An effort to bridge learning

Program partners libraries, schools

November 12, 2006|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

About a year ago, Carroll County schools and public libraries embarked on what has turned out to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Called the Learning Advantage, the partnership aimed to bring two entities that have worked together informally for years even closer. Just past the anniversary of its inception, it has garnered much praise from librarians and school media specialists.

"We have a lot of common goals," said Dorothy Stoltz, outreach services manager for the Carroll County Public Library. "The library is an informal educational institution ... . We can be a link for the public school system in helping children to be school-ready."

Carroll modeled its collaborative effort after similar ones in Howard and Calvert counties, Stoltz said. Few people may realize the bond schools and libraries already share, Stoltz said.

The state Department of Education, for example, has a library development and services division, she said, which supports summer-reading programs in public libraries and also provides grants.

That kind of collaboration needs to occur more often, said Irene Hildebrandt, the school system's media supervisor.

Libraries and schools could find ways to support each other's programs, she said, or even bring the libraries into schools to educate parents and others.

"Our partnership ... is just a natural," Hildebrandt said.

Each library and school has a liaison, Stoltz said, meant to act as a bridge of sorts between the two systems.

"It's so important for not only students to have wider access to the library, but also for teachers ... and all school staff to realize that we're here for them as a resource," said Jillian Dittrich, children's services supervisor at the Westminster branch, and a liaison.

"We've got the computers. We've got the databases. We've got the ability to provide what it is that they're actually looking for," she said.

One such resource: book presentations about mysteries, folktales and other subjects that librarians can tailor to different age groups, Dittrich said.

Both sides anticipate the partnership's practical advantages also.

Dittrich hopes for better communication, such as advance notice when students have major assignments, so that libraries can prepare for the onslaught of young patrons.

And, for media specialist Jennifer Simmons, working with the libraries has ensured that children can join her fifth-grade book club at William Winchester Elementary School at truly no cost. Simmons said she always tells parents that they can find the month's selection at the library.

The school-library connection already has yielded successful enterprises: Last summer's reading program boasted several thousand participants from birth to age 18, Stoltz said.

And a recent young adult literature conference - a concept inspired by a similar event in Baltimore County - drew about 100 librarians, English teachers and students, said Blair Reid, a media specialist at Oklahoma Road Middle School, and one of the event's organizers.

Hildebrandt said she looked forward to the partnership's possibilities. She and others would like to see the number of summer readers double, then triple, she said. There's no reason why every child in the county shouldn't be involved, she added.

"It's an open ballpark ... . There's lots of things that could happen," Hildebrandt said of the Learning Advantage. "The main goal is to get our kids to read - and to like reading."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.