Who’s in Your Crew?
Public Library Partnerships for 21st Century Skills
By: Cyndi Terrell and Nathan Watson
Public libraries and schools are equally driven by the same goals when it comes to providing information and digital literacy education. Libraries and schools both want to ensure that students are effective and ethical users of ideas and information. Public libraries and schools also both recognize that digital citizenship education is becoming increasingly important. However, it is challenging for schools and classroom teachers to fit digital citizenship instruction into a school day already crowded with so many other educational needs. As a former classroom teacher, I know it takes a village to educate our young people. Thankfully, our public libraries are part of the village and since they have always been in the information business, they are accustomed to providing guidance on how to identify credible sources, conduct research, and navigate the web safely. Our public libraries are solidly situated as a resource schools can count on for support with digital citizenship education.
Bedford Public Library in Bedford, Indiana recognizes the importance of setting students up with a strong foundational support on which to build valuable 21st century skills and has worked diligently to develop programs aligned with educational standards for information and digital literacy, including digital citizenship. During my 13 years as a classroom teacher, I was on the receiving end of what my local library offers as support for schools in the way of information literacy programs. BPL sent a programmer to my classroom to help my students sign up for digital library cards. My students were then able to connect with online services provided by the library. Knowledgeable programmers visited my classroom and showed my students the best ways to critically evaluate sources. From a teacher perspective, I was excited and thankful to know the library programs helped supplement the curriculum with skills my students needed to be successful in the classroom.
Bedford Public Library, like many other public libraries, continues to evolve with the changes in a fast-paced online world and recognizes the importance of how young people are impacted as the digital landscape gets trickier. As part of my work as a teen outreach educator at Bedford Public Library, I facilitate programs in local classrooms that fall under the information literacy umbrella. Teachers choose from topics focused on digital citizenship such as “Leaving Your Mark” and “Who’s in Your Crew?”. Students participate in activities that cover how to create strong passwords, how to leave a clean digital footprint or how to protect personal information online. The programs brought to my classroom have been updated as well. English teachers have choices of topics that align with Indiana Academic Standards for Media Literacy and Writing. “Find a Fake” activities help students understand the concept of fake news and how to identify credible sources. Another topic choice is “Copy It Right”. Students participate in activities and discussions that focus on the right way to “borrow” work created by others and how to cite sources. All topics were developed intentionally to ensure we can help teachers cover a variety of academic standards, support the curriculum in some way and help students attain valuable 21st century skills.
The Bedford Public Library’s mission is to “bring people, ideas, and information together to enrich lives and build community.” To fulfill this mission, BPL has been working seamlessly with North Lawrence Community Schools for decades. Each year, the Library completes over 1,200 programs in NLCS classrooms. From K-5 outreach programs, to information literacy and STEAM in middle schools, to soft skills in high school, BPL and NLCS make an invaluable partnership. BPL’s outreach staff all have teaching certifications and teaching experience. They devise programs that meet classroom standards and collaborate with classroom teachers and students to optimize each program for the next year.
Public libraries are uniquely poised to partner with schools for enhanced learning experiences. They share the same goals of preparing our young people for successful futures. Because libraries are in the information business, they are in a solid position to support schools in their endeavors to make young people as information literate as possible. As schools work to tackle digital citizenship and other 21st century skills, cultivating a strong relationship with the local public library will pay dividends.