Two of the issues involved directly speak to the focus of this paper: the role of public and school libraries in promoting resource-based learning, information skills, and instructional activities, and how school/public library partnerships should be developed. Summary findings of the forums on these issues include:

  • School and public libraries should be centers for using networks and other information technologies, ensuring access for everyone (Open Forum, Boston 1993).
  • Areas for partnership to achieve mutual objectives include collection development, resource sharing, early childhood programs, family literacy, electronic networking, intergenerational programs, and multicultural programs (Open Forum, Boston 1993).
  • Communitywide and statewide planning is needed to provide for optimal services (Open Forum, Boston 1993).
  • School and public libraries can be partners only when each exists as a strong contributor to the partnership. One cannot substitute for the other. In California, as in other states, school libraries are an endangered species. (Open Forum, Sacramento 1993, 218).
  • Developing partnerships with local agencies has a price tag. It takes time to plan, to meet with these agencies, to communicate effectively with them, and to maintain the relationships. But librarians who serve our young people often wonder if these collaborative efforts are a double-edged sword. On the positive side, communication and joint efforts result in a communitywide focus. On the negative side, there is a risk in developing partnerships, especially financial ones. Fund-raising takes time and effort and participants expressed concern that they really do it well, they may have to keep on doing it (Open Forum, Des Moines 1993).

The forum in California focused on the wonderful things that the public libraries were doing for youth, especially at-risk youth and families, often in partnership with social and health services. The testimony from school library constituents was bleak and showed that nothing could happen without monies for collections and, most importantly, state-mandated certification for school media specialists and requirements for certified personnel in the schools. The partnerships between the two types of libraries did not seem feasible without some basic level of service in each school. There was also testimony from Western states in very rural communities with inadequate services in both types of libraries. One speaker at the California forum suggested that libraries could be linked to existing collaboratives, especially in the areas of literacy and latchkey programs, and even suggested that “libraries might consider co-locating with schools or other municipal centers for better visibility, for sharing of facilities, and for generating link to other kinds of services” (Open Forum, Sacramento 1993, 218).

An especially pertinent warning was issued at the Boston forum. One of the speakers warned of “the changing dynamics of how and where people, especially young people, obtain information, the implications of those changes for libraries, the fact that most of these developments are taking place outside the context of libraries,” and recommended that “libraries must become technologically equipped, adequately funded and appropriately staffed to assure continued and equitable access to information” (Open Forum, Boston 1993, 140).

More recently, a paper prepared to support the ALA presidential theme of Mary Somerville, “Kids Can’t Wait: Library Advocacy Now,” stated that there “must be commitment to superior service to all children and adolescents by library administrators, community leaders, the public and policy makers at all levels—local, state, and national—of institutional funding bodies and community partners” (Mathews 1996). Mathews puts the responsibility for these initiatives on the states, including their school and public librarians, and suggests that each develop a joint statewide vision statement to provide an action and advocacy plan with funding guidelines. Only in this way can collaboration by school and public libraries keep up with current trends, such as year-round schooling, magnet schools, home schooling, and partnerships to support parents and other caregivers. She advocates involvement and start-up funding for programs based on the national demonstration programs: the Library-Museum-Head Start Partnership, Reach Out and Read, Born to Read, the F.A.T.H.E.R.S. project for incarcerated fathers in California, etc. The newest reading project, the America Reads Challenge, should be added to that list. Mathews is careful to point out the need for designated state-level public library and school library personnel to serve as consultants and coordinators.

State- and community-level planning have begun to focus on meeting the needs of youth, especially youth at risk, as a result of the information included in the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation report, Kids Count Data Book, which includes individual state profiles. Some state offices that are responsible for health and welfare of children have organized communitywide organizations to address the needs of youth at the local level with support by statewide networks; ideally, youth librarians and educators, along with the health, safety, education, and protective service agencies, are part of these networks.

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Surveys and Statistics Concerning Public and School Libraries: Staffing

In the 1980s, some states (such as California) eliminated many public library youth positions. Some schools of library and information studies began to emphasize information and technology services and deemphasize training of specialists for youth librarianship. All of these factors add to the availability (or lack) of youth services personnel in both school library media centers and public libraries. It is obvious that inadequate staffing in many school media centers and public libraries probably serves as a barrier to cooperative projects.

Since the 1980s, there has been a recognized need to understand the status of library services to youth. Major efforts by the U.S. ED have been implemented to provide survey and statistical data on school and public libraries. Baseline surveys of both public library young adult services (U.S. ED 1987) and children’s services (U.S. ED 1988) were completed upon recommendations from youth library leaders, then updated in 1994 (U.S. ED 1995). The 1994 survey showed a lack of professional staffing for both children’s librarians and young adults’ librarians in public libraries as indicated by the following statistics:

  • Less than half (39%) employ a children’s librarian.
  • Only 11% have a young adults’ librarian.
  • Only 24% have a youth services specialist (for both children and young adults).

In this latest survey, 76% of public libraries reported that they work with schools; fewer reported that they work with preschools and day care centers (66% and 56%, respectively). Public librarians reported that insufficient library staff is a leading barrier to increasing services for both children and young adults (65% and 58% for each group) (U.S. ED 1995).

Information on staffing in school library media centers was gathered in the 1993–1994 School Staffing Survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. A report on that survey indicates:

Not all schools have school libraries/media centers with staffing that meets the standards that may be needed for the best preparation of tomorrow’s citizens. The prevalence of media centers with professional librarians varies not only across states but also between elementary and secondary schools, between small and large schools, and between schools serving areas of high poverty and low poverty (U.S. ED 1996, 145)

Although the vast majority of schools have library media centers, there is variation between states. Only 13.5% of all schools are without full- or part-time librarians/media specialists; this includes 15.5% of elementary schools and 6.3% of secondary schools. The variation by state is striking, with California presenting the worst scenario: 37.3% of all schools are without such personnel (almost 39% at the elementary level and 33% at the secondary level). Maine is almost as bad, with a high of 43% of elementary schools not having such personnel. In eighteen states, approximately one-fourth of the elementary schools do not have either full- or part-time librarians/media specialists (U.S. ED 1996).

Resources and Technology in School and Public Libraries

In addition to staffing problems in school libraries, collections are often dated and lack sufficient fiction and recreational reading. At the same time, much of the funding is now being allocated to the installation of computer hardware and software. A biennial survey of a sample of School Library Journal subscribers examines expenditures of school media centers. The 1993–1994 survey found that approximately $6.80 was spent per pupil on books, less than the cost of one hardcover book. Yet 77% of the schools have books and encyclopedias in a CD-ROM format (Miller and Shontz 1995). The 1993–1994 survey also found that a little more than half of the schools have both an automated catalog and an automated circulation system.

The national and statewide initiatives to provide youth with access to technology have had an impact on both school and public libraries. School libraries are receiving major funding for technology in some states as part of the National Education Goals initiative, filtered through state departments of education. Recent library and school discounts for telecommunication rates will encourage more libraries to be connected to the Internet. Three statistical reports on schools entitled “Advanced Telecommunications in United States Public Schools, K–12,” issued in 1994, 1995, and 1996 for the U.S. ED, provide information on Internet connectivity in schools. The most recent report (1997) found that:

  • Among U.S. public schools, 65% had access to the Internet in fall 1996 (as compared to only about one-third in 1994); that included 61% of elementary schools, and 77% of secondary schools.
  • Large schools were more likely to have Internet capabilities than small ones.
  • Urban fringe (or suburban) schools were more likely to have access than schools in rural locales.
  • Public schools with high levels of students in poverty were less likely to be connected to the Internet.

The Condition of Education, 1997 (U.S. ED 1998) reported that as of 1993–1994, 12% of school library media centers had a connection to the Internet. Many states have developed statewide school technology plans since this survey, and more schools add access every day. Consequently, the information on technology in schools is never completely up to date.

Similar information on access to technology for youth is needed for public libraries. The 1994 survey of public library services to youth indicated that only 30% of public libraries reported the availability of personal computers for use by children and young adults. Even with this limited access, 75% of libraries having such a resource reported moderate to heavy use by children and young adults (75% and 71%, respectively) (U.S. ED 1995). The 1997 National Survey of United States Public Libraries and the Internet found that public access to the Internet was offered by 60% of the public libraries surveyed in at least one branch or the central facility (ALA 1997), but nothing was reported about services to youth. The initiative by the Gates Foundation to support technology in public libraries in communities with the greatest need, though too new to make an impact on library services to youth, may serve as an important demonstration project.

The 1996 Benton Foundation report, Buildings, Books, and Bytes, contained results of a survey on the importance of public libraries in the midst of the digital revolution, which found that services to children were ranked highest (83% of respondents rated children’s services as very important), and that “providing computers and online services to children and adults who don’t have their own computers” ranked fourth (60% judged this service very important) (Benton 1996).

Legislation and Funding

In 1994, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorized. Several aspects pertinent to this paper include Title I-B, Education for the Disadvantaged and the Even Start program (an intergenerational initiative offering adult basic education and parent/child cooperative learning projects); Title III, Technology for Education, which could include partnerships between schools and public libraries; and Title VI, Innovative Education Program Strategies, which gives states grants for which school libraries may be eligible.

In addition, the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA, replacing LSCA) authorized in 1997 is still the major federal grant program for libraries. According to ALA’s Washington Office, through LSTA, states and local public libraries can develop innovative projects in the areas of reading and technological literacy. Public libraries can build partnerships with public schools and create outreach programs through organizations such as Head Start programs and daycare centers (ALA Washington 1997).

As Mathews pointed out in Kids Need Libraries, “Present library resources, staffing, and facilities are not satisfactory to do the job”(1990). Since the heyday of well-funded libraries and requirements for certified persons in school libraries (1960s and 1970s), there have been cutbacks and diminished services with the following results: schools spend fewer real dollars per student, when adjusted for inflation, now than in those years; there is more shared staffing between two or more elementary schools; and many public schools do not have a fully qualified media specialist.

Clearly, many communities are not providing adequate library services to youth whether one judges collections, programs, or staffing. This may be the most telling reason why there are not more cooperative and collaborative services, programs, and planning between schools and public libraries. It is important to understand these facts in this examination of the relationships of school and public library services.

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Roles and Goals: Unique and Complementary

Several leaders in the field have tried to make a case for the unique roles of school library media specialists contrasted to those of public youth librarians. For example, Julie Cummins, Coordinator of Children’s Services at the New York Public Library, is quoted in a 1992 editorial: “This muddling of the separate missions of public libraries and public schools does not prove to be the wisest use of the taxpayers’ dollars” (Gerhardt 1992, 4). Thea Jones, representing the Maryland Educational Media Organization, spoke to this issue in schools: “The goals of school-library media programs are different from the goals of public libraries” (Viadero 1992, 20).

Yet another view was offered in an earlier publication by Philip Baker (1977), in which Augusta Baker, former Coordinator of the New York Public Library, argues that the artificial lines between what is considered enjoyment and culture (the main role of the public library in some people’s minds) and what is learning and instruction (the school library’s responsibility) should be eliminated.

