Thursday, May 7, 2009

Partnerships that Work: Tikatok, Drop-in Science, and Community Learning Too

Wednesday May 6 2009 10:45-12:00pm

Boston Public Library (BPL) Director of Partnerships and Communications, (and 2009 Library Journal rising star), Koren Stembridge facilitated a panel to discuss the benefits of community partnerships and to highlight three from the BPL.  The BPL has over 100 different types of partnerships going on at any given time.  Most of these are neighborhood specific and can range from creating murals, to raised garden beds, to festivals.  This session focused more on system-wide partnerships.  But first....

Why partnerships?
  • Partnerships double our ability to reach outside of our own institutions to those who can help us.
  • As the technological landscape has become more participatory, it stands to reason that users now expect to participate more in our libraries.
  • The tough economic climate provides an excellent opportunity for libraries to serve as a port in the economic storm by providing career support, increased programs for kids and stress relief.  The evidence so far supports this, as use at BPL is increasing.  Overall use has gone up 10% every month for the last year and card signup has increased by 33% in the last year.
Before entering into a partnership, your institution should ask the "Five W's" (who-what-where-when-why),  Some of these questions may include:

  • Does it add value to your institution? 
  • Does the partnership fill a need?
  • Programs
  • Services
  • Giveaways
  • Fundraisers 
  • Schools
  • City departments
  • Individuals
  • Vendors.  Yes even vendors.
  • Timing is everything.  Partnerships have an ideal time.  Strategize for the maximum impact
  • Onsite vs offsite?  Benefits to both.
Whatever you decide to do, think outside the box.  However don't work outside the capacity of your organization.  Don't partner with orgs that don't support the core values of your library.  Use a partnership checklist.  (available at the back).  Be hands-on.

The following examples work for the BPL, but could easily scaled back for a smaller institution.

Tikatok Books is a primarily web-based 2.0 community where kids can write, illustrate, share and publish their own high quality hard, softcover or digital "print on demand" books. Tikatok works with BPL and other libraries to create a flexible online and offline program to help kids write books.  A couple weeks later, the kids have the books in their hands!  

Libraries are perfect environments for bookmaking activity, as they provide an environment where childrens librarians are enthusiastic and highly skilled at stimulating cretivity and patrons are education-focused.  

Drop-in Science
Beverly Nadeau, Boston public schools science elementary science specialist, gave an overview of how Drop-in Science works. Drop-in Science is a grant-funded program that provides easy-to-create youth explorations in science kits. These kits provide materials to create objects that educate students about scientific concepts.  Objects such as a mini-catapult, a thumb piano, or a mini-wind turbine.  The lessons associated with the kits fit into the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks as well as MCAS tests. After the lesson, the kids get to keep the item.  Lessons revolve around Physical Science (Chemistry and Physics) for grades 3-5.  The best part is that each kit comes with a manual designed for a non-science person.  So anyone can learn.

Melisa Baily, from the BPL talked about how successful the program has become.  Students at BPL, which has a large percentage of Latino and African-American students has been a huge success.  Instructions included to use when assembling kits with kids.  Having helpers is good as well.  Pairing little kids with older people helps as well.

Benefits: A whole different group of kids are coming in to work with the kids.  Word of mouth is positive.  Appeals to boys.  Not in school, which appeals.  Kids love being able to take the projects home and share with family and friends.

Krystal Beaulieu spoke about the Countdown to Kindergarten program whose mission is to enhance early learning opportunities for pre-k kids.  The program was started 10 years ago to ease the transition to kindergarten from pre-school, home, or wherever.  The program benefits kids and parents by explaining the process of choosing a kindergarten and how to prepare for kindergarten. 

The program includes:
  • Workshop for spanish speaking families.
  • Info to parents to help in choosing a school.
  • Working with the Boston Children's Museum on a Countdown to kindergarden night.  Such a sucess that it was turned into a permanent group.  
  • Transition activities such as
  • Talk, Read Play: A guide to help parents work with their kids to reach developmental milestones.  
  • Play to Learn: Free facilitated, structured play times.
The whole process takes place over the course of a year.  CTK works with libraries to have kindergarden days. Teachers from neighborhood schools come to the events.  Programming includes pennant making, face-painting, physical activities, and a parade to a local business.  Kids can also sign up for library cards at the library events.  Working with the library makes sense as they share the core learning values of the program. 

Sherry Eskin from the Honan-Allston Branch of BPL talked about how the program works from the perspective of a library.  Because the shirts that kids need to attend all CTK events are only available at BPL branches it brings people into the library that might not otherwise come.  The shirts are displayed in the library. Info on the program is available in 8 different languages.  The event shows that the library is a place for community gathering, and fun.

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