No more sad, lonely school libraries

School Libraries

During the summer, many school libraries are sad, lonely places. At my son’s school, the doors are closed and there is no librarian to tend to the books. At the elementary school that hosts summer school, the library is used as an office, and the books sit unopened on shelves.

I know that the Hawaii Public Libraries do a wonderful job of hosting special events, summer reading programs, and movie nights. I know that the Hawaii Department of Education never seems to have enough money. I know that some schools don’t even have libraries.

But school libraries have so much potential for encouraging reading! They are in the heart of the community. Kids visit them or walk past them every school day. Parents are just walking distance away whenever they pick up their children from school.

If kids don’t see the value of books… if parents are indifferent to reading… if public libraries are too far away… school libraries are on the front lines, teaching everyone the importance of reading.

Here are 3 low-cost ways that school libraries could reach out to the community:

1. School libraries could host evening classes. In every community, there are people with so much knowledge to share, from their jobs or hobbies! School libraries could survey parents to find out what skills they could share with the rest of the school, from lei-making and scrapbooking to remodeling a home or planting a garden. Parents could even talk about their jobs to students in an informal “Career Night.” If school libraries have computers, they could even host a computer class for adults, taught by a volunteer parent.
The cost: utilities; a school administrator, one night a week. School libraries could ask parent organizations to volunteer, create flyers, and pay for refreshments.

2. School libraries could host community book nights. School libraries could invite parents and the community to monthly Book Nights. Informal readers could talk about their favorite books, make book recommendations, and share book suggestions for their kids. More serious readers could form a Book Club to choose books to read and discuss. To get more kids involved, there could be book cover art contests or “dress as your favorite character” theme nights.
The cost: utilities; a school administrator, one night a month. School libraries could ask parent organizations to volunteer, create flyers, and pay for refreshments.

3. School libraries could open during the summer – even if it’s just one morning each week. It could be staffed by parent volunteers.
The cost: utilities. Since school administration is year-round, they could open and close the library for community volunteers.

Aside from buying more books, here’s the single best way that schools can support school libraries:

* Schools could devote space to the librarian in their newsletters. At one local elementary school, the librarian has a whole page to talk about reading tips and book recommendations! This shows kids that the school values the library and reading books.
The cost: little to nothing. Many school newsletters are now electronic. If newsletters are printed, it would cost less than $25 to print an additional page.

When was the last time you visited a school library? What did your school librarians teach you?

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