A review of these espoused unique goals will be briefly presented, and then a list of complementary roles and goals will be identified.

School Library Media Centers

Woolard (1980, 180) identified the role of the school library media center as one that “supports and furthers the purposes formulated by the school or district of which it is an integral part, and its quality is judged by its effectiveness in achieving program purposes."

School library media guidelines have been important to the development of roles and goals of school libraries. In the 1988 Information Power guidelines, AASL proposed three roles for the library media specialist: information specialist, teacher, and instructional consultant (planning with teachers and involvement with school curriculum). The guidelines also spelled out that “the mission of the library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.” (1) The mission is the same in the 1998 revision of Information Power, but the three roles have been expanded to four with the addition of the program administrator.

In 1995 the AASL board of directors adopted a long range plan, which included:

  • distinct, but complementary roles of the library media specialist as information specialist, teacher, and instructional consultant; and
  • students are provided instruction, integrated into the curriculum, in the skills needed to identify an information need, find, evaluate and organize the information, and use the information effectively.

AASL (1991) also produced a position paper with specific suggestions on how library media programs will contribute to each of the National Education Goals. Yet there were no references to public libraries in these statements, goals, and vision for the future.

According to Haycock (1990), the school library media center is part of the instructional system: “To teach the student how to learn on his/her own, how to locate, analyze and evaluate information . . . helps develop critical thinking in the pupil, especially by introducing young people to various information resources and libraries” (33). Jones has supplemented this by suggesting that “the goal of library media programs is to teach children to become information-literate” (Viadero 1992, 20).

In distinguishing school library media specialists’ responsibilities from those of public youth librarians, Mathews (1990) suggests the following as more common for those working in schools:

  • collaborate with classroom teachers to design learning activities;
  • instruct children and young adults in the use of computers and other technologies;
  • encourage and assist teachers in developing resource-based learning experiences;
  • provide developmentally appropriate resources for children and young adults;
  • initiate and coordinate with teachers schoolwide projects that help students sharpen reading and word skills; and
  • sponsor schoolwide initiatives in which everyone in school reads a book of choice for enjoyment.

Haycock’s (1990) delineation is also useful:

While school and public libraries are educational institutions with similar aims and objectives in a broad sense, their specific purposes, approaches, and methods of operation are quite different. [There is] a basic lack of understanding as to what the role and function of the public library and the school resource center are and how they differ. The public library’s primary role is to facilitate the informal self-education of the individual from the preschooler to the senior citizen. [Services are provided which are] . . . informational, . . . of a research nature, . . . recreational, cultural. The school resource center . . . is designed as an integral part of the instructional system. [School media specialists] plan and develop curricula with teachers and teach units of study co-operatively as a team teacher. [They provide] leadership in in-service programs for teaching colleagues [and they] facilitate the teaching/learning process. (34)

Public Libraries—General Roles

In general, the public library has been viewed as serving the informational, cultural, educational, and recreational needs of the entire community. Woolard (1980) pointed out a difference that is often noted: the public library is primarily concerned with providing the needs of the student as an individual and as a member of the community, and gives the student experience in using a facility that will be a lifelong resource. Dwyer (1989) points out that it is the function of the public library to:

  • serve the community as a general center of reliable information;
  • provide encouragement and opportunity for children, young people, men, and women to educate themselves continuously; and
  • promote, through guidance and stimulation, an enlightened citizenship and enriched personal lives.

However, new roles for the public library have been added throughout the 1980s and 1990s. For example, Avner (1989) speaks of the home schoolers as a “forgotten clientele,” although this situation has certainly changed, as evidenced by the articles and books on the topic. Avner suggests that because of the many home-schooled youth, public libraries need to provide materials for parents who teach these youth and to supply materials for the children, as well. To do this successfully, the public librarians need to become aware of policies on home schooling in their community and state. Inclusion of textbooks and other curricular materials in their collections is being reconsidered by some public libraries that generally have not felt that to be their responsibility.

Again, drawing on Mathews’ (1990) list of responsibilities, the following appear to apply particularly to public libraries:

  • Collaborate with agencies serving hard-to-reach youth, such as child care services, by providing books and other materials and by offering training for staff and parent volunteers in the use of these items.
  • Provide opportunities for youth to practice reading and communication skills through summer reading programs, “lap-sit” programs, storytimes, book discussion clubs, contests, peer tutoring, debates, and book and music reviews to share with peers.
  • Create intergenerational experiences using library resources and programs that help youth and older adults better understand and value each other.
  • Provide safe, welcoming places for children and young adults to gather with friends to enjoy library resources or to be alone to pursue personal interests.

Public Libraries—Educational Role

An educational role for the public library has always existed, even in the early beginnings of the public library movement, as noted earlier in the historical overview of this paper. Since the 1980s, leaders have called for an expanded educational role for public libraries, based on the rationale of changing needs and trends in education and in local communities. Some of these needs and trends, along with pertinent studies of the issues, will be briefly discussed below.

One study that provides evidence of the importance of the public library to learning is reported in Summer Learning and the Effects of Schooling (Heyns 1978). Though not a study of public libraries, her investigation of the factors that influence learning of sixth and seventh graders when schools are closed found that, “The single summer activity that is most strongly and consistently related to summer learning is reading. Whether reading is measured by the number of books read, by the time spent reading, or by the regularity of library usage, it increases the vocabulary test scores of children” (320). Her conclusion that “at least one institution, the public library, directly influences children’s reading” was the basis for her recommendation that “educational policies that increase access to books (perhaps through increased library services) stand to have an important impact on achievement, particularly for less advantaged children” (xviii).

Two statewide studies of the educational role of public libraries, Terrie and Summers in Florida (1987) and Fitzgibbons and Pungitore in Indiana (1989), document the quantity and type of educational programming and services. The Florida study found that students are very active users of public libraries; persons under age eighteen borrow 26% of all library materials, even though they constitute less than 15% of the total population. The average student visits a public library about five times per year, and half of these visits have an educational purpose.

The Indiana study found the following ratings of four major roles of the public libraries: informational (92%), educational (88%), recreational (84%), and cultural (49%). Also, because so many of the public libraries in Indiana are in small communities, respondents were asked to assess whether they perceived that the public library served as a school library; 53% of them felt that it did “to a great extent,” and an additional 43% responded “to some extent.”

Both studies showed the large number of preschool programs being offered to young children, with many of Florida public libraries also providing parent education through parent resource centers and programs. Programs for school-aged children included summer reading programs and other literary programs, such as booktalks, puppet shows, and performances. Young adults were offered many informational programs (subjects such as drugs, divorce, child abuse) and instructional programs (careers, training as library volunteers, bicycle repair, babysitting, etc.), plus class visits to the library and librarian visits to classrooms.

Several divisions of the ALA, including the Association of Library Service for Children (ALSC) and the young adult group (then called Young Adult Services Division, now the Young Adult Library Services Association, YALSA), joined together to draft a position paper on how libraries can help with the implementation of the National Education Goals. Several of the items pertain especially to youth library services:

  • Librarians and library programs work with children, adults serving the child, and parents to provide materials and prereading experiences that prepare children to enter and remain in school.
  • Libraries serve as resource centers for teachers, students, and parents in support of and as an extension of all curricular activities.
  • Librarians help students develop lifelong learning habits and the ability to use information effectively.
  • Librarians, as information specialists, facilitate students’ access to advanced information and research (ALA 1991).

There are several ways that public libraries have increasingly taken on educational roles in the 1990s, which will probably be intensified in 2000 and beyond: focusing on preschool educational and literacy programs, including parent and caretaker education, and acting as a more formal educational center through family literacy programs, homework centers, tutoring, career information services, and workshops on computer literacy, research skills, and science fair projects. In addition to services like Head Start classes and latchkey programs, extended services have addressed needs resulting from newer educational trends, such as home schooling, alternative schools, and year-round schools (Sager 1992). These services supplement the continuing, more traditional services, such as visits to schools, class visits to the library, preschool programming (three- to four-year-olds), and programming during summers and holidays. Some examples of some of the newer functions will be discussed briefly below.

Preschoolers’ Door to Learning

The first National Education Goal, “to prepare every preschooler to come to public school ready to learn,” is really an extension of the role that most public libraries have made a priority: the preschoolers’ door to learning. That role is discussed in detail in a paper by Herb and Herb-Willoughby (1998) and a report by Immroth and Ash-Geisler (1995).

Educational Support Center

In a public opinion survey by D’Elia (1993) concerning roles of the public library, support of education and the provision of information received one of the highest rankings: 1988% of participants ranked the role of serving as an educational support center for students of all ages as very important.

One major public library trend involves providing space, materials, and personal intermediaries in areas called Homework Centers (or Homework Support Centers). Bell (1992) suggested creation of a term paper resource center at a public library, stocked with a topic file notebook, bibliographies, search strategies for online sources, and pamphlets to help students learn basic information searching skills or to point to helpful tools. She suggested this should be a cooperative effort between school and public libraries based on a real need, recognizing that public libraries are open longer hours and that students often prefer the out-of-school environment. Bloom (1992) described a cooperative project between the East Cleveland Public Library and the East Cleveland City Schools, a shared math and science enrichment center developed with corporate and foundation funding, which is housed in the public library and serves grades K–6. Classes come to the center for activity-based science and math lessons during the school day, and after school thirty to forty students return to work on computer applications and educational games. One evening each week, families attend science activities. A more positive relationship has resulted between the two organizations, library circulation has increased, and library collections are enhanced by the subject specialists’ recommendations. This center, serving mainly African American students, attempts to interest them in math and science both as subjects of study and as potential career areas.

To meet the role of formal educational support, a branch of the Long Beach Public Library established an after-school study center targeted to reach a large minority (specifically, Cambodian) population after an extensive community needs assessment and coalition-building effort. The center focused on fifth-grade students from two elementary schools and their parents, and included an extensive magazine collection, free photocopies of materials for homework, bilingual staff, trained volunteers, and basic school supplies. The project was supported by the California State Library’s Partnership for Change project through LSCA funds (Messineo 1991).

Home Schooled Youth

Several surveys have been done to assess either the library needs of home schoolers or the use of the public library by home-schooling families. Morley and Wooten conducted surveys to look at both needs and public library use in four counties in North Carolina. They found that home-school families do depend on public libraries for their educational materials, mainly to supplement the curriculum, yet many public libraries do not appear to be taking a proactive stance in serving home-schooling patrons. They raise the point that “with the increasing popularity of alternative school options, such as home-schooling and educational vouchers, public librarians . . . must be willing to meet the needs for whatever educational practice is chosen. . . . [This] will reinforce the image of the public library as an educational institution”(Morley and Wooten 1993, 39).

