Collaboration Beyond the School Walls

As I was reading through my email this past week I was extremely interested to see a report entitle Building a Bridge to Literacy for African-American Male Youth: A Call to Action for the Library Community from the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the School of Library and Information Science at North Carolina Central University.

This report offers recommendations for addressing the achievement gap for African-American Males in this country and serves as a call to action for libraries of all types.

What resonated with me was the call for collaboration between school libraries, public libraries, and other community organizations. I frequently read and hear about the lack of collaboration between school libraries and public libraries. Yet, just as this report discusses, think of the powerful partnerships that can be formed that can benefit all students, not just those at risk.

In times of budget cuts collections have suffered and sometimes the cultural representation that should be present in a collection is not. This presents an opportunity to work with your public library – they may have resources that you don’t have and when you pool your resources together you can offer more to your students. This report describes the enabling texts that are needed to reach out to African American males. Working on building collections that include these type of materials could be a joint effort initiative between the school librarian and the public librarian.

When I opened a new school library I found the public library to be a great partner. After meeting with teachers and learning the curriculum I could keep up with what topics were coming up and then work with the local public librarian to help me gather and borrow materials to support these curricular areas. Then in return I worked with them to develop and promote various programs to support and benefit students.

Also mentioned in this report is collaboration with community organizations and partners to offer experiences to your students. This report talks of working with different civic organizations to foster community relations and provide real-world authentic learning experiences. This may be working with like-minded organizations to set up programs that can foster literacy engagement out in the community for those students who may not always be able to get to the library.

I think all too often we as school librarians solely focus on collaborating with teachers and some times forget about other possible partnerships. I believe these types of collaborations that go beyond the school walls benefit and provide valuable support for all students.

2 thoughts on “Collaboration Beyond the School Walls

  1. I, too, found this report essential reading for anyone concerned with literacy in the U.S. While I agree that community partnerships are a critical take-away from this work, there were also suggestions for improving school library resources as well as our classroom-library collaborative teaching.

    If you, teachers, and students have created digital book trailers for your school community, conduct an assessment of the literature you are spotlighting. How are characters from various groups represented? Is there a broad range of cultures, plots, themes, and topics in your school’s book trailer collection? Dr. Alfred W. Tatum (University of Illinois-Chicago) has provided an excellent resource for identifying “enabling texts” for African American male youth on page 21 in the report. He is also quoted in this report as noting that it matters what these young people are reading “because young boys want to know if the text is legitimate, not if it is at the right [reading] level” (Tatum, 2012, p. 18).

    Also, in our classroom-library collaborations, we have the opportunity to advocate for students to express their voices. In codesigning inquiry projects, we can integrate reading comprehension strategies while suggesting that students be encouraged to use various technology tools for self-expression and for demonstrating their learning. We can give youth opportunities to reach audiences outside of school in their larger communities. “By honoring and promoting their voices, effective library programs help young Black males develop a sense of agency and empower them to enact positive change in their personal lives and in their communities” (Hughes-Hassell, Kumasi, Rawson, & Hitson, 2012, p. 16).

    I hope everyone in the literacy community will make time to read this report.

    Hughes-Hassell, S., ,Kumasi, K., Rawson, C. H., & Hitson, A. (2012). Building a bridge to literacy for African American male youth. Chapel Hill, NC: School of Library and Information Science. Retrieved from

  2. I too agree Judi! I think this report is valuable because it not only gives us information on serving our populations better, but does indeed provide opportunities for school librarians to work with teachers to meet the needs of students. I think while this report is directed at a specific population there are implications for all students and think that the practices suggested in this report can benefit all students.

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