Amanda Hopper has worked with the Youth Services Department at Boone County Public Library for five years and is currently the Youth Services Coordinator. Amanda lives in Union with her husband and two daughters. She is passionate about serving the children and families of Boone County.
Public schools and public libraries have a common goal of enhancing literacy and academic skills; however, many times these institutions work in isolation to meet this goal. Why is it that more libraries don’t partner with their local schools? Boone County Public Library has recognized the problem and instituted partnerships with public schools and community organizations to support literacy and academic enhancement. One way we do this is to serve as the B.E.S.T partner for Longbranch Elementary. The Business Education success Team (B.E.S.T) program, adapted from a national model, was established in 1989 by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to “connect the business community to schools throughout the Northern Kentucky area, to share resources, improve communication, and ultimately impact workforce development in the region.” (Source: Northern Kentucky Education Council @ https://www.nkypartners.org/take-action/best). B.E.S.T partners typically include banks, food companies, and manufacturing plants. So, why would Longbranch Elementary approach BCPL to partner with them, knowing that the Library could not provide the same type of monetary funds? Basically, because BCPL and Longbranch (along with the school system, in general) have a shared goal of providing educational programs that will help increase the academic success of the children in Boone County. The principal of Longbranch, Erika Bowles, realized that the new school needed to establish partnerships like these with community organizations in order to maximize student learning. Meanwhile, the Library was seeking ways to reach out to parents, advertise their programs, and raise awareness of their school partnerships.
Through the partnership, the school and library hoped to introduce families to library services, increase the level of literacy in homes, offer free homework assistance, create materials to enhance teachers’ implementation of Common Core Standards, increase family use of the public library, strengthen the professional development of the teachers, share the library collection with the school, and decrease summer learning loss by a summer reading program.
Through the B.E.S.T partnership, BCPL has provided:
- 1000 books for the English/Language Arts units of instruction to provide the 725 students that attend Longbranch with greater access to high-level reading material that meet school requirements
- 5 Core Connection Curriculum Kits on the topics of Government, Kentucky History, Economics, Health, and American Contributions for use by the teachers in classroom instruction
- Library cards for students
- Weekly Homework Help sessions
- Family Reading Nights at the Boone County Public Library
- Professional development for teachers
- Parent workshops at PTA meetings, such as “Nonfiction: Just for the Fun of It”
- A summer reading program, where 258 Longbranch students participated, for a total reading time of 1,940 hours.
- An eight-week summer program partnering a first, second, or third grade Longbranch student with a teen reading buddy
- Other programs and services designed to impact student achievement and build positive relationships among community organizations.
Parents who attended the nonfiction workshop reported to school staff that they are excited to have new reading options for their children. And according to the School Media Specialist, Stacie Kegley, students are checking out more nonfiction material on a daily basis. Parents are now attending the Library more with their children and those who participated in the Family Reading Night, felt they gained valuable tools for incorporating reading into their family activities. The partnership has improved the perception of the public library as a true education partner, and more schools are now reaching out for support and resources. The Core Connections Curriculum Kit prototypes that were prepared for Longbranch, for instance, are circulating to all of the schools in Boone County, and more kits are under construction.
Schools are busy places with high-stakes accountability and little extra time and resources to forge community partnerships. Libraries have historically been self contained units, supporting the patrons who enter the library and possibly venturing out with books. The Longbranch B.E.S.T. partnership is a model of how schools and libraries (and other organizations) can work together to have positive impact on the community with a minimum of time and resources. In establishing and implementing the B.E.S.T. partnership, the school and library discovered that they already had the staff and resources and just needed a simple plan of action to move the partnership forward. And, due to the current economic climate, schools and libraries must consider time and money implications for all of their services. Working together to maximize the taxpayers’ investment not only provides good faith to the community, but also allows staff to offer more resources to their students and parents. With the current changes in the state and national school standards, this partnership will provide a vehicle for the library to offer supplemental resources to assist teachers in meeting the requirements of the new standards. The partnership will minimize the monetary demands for meeting the new standards by use of shared resources, including books and materials as well as support staff. This partnership serves as a simple yet powerful model of how community organizations can effectively work together for the good of their youngest citizens.