Alternative and Year-Round Schools

Public libraries often take on the support of alternative schools; for example, the Douglas Public Library in Colorado is serving as the main library for several charter schools, providing services such as library skills instruction, collection of basic texts and primers, teacher loans, and class visits to the library. This same library has been serving many home schoolers by providing materials and programs, and by jointly sponsoring guest speakers for workshops and classes. The library also provides Internet access. A third educational change in the community has affected public library services: year-round schools have created the need for teacher cards and year-round reading programs instead of summer reading programs. The overall effect has been a dramatic increase in the library’s circulation, two-thirds of which consists of children’s and young adults’ materials. The director of the library, Jamie LaRue, expresses the library’s philosophy in embracing these education options: “The public library needs to be the school library when the school is closed, and an ’education provocateur’ in supporting alternative schools.” However, he also believes “a strong partnership between the public library and public schools will strengthen both institutions as lines between entities blur” (Halverstadt 1995, 17). This educational phenomenon of year-round schools, like several in California, will change patterns of public library use.

Complementary Roles and Goals

Many recent articles recognize the overlap between both the patrons served and the types of information and services provided by both school library media centers and public libraries (Shannon 1991). Both public libraries and school library media centers provide resources relating to the school curriculum and students’ assignments. No single library can provide everything for youth in today’s information age, which is characterized by rapidly changing technology. It is important to recognize the changing nature of both school and public libraries.

[School and public libraries] offer complementary and mutually reinforcing programs for children and young adults from infancy to eighteen years of age. For children and young adults in school, the school library, which carries out its important role in structured learning as its first priority, also meets the personal, recreational, and informal learning needs of many children. The public library provides the transition from babyhood into formal learning, the resources and services for personal information and recreation, and the transition from structured learning into self-determined life-long learning. When both types of libraries are well supported, they can team up to provide a seamless information and enjoyment resource (Mathews 1990, 197).

Though Mathews acknowledges that “some contributions are made uniquely by one type of library serving kids,” she also feels that “most are made by both at different times and in various degrees” (206). In her long list of what “kids need” and what “libraries can do,” only a few seem to be truly unique to one type of library or the other.

One way to understand and appreciate the roles of a partner library is to exchange job roles for a day or a week, or even, like two librarians in Lexington, Massachusetts, for a whole year, in a process formally agreed to by both the superintendent of schools and the board of trustees of the public library. One differing role noted by the public librarian after the experience was the school librarian’s mission as consultant to teachers, playing a key role in curriculum planning. One dilemma was the clash over pressure for better reading skills versus the desire for the latest technology. Though the experience resulted in a greater understanding of each other’s role, that could lead to deeper collaboration, the public librarian felt a steeper learning curve due to the following conditions: a lack of support staff, being the only one involved in collection development, the extensive work with teachers, the need to teach students information skills as well as to motivate reading, and technology involvement. These conditions led to greater stress on the part of the public librarian while acting as school librarian (Chadbourne 1994). In another example, the public library hires one or more school librarians to help with summer reading programs and reference work. Several public libraries have tried this arrangement, including the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington, Indiana.

This educational focus is a shared role and goal of school and public libraries and is one of the most critical factors in rationalizing the need for cooperation and collaboration between the two. In today’s information-rich society, both types of libraries can provide resources to complement students’ curriculum and literacy needs. Because of the complexity of technological access, both the role of the information intermediary and the role of instructor in computer and information literacy need to be shared. However, the methods and approaches of the two types of libraries may still remain different due to factors such as schools’ grading practices and each institution’s hours of service and scheduling practices. Certainly when the school day ends, the public library is available to serve students’ educational needs as well as an individual’s request for leisure activities and reading materials.

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Cooperative Efforts

Mercier (1991), in a review on cooperation and combined libraries, concludes:

There are many levels of cooperation, from the simplest forms of communication to the more complex example of shared facilities. Communication is the most important factor in cooperation. The institutions need to look at their goals and objectives and place the emphasis of cooperation on the potential benefits to their clientele rather than the benefits to the institution.

The goal of cooperation continues to be improved library and information services to the user groups, rather than enhancement of the library itself. Though cooperation has been given lip service for over one hundred years, it is not as institutionalized as one would expect and desire.

Research has mainly focused on combined or joint school/library buildings (White 1963; Woolard 1980; Aaron 1980; ) or generally on cooperation and attitudes toward cooperation (Woolls 1973; Dyer 1978; Callison, Fink, and Hager 1989; Callison 1991; Shannon 1991; Kelley 1992). Findings have not been encouraging. During the 1980s, another area of study emerged: the inclusion of school libraries in multitype library systems (Immroth 1980; Turock 1981; Walker 1982; Weeks 1982; Lunardi 1986). The feasibility of resource sharing has been explored through examination of duplication and overlap in school and public library collections (Altman 1971; Doll 1983; Garland 1989). Several of these areas have continued to be targeted for study throughout the 1990s. Findings from pertinent studies will be discussed within the appropriate sections of this paper, following the presentation of overviews and studies of cooperation.

In 1973 Woolls surveyed school and public librarians in Indiana to ascertain the types of cooperative activities that were being implemented. She found a lack of communication between the two types of librarians and no examples of cooperative programs or collection building. As a followup to this earlier work, in the late 1980s, Callison, Fink, and Hager (1989) surveyed by telephone a selective sample of forty-seven public libraries in Indiana for the purpose of ascertaining whether the “communication channels are open between the public library and the secondary schools.” In a second study, Callison (1991) used the same methodology to survey a national sample of public libraries with similar characteristics. Some findings on communication from the surveyed public librarians were:

  • Among the Indiana public librarians, 1983% could not name all of the local secondary school librarians.
  • Among the Indiana public librarians, 34% could not name a professional librarian at the local senior high school (37% of the national sample).
  • And 57% of those librarians could not name a professional librarian at any of the local junior high schools (46% of the national sample).

After securing telephone numbers of the secondary school librarians from the public librarians in Indiana, similar perspectives were solicited from forty-seven senior high school librarians and ninety-five junior high librarians through telephone interviews. The school librarians’ knowledge of their counterparts at the public library was somewhat similar as shown below:

  • Among the Indiana senior high school librarians, 28% could not name a single professional librarian in the public library (29% of the national sample).
  • Among the Indiana junior high librarians, 28% could not name a single professional librarian at the public library (39% of the national sample).

For the Indiana sample libraries, Callison sent a follow-up mail questionnaire trying to further assess areas of cooperation and opinions on cooperation. He concluded that there was “a low level of cooperative activity, in that both the public librarian and the school librarian simply reacted to the immediate requests or demands of the other without an attempt to determine how cooperation could exist at higher levels of information service” (20) Thirty-seven percent of the secondary school librarians reported that there had been no cooperative activities over the previous year with the local public librarians. The most frequently listed examples of cooperation included exchanging booklists, returning books to the proper library, and schools calling the public library to get an answer to a reference question. There was almost no evidence of joint programming or cooperative collection development. The majority agreed that there should be more communication, such as regular meetings, though they were not very sure what services and programs could be provided cooperatively. Callison’s studies indicate the lack of communication between secondary school librarians and public librarians, as well as the lack of cooperative activities between the two.

Shannon (1991) surveyed both secondary school librarians and public librarians in one North Carolina county to determine the status of cooperation. Both school and public library respondents agreed that library services to youth could be improved by increased cooperation. The factors they felt would enhance cooperation included more time to meet, more personal contact and interaction, and designation of an individual to work with both school and public libraries. Both groups of librarians agreed that the most frequent activities were cooperation with “homework alerts” and arranging public librarians’ visits to the schools. When visits to the public library were made, they were usually arranged by individual teachers.

Kelley’s dissertation (1992) explored cooperation in Massachusetts through in-depth interviews with both public librarians and school librarians involved with cooperation at high to low levels. She identified factors that encourage cooperation, including adequate funding and staffing, and specific personalities. Those factors she identified that inhibit cooperation included lack of funding, inadequate staffing, and governance issues, both at the state and local level.

The influence of schools in encouraging public library use has been documented by Haycock (1992), citing research indicating that teachers can influence students to use the public library, and that students who use school libraries have more positive attitudes towards public libraries than their peers.

George (1994) performed a content analysis on the topic of cooperation, as illustrated in a representative sample of 18 of 113 articles from the professional literature. She purposively eliminated articles on combined libraries and other topics unrelated to the type of cooperation being studied. She identified the benefits of cooperation, the most successful cooperative activities, and barriers to cooperation and proposed solutions. She recommended that evidence of cooperative efforts be included in the job evaluations of school and public librarians and advocated for the use of technology to facilitate communication and cooperative efforts. George concluded: “The librarians in each community must first determine what benefits cooperation can provide and then decide if the benefits justify the effort.”

According to Haycock in a review of dissertations including the subject of school and public library cooperation (1992), little meaningful cooperation exists. The 1994 U.S. ED (1995) surveys on the extent to which public libraries cooperate with other organizations in the community found that three-quarters of all libraries reported working occasionally or frequently with schools. This occurred most often when the public libraries had young adult or youth services specialists. The most common activities (mentioned by three-fifths of public librarians) were hosting class visits from the school to the library and resource sharing via interlibrary loans. Two-fifths of the public librarians occasionally or frequently visited schools for booktalks or to discuss and promote library use.

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Types of Cooperative Relationships

There is much evidence that in some communities, and with some youth library advocates, there are a growing number of successful examples of cooperative efforts. This section describes the major cooperative efforts between school library media centers and public libraries under the following categories: networks and resource sharing, building collections, information services and instruction, and reading and literacy. Each of these categories will be briefly described with a focus on research findings, the benefits of each cooperative effort, and problems that have occurred.( 1)

Networks and Resource Sharing

Networking and the development of cooperative arrangements between public and school libraries has been expedited by Title III of the LSCA, Multitype Library Cooperation, which funded statewide or regional library projects for resource sharing, reference services, and automation projects. The statewide and or regional multitype library networks initiated during the 1980s have been described and studied fairly extensively.

In the early stages of many of these networks, school libraries, especially those in elementary schools, were not always included. In 1977 NCLIS and the AASL created a twenty-one-member task force for the purpose of determining the best methods of integrating school library media programs into a proposed national network. Their report recommended an ideal for networking:

To provide every individual in the United States with equal opportunity of access to that part of the total information resource which will satisfy the individual’s educational, working, cultural, and leisure-time needs and interests, regardless of the individual’s location, social or physical condition, or level of intellectual achievement (Task Force 1978).

The report stated that it is important for students to have effective access to needed information through school libraries that are appropriately integrated with a full-service network. The Task Force’s report identified five categories of barriers to the inclusion of school libraries in networks—psychological, funding, political and legal, communication, and planning—and urged school library media centers to become more involved in regional and statewide library networks.

In 1979 Bender presented a rationale for why schools should be included in networks and emphasized that “[we need] to become responsive and to be more concerned with client needs rather than institutional territoriality.”

In 1988 AASL’s Information Power urged school library media centers to “participate in networks that enhance access to resources located outside the school.” In order to eliminate the political and legal obstacles, some states have passed legislation providing equal treatment of schools as members of networks. Other states have mandated the participation of schools in multitype cooperatives. The involvement of school media centers in multilibrary or multitype networks have been initiated since 1980.

Consequently, there have been several studies and conferences of multitype networking, including the perspective of school libraries. Researchers who examined school libraries in networks during this early period include Immroth (1980), Turock (1981), Walker (1982), Weeks (1982), and Lunardi (1986). Immroth studied schools’ involvement in the Colorado Regional Library Service System, concluding that networks could successfully include schools if there is strong leadership at the top and the network provides users with materials fast enough to meet their needs. She also found that a side benefit of belonging to a network for the media specialist is a sense of decreased professional isolation.

