Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Help Me Help You Help Them by Heather Booth

I recently had an awesome conversation with a 6th grade language arts teacher from the local Catholic school.  It was so great, I wish I could’ve had that conversation with every teacher in my community. The teacher didn’t come to the library to talk about her students and research, but as we chatted at the reference desk, that’s where the conversation turned.


Here’s what she told me that I think every public librarian should hear:

  • She reminds her students not to wait till the last minute to do their research.
  • Her students often need a nudge… or more than a nudge, a LOT more than a nudge… to get into the library.
  • Sometimes the road block isn’t the students, but their parents.
  • She values the library and wants her students to value it and printed books too.
  • She knows print isn’t the only way to get information and is encouraging her students to find reputable sources online too.
  • She recently learned a bit more about the differences between our databases, and why we sometimes say “It IS from a book” even if we accessed it online.
  • She wants her students to succeed in their research.

Here’s what I told her that I think every teacher should hear:

  • Your students often come to the library not really understanding how information is organized differently in books than it is online.
  • We try to give your students both the books they need, and a mini lesson on information organization while they’re here, because it’s often difficult to convince them that a book on anatomy will actually be a useful resource for their paper on arthritis.  
  • We buy databases not because we think the Internet is better, but because it’s more economical and space saving then buying the equivalent reference books in print.
  • We know you’re busy, but we can give your students a much better experience if we have a heads-up that dozens of them will be coming in asking for the same thing. 
  • We would love to work with you, visit your classroom, or provide support materials – just say the word!
On the public library side, it’s often frustrating to be swamped with a request that is unclear, or beyond the scope of what we are able to provide, or terribly urgent. It was a good check in reminder that we are just one part of the team of community partners that are supporting kids in their learning and that the teachers aren’t “out to get us” with confounding assignments. It was reassuring to hear that this teacher is doing her best to prepare her students for doing research at the library.  We’ve all run into teachers who don’t have that same approach — and one of my more frustrating librarian moments was while interacting with a teacher at the same school — so I took the opportunity to be as gracious as possible and send this teacher back with a stack of my business cards, in hopes that she would share them with her colleagues.

What do you do to connect with teachers and school librarians? What would you add to the above lists?