Recognize the public library as a partner

Monday, September 04, 2017 6:33PM

Learning communities connect people, organizations and systems that are eager to learn and work across boundaries in pursuit of a shared goal.

It is an exciting time for librarians and educators to discuss the future of learning communities. How we learn, where we learn, and how we learn best are shifting daily. One thing stays constant – learning is a continuous, persistent, and lifelong pursuit. While learning communities in our schools and higher education target specific groups, the public library supports learning for all people throughout their life. We create learning communities for families, teens, and adults by offering community programs, classes, print and digital collections, and online resources. Perhaps the best example is our early literacy program or storytime sessions. Storytime sessions bring families together to establish building blocks for literacy, form social networks, explore children’s literature, and participate in their children’s learning.

Supporting lifelong learning, however, is just one piece of the puzzle. To have a strong and successful learning community, we need strategic partnerships and networks with other organizations. We need to be open to sharing resources, promoting each other’s work, and identifying opportunities that are outside of our present models. The Nashville Public Library system was awarded the 2017 Library of the Year by the American Library Association. One of their key accomplishments was the creation of Limitless Libraries, a partnership between the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and the Nashville Public Library (NPL). They created a system to get books to kids where they are, at school. Kids can now request books from the NPL collection and pick them up or drop them off at school. They broke down the barrier between the school and the public library, which resulted in more resources being available to their students.

The Scottsdale Public Library partnered with Arizona State University to create the “Eureka! Loft”, a co-working space and learning community for entrepreneurs and innovators. The library provides space and resources, while the university helped build strong connections with the business community and create a curriculum of classes. In both these examples, better resources were provided by partnering to leverage resources and outreach efforts.

The Trustees of the Peterborough Town Library recently completed a three-year strategic plan process. Our new mission states, “The Peterborough Town Library champions literacy and encourages life-long learning by providing resources that enrich, educate, and entertain. We strengthen our community by promoting connections between people, ideas, and knowledge.” Our goal is for the library to act as a connective fiber for the community. The library is a free and open resource for all and the perfect organization to provide space, resources, and ideas to improve opportunities for learning. We encourage learning communities to leverage the public library as a resource. How can we help partner with business to support professional learning and to build our workforce? How can we assist the schools in improving access to books and information for kids? How can we partner with community colleges to promote their opportunities and support their students? How can we connect public libraries in the region to work more closely together to leverage resources and offer more to our patrons? The future is exciting and we look forward to the continued conversation and fulfilling our new mission.

Corinne Chronopoulos is the library director of the Peterborough Town Library.