Turock found that those feeling that they were “getting something of benefit” were satisfied with the network: school libraries could fill their periodical requests from network sources most of the time, and over 50% of public library serial requests could be filled by school libraries. The network services considered most important included interlibrary loan, delivery systems, reference services, and development of union catalogs. Turock concentrated on a case study of one New York network. Walker studied one public school system’s use of the Maryland Interlibrary Organization network and found that high school students were the heaviest users, followed by elementary teachers, and central office professionals. Weeks’ study of library media specialists’ attitudes in New York State found positive attitudes toward networking, especially from those who were actually participating in network pilot projects. In his study of the effect of LSCA Title III on public school library participation in networks, in eighteen states, Lunardi (1986) found that school libraries were contributing network members and that participation in the networks improved and extended student and teacher services in the schools.

A biennial survey of subscribers to School Library Journal, with results reported in the journal since 1983, has focused on school library expenditures. Network participation was first included in the 1987–1988 report, but only a small number of schools reported such participation either among other school libraries or with other types of libraries (Miller and Shontz 1989).

More recent studies of networking and resource sharing include those of Partridge (1989), Kester (1990; 1992), Zimmerman (1992), Van Orden and Wilkes (1993), and Lockner (1996). Partridge concluded that “the involvement of school libraries in cooperatives and networks received little research attention before the late 1970s.” She studied school librarians’ perspectives on their participation (or nonparticipation) in a library cooperative in Mississippi in order to identify factors believed to be major barriers to cooperation. A major barrier identified was lack of information or lack of experience with networks, yet attitudes were open to the acceptance of cooperation as a viable activity. Other barriers included lack of adequate funding and the lack of a phone in the media center. The major benefit identified by Partridge was the increased access to resources in areas where funding for libraries is low; a second benefit was the association with librarians from other schools and from other library systems. The perception that school libraries have nothing to share in networks persisted, despite findings from several studies that have shown that most school library collections have unique resources.

By the early 1990s, many of the barriers that had made it difficult for schools to participate in library networks had been reduced for school districts. Between 1977 and 1987, participation of school libraries in networks had grown 48%, according to a national survey sponsored by the Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. ED. That survey identified 257 networks with over 18,000 participating school libraries (Van Orden and Wilkes 1993).

Recognizing a need for information on automation for school library media centers within multitype projects, two divisions of ALA, AASL and the Association of State and Cooperative Library Associations (ASCLA through their Section on Multitype Library Networks and Cooperatives, Multi-LINCS), joined together to develop a publication highlighting successful projects, including bibliographic databases, sharing of online circulation systems or catalogs, interlibrary loan telecommunication systems, production of microfiche or CD-ROM catalogs, and other automation activities. Twenty-one states reported their automation projects, with eight projects in Illinois alone. Seven were joint school/public library projects, but most involved schools participating through involvement in a library cooperative or system. Two early examples of shared catalogs between school and public libraries that were studied and found to be successful include those in the community of Carmel, Indiana, and one statewide effort, Access Pennsylvania. Almost all of the projects were initiated in the 1980s (Drew and Ihlenfeldt 1991).

Zimmerman (1992) explored the relationship of attitudes of school library media specialists concerning participation in multitype library networking and technology by replicating the Weeks’ 1982 study of school libraries in New York State. She found positive attitudes about the concept, but less satisfaction with the networks in which they participated, due to insufficient technical, financial, and human support at the building level. More of the rural responses were positive, due to benefits from decreased isolation and increased ability to provide materials to clients. Length of participation in networking did not affect attitudes. In both Weeks’ and Zimmerman’s studies, interlibrary loan and delivery were the two highest ranked network services, followed by the development of a union catalog. Reference service, rated third by Weeks’ participants, fell to fifth position in the Zimmerman study. The developments in both microcomputing and telecommunications that had started to be heavily used by networks by the time of the Zimmerman study caused technology and networking to be so closely linked that they could not be studied separately. However, she found that many school libraries still lacked the technology needed to participate in the network: approximately 25% did not have a telephone in the media center. Although only less than 15% did not have a computer, without telephone service they still had no access to the network. Less than half had photocopiers, and only 10% had fax machines. These factors caused stress and frustration on the part of participants, though they felt that network participation was part of their service responsibilities. Zimmerman recommended that funding and staffing should be explored as factors in successful network participation on the part of school libraries. A significant finding was the gap between attitude and practice on networking.

Recently Lockner (1996) surveyed the ninety elementary and secondary school media centers that were members of one multitype network in Minnesota to determine the extent of their cooperation within the system, and also with public libraries within their own school district. The survey assessed the extent of participation in several services of the system: continuing education, scholarships and grants, delivery service, and use of a regional automated catalog (computerized output microfiche) to expedite interlibrary loans. Of the respondents, 82% of the school media librarians reported that they felt it was very important to share resources, and 50% felt the delivery system was very important to them. Thirty-six percent of the school librarians referred students and teachers to the public library “often,” while 61% did so occasionally. Sixty-four percent of the school libraries had used the network for consulting services, facilities planning, and collection development. Of the respondents, 81% claimed that they worked with their public librarian (and others) for a common goal but concluded that more could be done, especially in the area of referrals.

In library networks where public libraries and school libraries are involved, cooperation can be more easily implemented, since community outreach and linkages are major goals. Library networks in many states (e.g., New Jersey and Illinois) are regional, including both public and school libraries plus academic and special libraries, and those with links to the state library. These regional and state networks commonly offer sharing of resources via interlibrary loan, fax, and electronic transmittal; reference and referral services; and, increasingly, access to statewide electronic databases.

In Lois Schultz’s testimony at NCLIS’s Open Forum (1993) in Des Moines, speaking from the perspective of the youth services consultant for the Suburban Library System in Illinois, she listed areas of network cooperative projects between public and school libraries: collection development, homework centers, bulk loans of books to schools for the resource-based instruction programs, and school librarians’ support in promotion of summer reading programs, junior great book programs, and library card campaigns. Another cooperative venture she mentioned was a two-day children’s author festival, jointly sponsored by a public library and a local school district, with sessions at both the schools and the public library.

The new phenomenon of community networks through the Internet is changing the landscape rapidly. Many public libraries have Web sites, and from some of them the user can access the library’s catalog. Web-based catalogs should be a common phenomenon in a few years. In the most recent national survey of public libraries and the Internet (ALA 1997), it was reported that 60.4% of public library systems offer some type of Internet access to the public. The most offered services did not include library catalogs, but simply access to the Web (both graphical and text) plus FTP access, online CD-ROMs, and online reference services. Almost 10% of all public libraries have their own Web sites, a dramatic increase since 1996 when only 1.2% of libraries offered this service. In larger libraries, about 65% hosted their own Web sites.

One example of community networking was a free-net in Columbia, Missouri, a collaborative effort of four public entities (school district, public library, a university, and the city) in creating and funding the Columbia Online Information Network (COIN), where homes, schools, classrooms, and businesses were connected to the community network. Resources included community services, curriculum materials, and periodical information such as full-text Infotrac files and the local newspaper (Oestreich 1994). Another example, an informal consortium with a community network in Orange, California, COOLNET (Community of Orange Library Network) linked the public schools with the public library and a college library for the purpose of meetings, resource sharing, and services.

Cooperation in Building Collections

Both Altman (1971) and Doll (1980; 1983) examined the overlap of collections in both school and public libraries in order to assess implications for interlibrary loans and networking. Doll found that the average overlap is 50% between school libraries and public libraries and 30% among school libraries and concluded that though there is definitely overlap, each library has unique titles, indicating that school libraries, as well as public libraries, have much to offer each other by sharing resources. School libraries can both benefit from and make significant contributions to either a school library network or a multitype library network.

Callison’s 1986 study of communication and cooperation of Indiana school and public librarians included a written survey that focused on collection development. The majority of librarians did not agree that they should have a joint collection policy, that they should cooperate on acquisition and processing, and that they should share some staffing. Callison’s (1989) conclusion was that the librarians do not know each other’s collections and could not predict what the demands would be on each other’s collections in the twenty-six subject areas that he presented.

A study by Garland (1989), funded by the U.S. ED, examined the differences in use of children’s materials in school and public libraries. Garland explored the implications for cooperative acquisitions between school and public libraries and concluded that there is a need to make cooperative decisions on nonfiction titles to provide a diversity of titles while still duplicating titles in high demand. She also recommended that public libraries should emphasize easy fiction, and the school libraries, nonfiction. The two collections were being used in different ways: the public library providing easy fiction for preschoolers and primary age children, and the school library being mainly used for nonfiction. However, the use of nonfiction can be curriculum-related in both libraries, indicating the need for both the public library and the school library to be informed about the schools’ curriculums.

With funding from an LSCA grant in 1988, Jensen (1990) reported that four high schools used fax technology as the basis of a resource-sharing consortium, As Soon As Possible (ASAP), connecting public, academic, and school libraries in one Colorado county. With additional funds in 1990, ASAP provided interlibrary services via fax. An earlier survey by Jensen had found that secondary students preferred using public libraries and doing assignments after school hours, and that 40% of students received assignments that required more than school library use. Secondary school students were the public library’s largest user group, yet 80% of teachers created assignments without specific knowledge of public library collections. ASAP led to a project coordinating collection development among the schools based on collection patterns in the public library branches, with collection specialties distributed throughout libraries. Since students relied heavily upon periodicals, a system of interlibrary fax copies of articles began, with the most activity occurring among the school libraries themselves. One benefit to students was that they could choose a wider variety of subjects to research and could focus more on that subject rather than spending so much time simply finding the physical materials. A benefit to teachers was the ability to diversify their instructional experiences.

Kulleseid (1990) explored the concept of cooperative collection development in school library media centers as a result of their participation in multitype library networks. In her literature search, she found little evidence of systematic cooperative collection development in school library media centers, though she reported an increase in participation of those centers in networks.

Cooperation in Providing Information Services and Instruction

The few articles available on children’s reference and information use point out the need for public librarians to communicate with the schools (school librarians and teachers) on curriculum topics, specific assignments, and recommended curriculum-related materials, as well as the need for sharing the responsibility, as information intermediaries, of teaching searching skills while providing help to individuals and groups (Fitzgibbons 1983; Harrington 1985; Riechel 1991).

In the early 1980s, Razzano (1983) argued for cooperation between public libraries and school libraries in providing reference services for youth. She suggested that librarians should meet to share information about each other’s resources; they should inform teachers and students about the possibility of referral to each other’s collections; and they should provide better student services while being aware of ways to save taxpayers’ monies. Razzano presented several examples of cooperation from New York State: an information alert assignment sent to the public library by teachers or the school librarian, allowing the public library to be better prepared and have materials ready on reserve for students; sharing curriculum needs in planning for more joint collection development; and cooperating in the teaching of information skills and resources. She also suggested an exchange of class visits to the public library and the public librarian’s visit to classrooms to encourage students’ use of the public library.

