Joint public and school libraries and their issues (notes from the September’s director report)

More notes from the director’s report, this on the good work we’re doing in Oakville and Cosmopolis.

The effort to build another joint school/public library is underway in Cosmopolis (we’re also exploring a similar building in Oakville). For me, the biggest concern isn’t funding the building, but rather the agreement of how we agree operate both a public and school library.

Here the concerns are outlined pretty well:

The most formidable challenge of a joint-use facility is to ensure the safety of the children of the community. While both the school library and the public library share this common goal they must by law employ different means to achieve that end. With this in mind, schools limit public access to promote the safety of the children they serve. They have strict sign-in procedures for parents/guardians visiting the building, and they tightly limit access to the school by outsiders. By their nature public libraries must be pen to all members of the community. They offer the general public full and open access with few permissible restrictions. To fulfill its mission and to comply with the law, a public library must meet a high standard when considering exclusion of any individual or group. Public library users need not be residents of the community, are not requested to identify themselves and do not sign-in or need any identification of clearance to enter the facility. In dealing with children, school library staff may act in loco parentis; public library staff may not. To successfully serve the community, these differences must be reconciled in the day-day operations of the joint facility.

School libraries and public libraries have different missions and constituencies. School libraries provide essential materials and technology for curricular and instructional needs. School library media specialists teach information literacy skills essential for academic achievement and prepare students to be lifelong learners. Public libraries are centers for community life and learning, offering people of all ages free and open access to information resources, programs, technology and meeting space to support a broad range of educational and leisure interests. Public libraries must offer all members of the public full and open access with few permissible restrictions and are usually open from 9:00 am until 9:00 p.m. on weekdays and also on weekends.

I’m hoping we’re able to work through these obvious hurdles, because one facility that can serve both schools and the public at large would be incredibly powerful. It would also be a great bargain to the community. But, we have to face the different roles served by each.

In the end, I hope we create a great joint use agreement, because I’d like to see as many public library points of service in as many school buildings as possible.


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Filed under buildings, Cosmopolis, Meeting reports, Oakville

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