Supporting a seamless learning environment

This week, the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) released new data (pdf) showing that the most powerful demographic predictor of library card ownership is poverty—more than 60 percent of children living below the poverty level did not have a public library card. Impoverished children often fall behind in school as they face challenges obtaining reading materials, accessing high-speed Internet and finding reliable information online.

Fortunately, school and public libraries provide opportunities to help students of all ages learn how to love reading, receive homework assistance and access online resources. Both school and public libraries offer students print and digital resources that are critical to student learning (forgive me for misspeaking earlier about classroom resources specifically—school libraries are lending engaging reading materials that students enjoy reading). What’s more, school and public librarians are expert information professionals who teach students how to conduct thorough research online and access the full range of digital and print resources available in the school library. Together, schools and public libraries are creating dynamic spaces for students to learn and grow.

It is for these reasons that we are so excited about the White House’s commitment to ensuring that all of the nation’s school students receive public library cards through their schools. The ConnectED: Library Challenge initiative calls on school and public library leaders to build on the work that they are currently doing to support the diverse educational and learning needs of school students.

Several local jurisdictions have already implemented successful school-public library card programs. In Maryland, the Howard County Library System, the Howard County Public School System and the Howard Community College formalized a partnership, called A+ Partners in Education, to ensure that each student receives a public library card through school registration. Since 2002, A+ Partners in Education has disseminated more than 55,000 student and educator library cards, and facilitated nearly one million interactions between library leaders, school administrations, community college faculty, students and parents.

Partnerships like A+ Partners in Education are making the difference for our students by providing seamless opportunities for students to learn throughout the day. We look forward to seeing the development of more school-public library collaborations in the future.

About Emily Sheketoff

Emily Sheketoff is the former Associate Executive Director of the American Library Association's Washington Office.


  1. Michelle Kelley

    This BookRiot article expresses my sentiments exactly about this new program: I have worked with our public library to try to connect our most struggling readers with the public library. It’s no surprise these families have the most obstacles to using public library resources. What they DO USE is their school library. They are there every day, they have equal access to its resources. And you know what they check out? REAL BOOKS. Why do we continue to push kids onto digital content when major studies (and real life examples that any library can attest to) show us kids prefer physical books. In this day and age, it is the unfortunate trend that anything that is supposed to improve learning is to be done by funneling funds that could be used in meaningful ways to technology companies and publishers for services that are not demonstrated as the most proven means of supporting student achievement. Think the ridiculous amount of testing money given to technology companies and publishers now – if we only invested that money into stocking and staffing school libraries, think of the power of that! Imagine providing kids with regular access to good books they WANT to read throughout the school day (and maybe even evenings and summer too?) at their own school site. What a generation of readers that would foster! Giving kids devices through another agency that requires internet access they might not have seems ridiculous and with a limited selection of titles seems unlikely to have much impact.

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