In Fairfield County, Ohio, the Partners in Education project focused on the ways school library media specialists and public librarians could work together to communicate school assignments and provide access to needed materials. The most important ingredient identified was the development of open channels of communication, both formal (such as teacher newsletters, in-person contacts, and records of annual assignments), and informal (such as social occasions and face-to-face meetings). Gradually, the credibility of each partner can be established, and the two institutions’ librarians will begin to trust each other. In this project, public librarians visited elementary schools to present literature-based programs, and school classes visited the public library; this consistent contact helped maintain good communication, which led to better cooperation (Riegel 1989).

More public libraries are instituting homework help centers during designated time periods. Special funding is being used to provide homework and tutoring services targeted toward youth at risk. There is some research on the use of information access tools by youth, such as that of Solomon on OPAC catalogs (1993), but more research is needed to help guide both school and public libraries in their instructional programs. Due to the essential need for information literacy in today’s learning society, the need for cooperation in this area is essential (Caywood 1991).

Cooperation to Encourage Reading and Literacy

Gorman (1995), an academic library director in California, points out the importance of all libraries to literacy, and the situation in California that has resulted from the drastic cutbacks in both school and public library service. In his opinion,

Even the best students often lack the most elementary library skills, and in many cases have below the minimum level of literacy demanded by colleges . . . The truth is that, ideally, literacy is a life-long process that begins with learning to read and continues with becoming steadily more literate as the years go by. Literacy, seen as the spectrum of ability that it is, is clearly the concern of all libraries . . . from research institutions to elementary schools. (28)

Gorman recommends that all libraries cooperate in providing library service, a central element of the fight against ignorance, “no matter the customer’s age.”

In one Illinois community, weekly storytimes were provided in Chapter 1 classrooms with bilingual students who lacked reading readiness skills. An LSCA grant allowed them to hire a full-time staff member in the public library’s youth services department; the librarian also provided parent/child programs at the public library and worked in the school with school staff. The importance of identifying and providing interventions for children as young as preschool ages who lack these skills is now understood. “Both school and library staff members observed increased attention spans, higher levels of cooperation, and more positive attitudes towards books and reading” (Ringenberg and Currie 1988, 34).

Fischer (1990) describes a project in a Texas community with a Hispanic population that targets family and intergenerational literacy. The literacy program of the public library partnered with the school district and a community group (including a local college, Hispanic-owned businesses, and a Hispanic educational access committee). The program based its approach on the Families Reading Together model developed at Boston University.

Summer reading programs have been a traditional service of public libraries, designed to encourage literacy and reading for a wide variety of age groups. The study by Heyns (1978) provides evidence of the importance of summer reading; this has been further documented by Howes (1986), Carter (1988), Proseus (1989), and Krashen (1993; 1995). Yet a recent study by Fitzgibbons (1997) of reading attitudes of children in grades 4–8 found that reading in the summer was rated by the students as the least positive activity among a group of recreational activities. This is quite alarming when we know that “reading as a leisure activity is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary, and reading speed” (Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding 1988; Krashen 1993).

Krashen’s summary of studies on reading includes the finding that fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders who reported more reading outside of school performed better on a test of reading comprehension. There was, however, no impact of traditional instruction on reading (Foertsch 1992; Krashen 1993). It is apparent that schools and public librarians need to cooperate to stimulate a greater interest in reading in the summer if it is true, as Krashen reports, that “not one poor writer reported ’a lot’ of pleasure reading during high school.” He also noted that “the relationship between reported free voluntary reading and literacy development is not always large, but it is remarkably consistent.” Another development in some public libraries is the year-round reading program (Olson 1994). A very popular cooperative program between school and public libraries is the author visit, which appears to be a successful reading motivator.

Beginning in 1992, Cargill—an international marketer, processor, and distributor of agricultural, food, financial, and industrial products—has partnered with ALA in a program called “Read All About It . . .Together, Partners for Family Literacy.” This program, coordinated through ALA’s Office of Library Outreach Services, is community-based and includes such activities as summer reading programs and tutoring programs for families (Monsour 1995). The latest national reading initiative, the America Reads Challenge, will need involvement of both school and public libraries to be successful; this is a new challenge as well as an opportunity for cooperative efforts.

Other Cooperative Projects

An example of cooperative programming initiated at the national level with federal funding is the Library-Museum Head Start Partnership Project, a cooperative project of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress and the Head Start Bureau, which has tried to create models for partnership at the local level by public libraries and Head Start programs.

In the early 1980s, the Connecticut State Library and the Connecticut State Department of Education “joined forces to promote better communication and cooperation among school library media specialists and public librarians at the local and regional levels and at the same time strengthen and define the unique role that each plays in a community” (Billman and Owens 1985).

Oregon’s state-aid program targeting public library service to children ages 0–14 is another example of a statewide program (Oregon 1993). On a local level, Multnomah County Public Library had a partnership with the Portland Night High School in 1993 to work with teen parents attending this special high school; the public library brought information about library resources into the classroom and conducted parenting workshops on the importance of reading and storytimes (Sager 1992).

New York City’s CLASP Project

The partnership of the New York Public Library (NYPL) and some New York public schools, known as the Connecting Libraries and Schools Project (CLASP), is an exciting cooperative effort (Del Vecchio 1993; Oestreich 1994). The project was initiated in 1990 with a grant of $3.6 million from the DeWitt Wallace–Reader’s Digest Fund. Initially, it was to be one year of planning followed by a three-year demonstration project in targeted school districts at both the elementary and junior high levels. Steve Del Vecchio, the first director, received strong support for the project by the chancellor of the public schools and the staff of the board of education. A pilot project was instituted in three neighborhoods and school districts in the three boroughs served by NYPL, including Washington Heights/Inwood, which has a large population of Spanish-speaking children. Advisory committees operated in each pilot site; therefore, the different needs of the individual communities dictated the diversity of projects.

CLASP’s purposes have been to foster lifelong learning and encourage a love of reading in each community setting. These purposes have been actualized by increasing awareness of public and school libraries, encouraging communities to get to know the librarians, and working with library staffs to strengthen services and resources. The project also has strongly supported the need for strong school library programs that can work collaboratively with public libraries.

The projects involved the formation of small teams of experienced public library children’s and young adults’ librarians to work with school staff to foster collaboration and outreach. The projects initiated strategies such as parent programs to promote reading in the home, visits to schools to encourage summer reading club participation and to distribute summer reading lists, organization of outreach programs, and resources for branch staff in their work with schools. Several specific, successful projects were identified:

  • production of summer reading lists (with both school district and public library branch people working together to develop and organize the lists);
  • Open School Night—an outreach effort to reach parents, including parent-teacher conferences and having library staff present to meet parents, introduce them to services of the public library, and register them for library cards;
  • Parents and Libraries (PALS) program, created by the school librarian, in one of the pilot project districts to reach every parent of kindergarten students in order to promote family reading and make parent awards;
  • visits by public librarians to schools to promote use of branch libraries;
  • joint meetings of school and public librarians;
  • workshops and programs including teachers, parents, and school and public librarians;
  • outreach to after-school and summer camps; and
  • expanded youth programming in branches.

A major part of the project was collection development support: a substantial portion (50%) of the project budget went to purchase materials, particularly to accommodate increased usage and to strengthen specific parts of the collections to support CLASP efforts, including the cooperative reading lists and the PALS program.

A 1995 article by a CLASP-involved school librarian described a “Stump the Librarian” contest in one of the CLASP schools. The contest generated high use of both types of libraries, encouraged children to get library cards, and brought a great deal of excitement and participation over the three-day time period of the contest (Schaffner 1995).

According to the reports of the CLASP project, two conclusions were evident. The project was a powerful source of ideas on and implementation of ways schools and public libraries can work together. The role that the school library and the school librarian play, not only as the heart of any strong and successful school but also as the key ingredient in successful school and public library collaboration, is essential.

Although some new things have been tried, according to Del Vecchio (1993), “many of the best ideas are either borrowed or old.” In his view:

School and public libraries, in their programs, roles, and collections, complement and support each other, but one can never replace the other. In almost every instance, CLASP found that it is those schools with the strongest school library programs that have been best able to work effectively with our public libraries. CLASP endeavors to bring people together. In the end, this is always the key to successful school and public library cooperation. When the staff in the public library know and regard as colleagues (and even better as friends) the staff in the schools whose children they serve, the potential for effective collaboration is tremendously expanded. (38)

More than 100 elementary, intermediate, and junior high schools serving over 75,000 students have been involved in CLASP, along with 23 branches of the NYPL—one participating district in each of three boroughs (Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island). The project’s goal, developing a variety of models for cooperative services and institutional collaboration that could be replicated with public funding in other school districts and library regions and eventually throughout New York City, appears to be well underway.

In 1994 Katherine Todd became the new director of CLASP, and funding had been secured from the New York City Council to continue and expand CLASP to all five boroughs when the original grant monies ran out. Rather than the project putting more emphasis on public library services, both Del Vecchio and Todd emphasized the importance of a good school librarian for the cooperative efforts to work. The project advanced the cause of school libraries by their association with the public library, as the education professionals began to recognize the value of school librarians. “Increasing the value placed on public librarians also increased the value placed on school librarians” (Oestreich 1994).

DeWitt Wallace Initiatives

The Library Power projects, funded by DeWitt Wallace–Readers’ Digest Fund and administered by ALA’s AASL, targeted the improvement of school libraries and the encouragement of school reform.( 2) Library Power projects are currently in the process of an intensive evaluation effort. The evaluation reports should be useful in assessing what projects, activities, and processes encouraged change, innovation, and improved learning. In most project reports, there has been little mention of cooperation with public libraries. Yet the project’s brochure included the following Library Power program goal:

To encourage the creation of partnerships among leaders in school districts, public libraries, community agencies, business communities, academic institutions, and parent groups to improve and support school library programs.

In 1998 the DeWitt Wallace–Readers’ Digest Fund and the Lila Wallace–Readers’ Digest Fund awarded a grant to ALA to conduct surveys on the status of programming services in public libraries nationwide. One of the surveys will identify the types and extent of educational and enrichment programs for school-age youth. Results of the study will be used by the funds to inform future grant-making initiatives designed to help expand, enhance, and improve educational and cultural programs that public libraries offer their communities. The two youth divisions, ALSC and YALSA, are working with ALA’s Office for Research and Statistics on survey development and findings. Interest by the DeWitt Wallace–Readers’ Digest Fund is motivated by their concern in improvements in the quality of educational and career-development opportunities for school-age youth, especially for young people in low-income communities (DeWitt Wallace–Readers’ Digest Fund 1998). Survey results may provide some indication of the extent of cooperative programming in local communities.

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Joint School-Public Library Facilities

There have been numerous surveys and case studies of the joint or combined school-public library facility since Ruth White’s survey published in 1963. Though many of the early studies presented a rather negative view of the success of such efforts, new joint libraries continue to be initiated throughout the 1990s as documented in news articles by Olson (1996) and Goldberg (1996). Several more recent studies present a mixed view of their success and highlight their benefits and problems; this information can be used in better planning and decision making on the feasibility of such a model of cooperation in a particular community setting. Due to the complexity of this issue, the following section will briefly review the findings from key studies, present estimated numbers of combined libraries currently, list the pros and cons of such facilities, and highlight the factors of success of combined libraries.

