Children’s and educational programming is often a key component of library programming. Read the detailed interview by Library Director Zakariya Sherman of North Palm Beach Public Library and learn how this library is partnering with a neighborhood school to ensure students feel connected to their local library.Q: How long have you worked as a librarian?
A: Since February 2006, 11.5 years.Q: Do you have a unique program or service that has been successful in your community?
A: Yes! Our “To the Library” program. We’re lucky in that we have a K-8 school, The Conservatory School at North Palm Beach, just behind the library. Having a school located right behind our library takes away any issues around busing students to and from the library.
In the fall of 2016, it was our goal to sign up every student at the Conservatory School with a library card. It is a K-8 school with nearly 800 students. The library emailed a parent letter and application to teachers in Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd, and one 5th grade class. These classes showed the most initial interest. We hope to get 3rd grade done by the end of the school year and continue with enrollments until all students have library cards.
To get students signed-up, the teachers made sure the letters and applications went home with the kids, made sure they all came back, and made sure the information got to us so that we could input the info and issue the cards.
We held the cards at the library until the classes started their visits. At that point, we would give the teachers the wallet-sized cards (with the children’s name in sharpie written on the cards) but keep the keychain-sized cards on key rings (with each teacher’s name attached) in a drawer behind the circ desk in plastic containers. There are two pre-k classes, six K classes, six 1st grade classes, and five 2nd grades classes in total. Different classes visit on a rotating basis each week. The K and 1st graders visit every week on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Two classes visit on Wednesday and 2 classes visit on Thursday, which means each class visits every 4 weeks. Their items aren‘t due back for 8 weeks. Each student checks out 2 books per visit. Most continuously have 4 items checked out at any given time. We don’t charge any late fees on any of their items. All classes visit between 8:15-9 am before the library opens at 9 am.
Our whole goal is to condition kids to visit the library, check out books, read, learn, and to enjoy the library atmosphere. We are attempting to form positive habits that will stay with them throughout life and that they will instill into their own children.Q: Do you have a new program, location or technology that you would like to share information about?
A: Each year the middle school students at the Conservatory School must complete 1 2hrs of volunteer service. Our “Reading Buddies” program is a way for them to meet their 12 hr goal. With this program, teens are paired with budding readers and they take turns reading and discussing the story. When they finish they get to play a game. Because of our location, we hope to be their main go-to place. We hope this will be a year-round program and summer hours would count towards the upcoming school year. Once the program gets going (we just started it), we hope to partner with more schools in the area. We also do a Wednesdays at 3 pm Read to a Dog program. It is the same concept as above but a child is reading to a dog. Hopefully the teen stays awake though- the dog passes out as soon as a child opens a book.Q: What do you wish your patrons knew that your library offers?
A: Rosetta Stone language learning software. We went live in February. We purchased all languages, all levels for our community. French seems to be the most popular language among our users right now. In all, 50 people created accounts to use the software. The best thing about it- it’s all web based. There is no software to download. All anyone needs is a library card, some type of device, and an internet connection.Q: What is a major focus for your library right now?
A: The school tops the list. Right now they are a K-8 school, but the goal is for them to be K-12. We need to prepare our library now to handle the extra 4 grades and a new age group.Q: Where do you see librarianship in 10 years?
A: Getting back to the basics. Reading, learning, telling stories- that’s our bread and butter.Q: What’s your proudest moment as a librarian?
A: Each time a kid says “That’s the guy who read to me at my school”- that’s a proud moment. Also, when Governor Crist visited one of my storytimes in Tampa.Q: What is your must follow piece of advice for running a successful library program?
A: If it’s a guest performer coming in- make sure you confirm with them a week before! Once in a while, the program doesn’t make it on their calendar. Also, you must put on programs that you personally have a vested interest in. If you love it, chances are your participants will love it too. If you don’t love it, your lack of passion will definitely show.Q: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever gotten in your book drop?
A: Oh, I think it’s unprintable.Q: Please finish this sentence: A library is…
A: The one place where you can hire (for free!) Aristotle to be child’s tutor. That’s right. In this day and age you don’t need to be King Phillip of Macedon with the state’s treasury at your service to afford it. Free is pretty darn affordable. And the lessons your son or daughter will learn from the writings of Aristotle worked pretty well for Alexander the Great I’d say! At best your son or daughter will become ruler of the world; at worst, well, at least they read a book.
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