Community Resources as Part of the School Library Collection

By Hammond, Jennifer | Library Philosophy and Practice, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Community Resources as Part of the School Library Collection


Hammond, Jennifer, Library Philosophy and Practice


"A collection...provides access to human and material resources in the local and global community." Phyllis Van Orden, The Collection Program in Schools, p. 11.

As school librarians and media specialists collaborate with classroom teachers and assist them in finding relevant materials for resource-based learning, the use of both material resources and human resources from the community can be invaluable. Accessing resources within the community can make learning more relevant to students and enable them to see a connection between the curriculum and the real world. Establishing community resource collections also results in stronger business and community partnerships with the school.

There are three things to consider when adding community resources to the library collection:

1. Determine which community resources would be most beneficial to the students and teachers and which resources are also accessible.

2. Organize the community resources for easiest access by the school community.

3. Publicize and promote the community resources to ensure full use by those who would benefit most.

Getting Started

Determining which community resources are the most beneficial can be a daunting task, especially in a large metropolitan area. The authors of A Guide to Promising Practices in Educational Partnerships, published by the U.S. Department of Education, recommend first conducting a needs assessment to determine which community resources would be of the most benefit to the school population. Rather than going overboard in accessing as many community resources as humanly possible, experiences from programs described in this volume show that it is more effective to begin in small increments, identifying key areas in the school curriculum where resources would be readily available and most useful. A school librarian can easily accomplish this through assessment surveys with teachers, administrators, students, and parents and through knowledge of the school's curriculum and student needs. Since library resources exist to meet the needs of students, it makes sense to begin this process with the students' needs.

Once the media specialist has used the surveys and other tools to create a list of the information needs of students and teachers, it is then possible to brainstorm resources beyond the walls of the school that could meet those needs. This another opportunity to ask for input from teachers, administrators, and parents.

Examples of Community Resources:

* Teleconferencing and e-mail can easily connect students to human resources in the community and expand the students' access to the world. More people may be willing to act as a resource to a student if they can do so from the office. Students could have e-mail mentors or interviews via chat. In telementoring, students are connected to experts or role models in various fields or areas to serve as resources. Mentors can be found in local communities or in global communities from web sites such as this one: www.telementor.org

* Ask-An-Expert database is a database of human resources who are experts in various areas of the curriculum and have volunteered to answer student questions via e-mail or telephone. (Note: this is different from telementoring, since it is merely a reference type of service, not a long-term relationship.)

* Local artists, actors, business leaders, researchers, professors, doctors, attorneys, veterinarians, community activists, reporters, athletes, and so on, can all serve as helpful resources for interviews, field trips, projects, etc.

* Local sites and organizations (museums, theaters, hospitals, universities, corporations, factories, etc.) can also be cataloged as resources for field trips, projects, and information resources.

* A unique suggestion from Van Orden is for the librarian to videotape a field trip to a local resource to share with students. …

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