Important Studies

In her often-cited national survey, White (1963) studied 154 combined facilities: 70 public libraries with branches in schools and 1984 main public libraries located in schools. Librarians surveyed were nearly unanimous against locating the public library (main or branches) in a school for the following reasons:

  • inconvenience for public patrons based on location in the community and within the school;
  • noise and confusion of the school;
  • difficulty to communicate (promote) the library as a public library;
  • inadequate collections, facilities, and staff to serve diverse user groups;
  • inadequate training of librarians for dual role;
  • difficulty with dual administrative structure;
  • lack of independent telephone service in school library;
  • inability to serve students in other schools but within public library service area; and
  • resentment of students in the building toward other users, both the general public and students from other schools.

The positive aspects that White discovered included:

  • a broader collection;
  • longer library hours;
  • better trained staff at a lower salary;
  • better use of the building, including lower facility costs (rent, utilities, maintenance); and
  • closer relationship between parents and librarians.

Grunau (1965) looked at the problem of providing best library services in rural Kansas and found that the most successful patterns of cooperation reflect the unique needs and resources of each community. He concluded that where possible, separate but cooperating library units are desirable.

The issue of combination libraries was again addressed at the 1972 Conference on Total Community Library Service, sponsored by a joint committee of ALA and the NEA, to investigate library services. Though no single model of library services was recommended, Aaron (1980) suggests that this conference might have given some impetus to the initiation or continuation of combined libraries. Major recommendations of the conference included the importance of coordinating services and resources at the local level, that changes should be initiated by the professionals rather than governmental authority, and that a process of solicitation of community input as market research should precede such changes.

In a follow-up survey of the same libraries identified by White, Unger (1975) found that 25 of the 154 libraries were no longer combined facilities. She first identified additional combined facilities, and then surveyed a sample of 61 combined libraries including 22 main public libraries and 39 branch public libraries housed in school buildings. Unger realized that a new study was needed based on the ten years of greater financial support for both public libraries (through LSCA funding) and for school libraries (through ESEA funding), which might have enabled communities to initiate or enhance improved separate facilities. Joint-use libraries that had been discontinued varied from public library branches in cities such as the District of Columbia, Evansville (Indiana), Trenton (New Jersey), and Cincinnati (Ohio) to those in more suburban areas such as Greenwich (Connecticut), Hammond (Indiana), and Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio). For staffing combined libraries, Unger found that in most cases it was a public librarian who was chosen to work in the school-based library. Since that person is not a part of the school staff, he or she was not always regarded as an “equal” by the teachers. She reported on five school-housed public libraries that had been formed in 1975: Olney (Texas), Sheridan (Colorado), Standing Rock Tribal Libraries (in both North and South Dakota), the Pathfinder Library System’s branch in Ridgway (Colorado), and the Velva Library (in North Dakota).

Woolard’s initial survey of state education agencies in 1976 identified 128 combined school/public libraries. She surveyed a sample of 55 of these libraries. In 1979, she resurveyed the same libraries, finding that 52 continued to operate. In her findings, Woolard (1980) found that the respondents were more favorable to combined libraries than they had been in the 1963 White study. Twenty-four items were listed as benefits or advantages compared to the sixteen items listed as problems and weaknesses.

One of the threads that seems to run through much of the research on the combined library pattern is that the size of the community is the first consideration. Woolard recommended that the optimum environment would be in communities with 5,000 residents or fewer. In those communities there are usually not enough library resources and few trained library staff members. She noted that communication is easier in small communities, which often have a large, stable percentage of residents involved in community life. Woolard (1980, 180) concluded:

It would appear that the most important factors in the development and operation of combined libraries are those related to local initiative and to the responses made to the needs and interests of the citizens of the communities in which these libraries are located.

A major study of combined libraries was completed in the late 1970s by Aaron (1980), who first surveyed libraries and later made site visits to selected combined libraries in the United States and Canada. She also studied attempts at combining libraries in Florida, and then developed a model for helping local communities make decisions concerning the appropriateness of the combined library. Aaron concluded that the following conditions should be met with combined libraries:

  • staffing should be improved;
  • more resources should be provided for the community;
  • the combined program should be an integrated one, rather than two programs in one facility;
  • a legally defined governance plan should be developed; and
  • systematic and objective evaluation efforts should be implemented to assess whether there are improved library services to the community.

Aaron provided a checklist of items for consideration of whether a combined program might provide the best school and public library services for a community.

Weech (1979) surveyed the attitudes of school and public librarians in Iowa concerning combined facilities and found little difference in attitudes between the two groups. A case study of a successful merger of school and public libraries in a small town in Texas (the Olney Community Library) was evaluated and summarized by Kitchens. That combined library continues, and it appears to be a successful example of a long-lasting, joint-use library project (Kitchens 1974; Wells 1994).

Amey has produced several major reports of combined libraries in Canada and Australia; in 1987 he summarized his findings of the phenomenon of the combined library in communities:

The history of school-housed public libraries . . . stretches back more than 100 years, and new experiments with amalgamation seem to be initiated continuously. Many of these attempts flounder and all are costly in terms of time, energy and capital outlay. (259)

He recommends that to “minimize the possibility of failure and to enhance the prospect of success. . . [planners should] build upon the experience of others.” In his view, the combined library in many parts of Australia and Canada has been successful and will continue despite the fact that much of library literature points out its lack of success. He also reiterates a claim found in previous studies in the United States that this form of library service “is appropriate and effective for large, thinly populated areas.” Amey indicates that staffing and training for this unique type of service seem to be cornerstones of success, as is community involvement. Other success factors that Amey identified include a history of underdeveloped public library service and a centralized system of library administration. Amey’s findings are transferable to the United States both historically and currently, and many local U.S. communities have used his findings and recommendations as a resource.

In 1982 Jaffe examined the status of combined libraries in Pennsylvania since 1965. He found twelve combined libraries had been discontinued due to funding, staffing changes, and general dissatisfaction or lack of use, and confirmed the existence of eleven combined libraries, which he then visited. Most of the libraries were in sparsely populated areas, had small staffs, and offered little library service for the general public during school hours. Though most of the librarians noted the special contributions the libraries made to their communities, problems were noted, such as overcrowding, inadequate staffing, and the questionable future of the library. Jaffe made several recommendations for successful efforts at combining libraries. Those recommendations, along with those from several other studies, are included in table 1 later in this paper.

A recent qualitative study by Bauer (1995) reviews the phenomenon of combined libraries through a case study of one combined middle school/public library in densely populated Pinellas County, Florida. Though the case study was presented as a descriptive and interpretative example of an urban combined library, rather than as an evaluation of effectiveness, she contends that her findings are transferable to other settings and could provide the basis of a model for development of a cooperative library program.

Combined Libraries in the United States

A list of combined libraries, organized by state, can be found in the  appendix. These libraries were identified by the studies or news items cited in the appendix and no attempt was made to verify their continued existence or success. A major source for this list is an unpublished report based on data from the Federal-State Cooperative System’s (FSCS) Public Libraries in the United States (1993). This source provided evidence of at least sixty-seven libraries in seventeen states, with the largest numbers found in small communities in Vermont (twelve), Alaska (ten), Kansas (eight), and Colorado and New Hampshire (five each). These numbers do not include the cases where branches of the public library are housed in schools. Mary Jo Lynch, Director of the ALA Office for Research and Statistics, claimed that the statistics were probably “incomplete at best” (telephone conversation 1997).

As a part of a feasibility study, one Illinois multitype library system identified twenty-five “successful” combined school/public libraries in the United States, mostly in the West: California (four), Colorado (one), Montana (seven), Nevada (eight), Texas (three), and Washington state (one), plus one in Florida. In that study, six combined libraries within three different multitype library systems were identified in Illinois, although one was in the process of disassociation (Lincoln Trail Libraries System 1990).

After that feasibility study the Cissna Park, Illinois, community library was established as the first combined library in Illinois in recent history; the library was established by referendum and supported by a statewide library network, and the project received a LSCA-funded planning and evaluation grant from 1989 to 1991. In this community previously without library service, a public library district was established by referendum and placed in a school building housing grades K–12 (with only 330 students) after the Lincoln Trail Libraries System provided leadership by securing funding and conducting the feasibility study.

In 1992 the Western Council of State Libraries held a workshop on school/public library cooperation. In their workshop report, one combined library was noted in Elkton, South Dakota, and several in Alaska. In Alaska, there had been no system of public libraries before 1985; there were fifteen combined libraries identified in 1992, eleven in native communities and four in Anglo communities, with eight identified as “strong” libraries (Western Council 1992).

Three school libraries that offer public library services were identified in Nebraska, a state where less than half of the cities and villages have a public library. Only forty-one of Nebraska’s ninety-three counties provide any funding for library service, as reported at the workshop by Jim Minges, Director of Library Development at the Nebraska Library Commission. Also, in Nebraska, there is no state-level guidance or support for school libraries. One example of a combined library is at the Sandhills Public Schools, a very isolated, rural cattle-ranching area where the high school library also serves as the public library. The school library was built to serve as a combined facility, with money from the estate of a local rancher combined with school bond monies for a new school building. Public patrons come during and after school and for two hours on Thursday evenings. A village board provides some additional funds for the media specialist’s extra time. Another combined facility is located in Henderson, a rural community without a public library, where a preschool program is provided at the elementary school each week by the school librarian (Western Council 1992).

Several news reports have provided information on newer combined libraries. For example, in California, a free-standing library on the campus of a new high school provides service to high school students by the school librarian and staff during the school day; then, after 3:30 P.M. on weekdays and on Saturdays, the public library staff serves the general public (Eastlake Library in Chula Vista, which is in the Sweetwater Union School District 1993–present). In 1996 the Governor of California proposed funding “a pilot program of combined school and public library programs” (Jeffus 1996, 36). This project appears to be on hold at this time. School libraries appear to be in desperate shape in many parts of California, and there have also been major funding problems for all publicly taxed services including libraries.( 3)

The first joint-use library in Scottsdale, Arizona, opened in 1995 in a new high school building, with the public library in charge; a second library was due to be opened late in 1996 in a municipal complex also designed to house both elementary and middle schools and a community policing office. In early 1996 Olson reported her interviews with five librarians who created combined libraries in Scottsdale, Chula Vista, and Sheridan County, Colorado (in cooperation with high schools), and two elementary school-public library combinations in Beaufort County, South Carolina. According to the library director responsible for the two elementary-sited public branches (one in a rural area, the other on an island), “A high school would be more conducive to a combined library” (Olson 1996, 580).

Goldberg (1996) highlighted combined libraries that have been started since 1985: Washoe County, Nevada (1985–present), New Orleans (1995–present), Scottsdale, Arizona (1995–present), and Palm Beach, Florida (1995–present). What’s different about some of these new “mergers” is their appearance in some large cities and even affluent suburban communities. According to Goldberg, “joint-use sites are making a comeback” despite the fact that they are “a hybrid to some, a hydra to others” (12).

