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.