Don’t Lock the Doors to the Library!

Dr. Jeanne Qvarnstrom is an Assistant Professor at Sul Ross State University, where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Education Department. During her 20 years as a Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Red Clay School District, she supervised all the teachers and the 23 K-12 school librarians, whom she found to be rich resources for the classroom teachers. In 2012, the Delaware Association of School Librarians named her the Delaware State Administrator of the Year.

National School Library Week (April 12-18, 2015) is a great opportunity to recognize school librarians, who are dedicated to building and maintaining the myriad of resources that connect students to the world. Every Friday afternoon, however, school librarians across the country lock the library doors and the librarian leaves for the weekend. Don’t lock those doors! Keep the school’s invaluable collection of books, periodicals, non-print materials, and technology open to the students. A Saturday Library Program can do just that.

Drawing upon state assessment data, librarians can design a Saturday Library Program that will reinforce important academic skills through carefully planned activities, promote active parent participation in their children’s education, and encourage students to develop their literacy skills and expand their experiential foundation. For many families, the public libraries in their communities may not be accessible due to transportation issues, but the neighborhood school library may be within walking distance for parents and their children. The open library gives parents and students the opportunity to access the rich resources of the library and interact with other families and the school librarian. They can spend Saturday morning together!

DSCN0453Here is a description of a highly successful Saturday Library program that readers may adapt to their own situations. Elementary librarians in Title I elementary schools identified science as a weak academic area for their students. They sought help from the local Museum of Natural History to provide a series of hands-on presentations with a scientific theme that reinforced the State Science Standards. Then, the librarians built their Saturday programs around the Museum lessons. Saturday Library runs from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Librarians provide vocabulary study activities related to the Museum program. They also create independent writing and reading activities for the participating students and their parents. The school library computers and iPODs, with selected websites and apps, are available for students, too.

Each of the participating Title I elementary schools sends home flyers in English and Spanish to announce the upcoming Saturday Library Programs. The flyer states that all children must be accompanied by an adult; with the goal of building parents’ skills in reading activities with their children. The plan for the morning starts with group activities with staff from the Museum of Natural History, followed by story time led by the librarian, and then free reading time for students and their parents.

DSCN0456The Saturday Library program is funded by Title I and school budgets. A custodian is hired for the morning to open the school, turn on heating or cooling, and monitor the facility. The school librarians are hired to plan the morning activities and host the families each Saturday. Snacks are purchased for the children, too. The Museum of Natural History charges the school a minimal fee to provide the one-hour lessons.

At the end of each Saturday Library program, students complete an online Survey Monkey evaluation of the morning activities. Overall, the programs have been well attended, and students have reported that they want to come to the next Saturday Library (96%). Students also responded on the evaluation that “I learned something new today that will help me in school” (96%). And 91% of the students reported that the Saturday Library Program helped their reading skills.

This Saturday Library Program has been in operation for over five years, and librarians, museum staff, parents, and students all enjoy the experiences. Librarians have truly implemented the 2015 School Library Month theme—“Your School Library Where Learning Never Ends.”

What are some other ways to embrace the 2015 slogan?

For other ideas for school libraries to serve the community, check out the American Association of School Librarians website:

For collaboration tips for librarians and classroom teachers, check out my article in the Spring 2015 New Teacher Advocate “3 Ways to Collaborate With Your School Librarian.”

Use the hashtag #NLW15 to tell what is going on at your library!

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