Pros and Cons of Combined Libraries

Several examples of successful and long-lasting combined libraries have been identified by previous researchers and evaluators. These examples illustrate the need for certain factors to be present for success, including careful planning, community involvement, and usually some special funding for a feasibility and planning phase of the project.

Most early studies of combined libraries found that the librarians involved with these libraries expressed negative feelings about them (White 63; Aaron 1980; Woolard 1980). Amey’s studies of Canada and Australia (1979; 1987) found both negative and positive aspects, while several studies presented a positive picture, such as that of the Olney (Texas) Community Library (Kitchens 1974; Wells 1994) and the more recently established Cissna Park Library in Illinois (A Joint Venture 1993; Lincoln Trails Library System 1990).

Jaffe (1982) described the reasons why combined libraries in Pennsylvania had been discontinued, but he found that due to the many sparsely populated areas, the “combined school/public library controversy will not soon diminish. Shrinking funds and community desires to maximize use of facilities will maintain pressure. The underlying observation is that some communities would have no or minimal public library service without this organizational format.”

In supporting combined libraries, Kinsey and Honig-Bear (1994) are enthusiastic in their description of joint-use libraries for Washoe County Library in Reno, Nevada, where several combined libraries have opened in these sparsely populated areas within the past three years: one in an elementary school, two in high schools, and one in an inner-city middle school. In these libraries, circulation has doubled every year due to this arrangement. Wells (1994) discusses eleven combined libraries in Texas, all in small rural towns (populations between 900 and 12,000), and concludes that, “It can be worth the effort or it can end in an acrimonious divorce.”

Dwyer (1987; 1989) saw the combined school-public library as “a possible and legitimate solution to the provision of library service in special circumstances . . . just as I see a mobile library service as a viable solution in certain circumstances.” Cassell (1985) viewed the combined library’s advantage as a possible cost savings in elimination of some duplication of materials, staff, maintenance, utilities, and effort. Other benefits she listed include:

  • development of a community focal point for adults and children to learn and enrich themselves together;
  • easy physical access and good parking, expanded open hours;
  • availability of trained staff;
  • expanded space;
  • audiovisual equipment and materials; and
  • possible increased use and awareness of library services and resources in a community as schools are more visible to the community.

Woolard (1980) posited the following positive aspects of the combined library:

  • better selection of materials;
  • better use of financial resources;
  • availability to the public of media and equipment; and
  • wider range of media services (i.e., production videotape).

Despite many weaknesses in some combined libraries, Amey remains quite positive about their success: “I have seen some bad examples, and have seen some exemplary libraries. . . . Some of the most vibrant, most community-oriented, most enthusiastically supported libraries that I have encountered have been school-housed public libraries” ( Personal letter to Lincoln Trail Libraries System 1990).

Some other arguments for joint-use libraries have included the ability for expanded collections and services, including print and nonprint collections for all ages, programs for both adults and children, extended hours of service, and more highly qualified personnel. Some useful information has been elicited from library projects that have had some form of outside evaluation. The consultant’s report for the Cissna Park (Illinois) joint-use library concluded: “The combined library was successful because the community wanted it to succeed” (A Joint Venture 1993, 239).

A main impetus for beginning joint-use libraries has been a projected budget savings, especially during economic downturns. Both in the past and currently, governing boards and administrators have pushed combined libraries, believing that savings will result. For example, Robert Consalvo, Executive Secretary of the Boston School Committee, a trustee of the Boston Public Library, and an aide to the city’s mayor, stated his argument in support of joint libraries: “I think it [having the public library take over school libraries] will probably save money and provide better services” (Viadero 1992, 20).

Both Boston and Baltimore caught media attention when they explored similar thinking on joint libraries in efforts to economize and improve library services for youth and the community. In Boston the board of the city library requested that the public library director explore new relationships between public and school libraries. At that time, 1992, Boston had a major recruitment problem with children’s librarians and few young adults’ librarians. In Baltimore, the mayor endorsed the concept of library consolidation; as a start, he transferred eleven school librarians to the Baltimore city library (Enoch Pratt Free Library) while the school libraries were then only supported by library assistants. Several subsequent news reports indicated dissatisfaction with the arrangement and probable reassignment of school personnel back to the schools (Viadero 1992; Sadowski 1993).

Many evaluators have found that savings in a particular area (facility, staff, or collections) are negated by greater costs on the part of at least one of the “partners” (school or public library). Aaron, after an intensive look at such libraries (1980), stated that there was no evidence of economy.

In a summary of a literature review on combined libraries, Mercier (1991) states: “The roles of the public libraries and school media centers are complementary. Neither institution can attempt to perform the role of the other without inhibiting the effective performance of its own unique services” (4). According to Mercier, the school library media centers and public libraries have had different reasons for their existence: “A joint facility cannot give equal support to the goals of two different institutions” (4).

Woolard’s surveys (1980) identified the following issues of governance and management as the most frequent problems:

  • failure of governing boards to define responsibilities;
  • failure to include all parties in the planning;
  • failure of school authorities to recognize authority of public library staff;
  • misunderstanding by citizens and the public library board of the professional librarian’s role;
  • failure of governing boards to appoint a chief administrator;
  • interference by the school in public functions; and
  • dual administration (problems with both classified and certified personnel having different salary and work schedules).

Also, the lack of access for adults during the school day has often been noted (e.g., Cassell, Woolard, etc.). Other negative aspects listed by several researchers include:

  • inadequate physical facilities;
  • inadequate budget (staffing, materials, equipment);
  • lack of adequate parking for public;
  • geographic location; and
  • censorship of materials (difficulty of maintaining intellectual freedom and confidentiality).

Even Amey (1989), who presented many positive aspects, commented that combined libraries often find themselves “locked into poorly planned, hastily implemented, awkwardly designed joint use facilities” (259).

Factors of Success in Combined Libraries

Despite the negative evidence presented against combined libraries, there are successful examples, and reading about these successes allows some prediction concerning when it might be appropriate to initiate such a plan.  Table 1 presents a summary of success factors drawn from a variety of studies from 1960 to the 1990s. The factors can be categorized as follows:

  • the need for careful planning, community involvement, and cooperation;
  • a community vision and attitude of commitment to shared services;
  • the careful delineation and formalization of legal, governance, and management issues;
  • special attention to the uniqueness of the facility, staffing, and collections; and
  • recognition of benefits—improved access, services, and communication.

Each successful combined library began with a great deal of planning within the community, often through special funding. The total community needs to be involved in making the decision, carefully weighing the pros and cons, and determining a joint vision of library needs that can be met through shared services.

Once the decision is made to have a combined library, it is necessary to formally establish by a legal agreement the governance, funding, and management issues. The issue of a governing board and what members represent, and its relationship to existing structures (school board, public library board) must be resolved. It must be understood that neither the school library nor the public library model will suffice, but rather that a new model of service will need to be created with a unique facility, specially trained staff, and a carefully developed collection to meet all ages and types of user.

Total library services will need to be evaluated carefully to ensure equal access to a diversity of users, use of a full range of services (information, reading, programming) by a variety of age groups and types of users, and meaningful communication (and marketing) to the community. Periodic evaluation will ensure that the benefits are recognized and valued, or that changes will be made that will provide the desired benefits.

Other Issues

Several states have issued state guidelines, from either a legal or neutral framework, for communities considering joint-use libraries. Before 1980, in Wisconsin the Bureau of Public and Cooperative Library Services and the Bureau of School Library Media Programs developed a position paper to serve as a guideline for communities considering combining school and public libraries. Though their overall recommendation was not to combine facilities, they recognized that combined libraries may offer temporary solutions under certain conditions. They recommended the following areas for special consideration when developing a combined facility: the physical facility, staff, decision-making authority, financing, collection, and administration. Rather than combined facilities, they recommended cooperative activities, such as centralized cataloging and processing, reference and referral services, interlibrary loans, shared publicity and newsletters, coordinated acquisitions, and continuing education (Woolard 1980). In 1994, Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction issued “Combined School and Public Libraries: Guidelines for Decision Making.”

According to Buckingham and Porter (1981, 1), in Iowa, “joint school and public libraries (combined programs and facilities) are not recommended.” The Iowa State Library Commission and the Department of Public Instruction cooperate whenever possible to encourage the development of excellent library service for all.

In 1991 the Minnesota Library Association and the Minnesota Educational Media Organization issued the following policy statement:

Consolidation of the governance, funding, and administration of school library media centers and public libraries is strongly opposed . . . all citizens are best served when both school library media centers and public libraries are well established and supported, but separate programs.

Also in 1991, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a bill to approve joint school and public libraries but established certain conditions such as an outside entrance for the school-housed library, adequate public facilities, a central location, and availability for use by residents during all hours.

All of these efforts to regulate combined libraries at the state level, by governmental agencies or professional library organizations, point to the conclusion that local communities must work within their environments. For example, Cassell (1985) found that the extra effort of combined libraries to promote public library services and programs created a welcoming atmosphere. She also commented on “the continuing commitment needed by staff, school administration, and trustees to total community service and the necessity for these groups to develop a unified vision and a harmonious pattern of working together; and the difficulty in resolution of service philosophies (discipline, fines, borrowing rules and regulations, hours)” (6).

Dwyer (1987) found that the most important factors were commitment and cooperation. According to Bauer (1995), proactive planning is needed, including a mutually agreed upon vision and a strategic plan that allows change before crises arise. Community “fit” was seen as important: all communities are not appropriate to the implementation of a combined facility. This also implies much community involvement in a feasibility study that includes citizen input. As Jaffe and others have indicated, before consideration of such a combination, unmet needs on the part of at least one of the libraries, and sometimes both libraries, should be identified. Staff always needs to be involved in the planning, and should be committed to the idea and plan.

Table 1 is provided as a means to categorize the factors necessary for the success of combined libraries with examples of each accompanied by the sources of the information.

Alternatives to Joint-Use Libraries

Rather than joint-use libraries, several youth library leaders have made other recommendations to achieve better library services. For example, Julie Cummins of the New York Public Library recommends, “The best and most cost-efficient strategy of public libraries and public school libraries involves cooperative efforts to strengthen and develop the resources and expertise of both,” including cooperative reviewing of books and non-print materials, and joint education campaigns such as workshops for teachers and parents (Gerhardt 1992, 4).

Woolard was careful to point out that, “While the focus of this study has been on the combined school and public library concept, it is recognized that a cooperative program will more often meet the needs of a community than will a combined program” (Woolard 1980, 74). Haycock (1990) also feels that the “means of extending library service from the school or public library should be regional networks and cooperative programs rather than combinations of public and school libraries.”

This table is based on recommendations of the following: Kitchens 1974; Aaron 1980; Woolard 1980; Jaffe 1982; Cassell 1985; Dwyer 1987; Haycock 1990; Lincoln Trail Libraries System (LTLS) 1990; and Bauer 1995.

