The Living Room of Learning: Joint-Use Libraries in Texas

By Casstevens, Susan | Texas Library Journal, Summer 2017 | Go to article overview

The Living Room of Learning: Joint-Use Libraries in Texas


Casstevens, Susan, Texas Library Journal


A joint use school/public library is like a living room in a multi-generational family home, bringing together all ages from toddlers to retirees. During a typical week in a joint-use library in Texas, preschoolers gather in eager anticipation for story time - seated in a semicircle, their bright upturned faces burst into laughter while listening to Ladybug Girl's latest predicament or hearing Pete the Cat optimistically remind us that, "It's all good." Proving that it is never too late to learn, senior library patrons sit at desktop computers. Their class focuses on mastering basic computer skills necessary to adapt in our ever-changing digital world. Students and faculty from the local school come and go, gravitating to the library to check out material, use the Internet, or just visit with friends and browse their electronic devices. In a combined library, grandparents share sitting areas with teens studying or playing card games while adults fill out job applications online. In this living room of learning, there is space for all and everyone is welcome.

Joint-use libraries are most often public libraries combined with school library media centers. They have existed in the United States and internationally for more than a century. A joint-use library is defined as "a library in which two or more distinct library service providers serve their client groups in the same building, based on an agreement that specifies the relationship between the providers (Bundy, 2003)."

While professional opinions from scholarly articles and books alternately support and criticize elements of dual use libraries, research suggests certain critical success factors for combined library services:

* A formal joint use agreement

* One library director responsible for both school and public library services

* Stakeholder support from all community and school governing agencies

* Convenient location for all library users

* Adequate staffing and hours to meet unique community and school needs

* No restriction on collection access for any user group

* Membership in a larger library network

In Texas, joint-use school/public libraries:

* Serve populations of 300-43,000

* Hold collections of 8,800-45,000 items

* Circulate 800-100,000 items annually

* Usually serve as the community's only public library

Although there are no specific library standards by which to measure quality service in joint-use libraries in Texas, a 2016 Delphi study conducted as part of this author's dissertation combined existing Texas Public Library Standards, Texas School Library Standards, and accreditation requirements for public libraries (Texas Administration Code, 2015) to develop a checklist to quantitatively assess the quality of joint-use library services.

The Delphi Study

Three research questions were addressed using the Delphi research methodology:

1 Can the current separate Texas library standards be adapted to create suggested standards for joint-use libraries?

2 What specific joint-use library standards would the library expert panel recommend?

3 Can the proposed joint-use library standards result in a checklist that will help libraries measure effective library service?

Twenty-nine national and international library experts served as panel members during the study to propose a list of potential joint-use library standards. …

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