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Suggestions for Successful Cooperation

Although the author tried to establish the success factors for the joint or combined school-public library from the findings and opinions of researchers and experimenters in the previous section, it is more difficult to determine the success factors for cooperation in general. However it is quite clear that a certain process should be a part of any ongoing and substantial cooperative effort. Consequently the following section is presented to summarize the recommendations of the previous literature and research, and more importantly, propose the needed process for successful cooperative efforts.

Conditions for Success and Models of Cooperation

Previous studies have identified some of the conditions that promote successful, cooperative activities. Among these conditions are:

  • a shared vision and common goals;
  • process of formal planning and adoption of policies and procedures;
  • ongoing evaluation processes as part of planning process;
  • commitment on the part of administrators, decisionmakers, staff, and the general public;
  • channels of communication to facilitate ongoing interaction;
  • adequate funding, including special funds for innovation; and
  • adequate staffing, including staff who serve as coordinating and liaison personnel with responsibilities for cooperative activities.

Other factors that can encourage cooperative activities include time, incentives, and technology, while lack of any of these conditions can deter cooperative efforts.

Quite a body of research has been devoted to cooperative relationships, especially the combined facility and networks/resource sharing during the 1980s and 1990s. From much of this research, along with several case studies and feasibility studies, models of success can be posited. However, these need to be tested further, through model demonstration projects and systematic evaluations to assess the ultimate outcome—the improvement of services to youth and other users.

Cooperative activities can be categorized on a continuum ranging from little or no cooperation, through informal arrangements, to the most formal, systematically planned activities and arrangements. Models of cooperation have been developed by Billman and Owens (1985), Krubsack (1985), Fitzgibbbons (1989), Kester (1990), and Shannon (1991). Shannon developed a four-level continuum of cooperation, ranging from no cooperation through informal stages of communication and cooperation (class visits, homework alerts, sponsorship of joint activities, and some resource sharing), to formal cooperation, which included written, formal policies, networking, and formal sharing of resources, staffing, and programs.

A list of factors for successful cooperation are almost identical to those success factors for combined libraries. These factors should be considered in building stronger relationships between schools, school library media centers, and public libraries at the local community level, the state level, and the national level.

Communication and commitment are probably the most important factors as first steps to cooperation. However, several steps need to follow for any success to be sustained; these include regular meetings for planning and interaction, the involvement of all important “players” and the acceptance of a “community vision” for meeting the needs of youth (while still acknowledging some unique roles of the library and librarian within each institutional setting).

The three youth services divisions of ALA have begun to build bridges between each other and to connect them to several national initiatives. These efforts need to be strengthened, as do similar efforts at the state level with similar professional organizations. Connections and partnerships need to be established in governmental agencies as well: at the national level, between the ED and the newly established Institute of Museum and Library Services; at the statewide level, between state departments of education and state library agencies; and at the regional and local community levels, through multitype library networks and community agencies that serve youth.

Education for teachers, youth librarians, and school library media specialists could be a powerful force in instilling some of these values and shared purposes in future librarians and educators; these concepts need to be incorporated in both professional education and continuing education. Schools of education and library and information studies, professional organizations, and multitype library networks should serve as the providers of this education.

Barriers to Cooperation

Barriers to cooperative efforts have been identified by previous research. Some of these barriers include lack of policy and legislation that address the process, attitudes of both individuals (librarians, administrators, members of governing boards) and institutions (structural rigidity), and the belief that each institution’s differing roles must be preserved. A barrier that is more difficult to break is the lack of respect for and valuing of what is often seen as a competing institution—either the school library or the public library. It would appear that this would be a more serious conflict in a country like Canada, where most teacher-librarians (school librarians) are educated in departments of education rather than departments or schools of library and information studies. Nonetheless, the perpetuation of undergraduate certification for school librarians in the United States (and in many other countries) may present a barrier, due to the lack of a shared educational experience, between public library youth services staff (with master’s degrees in library and information science) and those entering the field who will work in school libraries. It is hard to assess the outcomes in the future of what appears to be diminished attention in graduate schools of library and information science to education for both public librarianship and school librarianship.

Another barrier was suggested by the ED literature review: the absence of an entity responsible for coordinating the activities of the two types of libraries at both the state level and at the local level. This would include having a youth services consultant/coordinator in state library agencies and having a school library media officer in state education departments, as well as having both youth services coordinators in public libraries and school library media coordinators in school systems. This would create youth library advocates at all these levels, as well as valuable human resources to plan and implement cooperative efforts. Issues of personality and style differences have been raised by Kelley (1992) as additional barriers; earlier Dyer (1978) had identified these differences as well as the barrier of institutional rigidity.

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The Mathews paper, “Kids can’t wait . . . ,” (1996) lists what libraries need to do at the state and local levels to help kids prepare for their future. A major theme of these recommendations is the need for commitment not only on the part of youth librarians, but also the same commitment by library administrators, community leaders, policy makers at all levels, and funding agencies, including community partners. The second theme is the need for statewide and community planning, including vision statements, action plans with a focus on legislation, lobbying, and collaborative activities. Specifically, in regard to school-public library relationships, Mathews (1996, 4) recommends the following:

A statewide action plan for serving the school and out-of-school learning needs for all children and young people. This plan could include:

  • Guidelines and advocacy for funding to plan true collaboration by school and public libraries that takes into consideration current and future learning designs such as year-round schooling, magnet schools, home schooling, and partnerships for service and support to parents and other adult caregivers.
  • Designated state level library and media personnel to serve as consultants for public library children’s and youth services and school library media programs.
  • A communitywide vision statement for those serving children and youth through both school and public libraries . . .
  • An action plan . . . in each community that spells out collaboration and roles of all agencies and institutions. . . .
  • This plan will develop plans and funding for meaningful, on-going collaborations between libraries and other youth-serving agencies . . . Head Start and other early childhood development programs. . . .

Public and school libraries (and librarians as intermediaries) are the key institutions that can provide collections and services to meet the needs of youth, but the provision planning for these services must be a community-based activity that includes politicians, community leaders, educators, parents, librarians, and student representation (and for young children, their caretakers and advocates).

Public libraries have come a long way in using the planning and evaluation processes, including needs assessment, output measurement, and involvement of community constituents; they have begun to prioritize their roles and functions within their individual communities. Most school library media centers do not have such clear missions, goals, and objectives statements, except to support the school’s curriculum and activities—they are not usually part of major evaluation efforts, except those forced upon them by regional accreditation processes and statewide education performance evaluations. The 1988 Information Power guidelines have been used as the benchmark in the past. The new edition of these guidelines has an entire chapter encouraging cooperative efforts with many agencies outside the school.

There are no documented examples of communities where school officials and public library officials have planned cooperatively a needs assessment of the total community before planning activities of each individual agency. In 1989 this author made a series of recommendations for a plan for cooperative activities that are still valid for the year 2000 and beyond. They include:

  • a planning and implementation process for cooperative efforts;
  • communication through both informal and formal planning meetings;
  • advisory community groups with representatives from all relevant constituents;
  • some form of community analysis/assessment;
  • joint planning for role setting and establishment of goals and objectives—both long term and short term;
  • planning and implementation of cooperative projects; and
  • continuous monitoring through built-in evaluation processes (Fitzgibbons 1989, 30).

Library staff, administrators, and members of the governing boards need to agree on some common goals that can be best fulfilled through cooperative efforts. Some common goals and suggested activities as a part of each goal might include the following:

  • creating an awareness of the importance of reading to success and quality of life
    • parent and caretaker programs
    • joint reading motivation programs and services
    • community promotion of reading
  • promoting information and literacy skills of youth
    • compatible and equal technological access
    • instruction in information skills
    • public library homework help centers
    • programs to stimulate learning and curiosity
  • creating lifelong learners and library users
    • public library tours and programs for school classes
    • public library programming in school classrooms and libraries
    • joint help with school-based projects such as science fair projects, academic contests, career fairs
  • creating networks of libraries, resources, and personnel
    • participation in multitype library networks
    • participation in community networks
    • participation in local, regional, and statewide youth advocacy efforts and networks
    • establishing a network of people within the community and region of those interested in working with youth (school and public library personnel, juvenile justice and social welfare organizations, youth advocacy groups, and youth advisory councils)

There is a need for new demonstration projects that highlight a variety of cooperative relationships between schools and public libraries, along with a rigorous, well-planned series of longitudinal studies to evaluate the impact of such projects on communities. Even without such demonstration projects, a series of small-scale studies that can be replicated in a variety of sites (to enhance generalizability) should be funded to explore the factors that encourage cooperation and, more importantly, to focus on the types of cooperative activities and relationships that are more effective and have a greater impact on the learning and life of today’s youth. A result of the current survey of public library programming, being conducted by ALA for the DeWitt Wallace–Readers’ Digest Fund, may be to identify major cooperative efforts with the schools for educational purposes. Subsequent funding to improve access to cultural and educational programming for youth might also set up demonstration projects with intensive evaluation efforts to evaluate the impact of such programs on youth and the communities. The results of such projects and evaluations could set the stage for model cooperative projects of the future.

The development of information technologies has accelerated the information age through digital libraries, informational and recreational computer products, including the many CD-ROM products and, increasingly, the Internet. In the mid-1980s, in both conference presentations and in articles, this author predicted that the most likely area for school/public library cooperation that would have the greatest effect was technological access, including the need for compatibility of equipment and software, shared databases and resources, and providing information literacy skills (then called computer literacy). As most school and public libraries have (or are in the middle of implementing) computer catalogs, many libraries are now in the next stage of technological access: access to the many CD-ROM informational products, the Internet, and the Web. Yet at the same time, the need for both school and public libraries to continue to focus on reading and literacy remains. It is not sufficient for either type of library to focus only on one of these two important library services (information access/technology and reading/literacy).

Only through a shared vision and joint planning process will the current and future needs of our youth be met. Cooperative arrangements are in the best interests of serving youth in the current “Information Age,” helping prepare them for current and future learning and a high quality of life. As always, the key that will unlock these efforts is effective and continuous communication between all the partners: school and public librarians, teachers, administrators, and members of the two boards. In today’s technological world, that means the use of e-mail, fax, and the Internet—simply a series of “mouse clicks”; however, it is equally important to have individual and small group face-to-face interactions. These communications can and should be initiated at any level (national, state, local), but community librarians (school and public) are responsible to see that communications continue and result in improved library services for the youth in their communities.

“Kids do need libraries,” and those libraries (public and school) should be effectively working to provide the needed services and resources for all youth in equitable ways: cooperation, communication, and collaboration will improve the services and, consequently, help in the implementation of educational reforms and improved student learning.

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  1. Editorial board note: New examples of library cooperation can be found at: Indiana's Inspire ( and North Carolina’s Wise Owl ( [ Back]

  2. Editor’s note: The Library Power Project is documented in: Zweizig, D. L. and D. M. Hopkins. 1999. Lessons from Library Power: Enriching teaching and learning. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited. And Library Power Program evaluation. 1999. School Libraries Worldwide 5:2. [ Back]

  3. Editorial board note: As of 2000, California school libraries were receiving new state funding at $28 per student, and certification programs were reporting record enrollments to meet the demands from schools for new school library media specialists. [ Back]

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Referee Record
Manuscript submitted: August 2000
Board approved: September 2000