Public and School Libraries: Serving the Same Population Together

by Susan Swan, St. Helena High School Library Media Specialist, and Jennifer Baker, St. Helena Public Library Director

In St. Helena, we are extremely proud of the symbiotic relationship we have created between the school library and the public library. Together we work to impress upon students that the school library is an extension of our public library and vice versa and we do our best to make the services as seamless as possible. Overall, we try to function as a team and have built our practices and processes to support a relationship that encourages use of our combined resources.

Here are just a few examples of the ways we work together:

● When the school library locks up for summer break, Susan delivers classroom copies of the assigned summer reading books to the public library, with copies of the assignments. Staff manually track check outs to students.

● Our school requires all students to have public library cards. Ninth grade teachers distribute applications and facilitate getting parent signatures. Susan then takes the signed applications to the public library, where they are processed on the spot so she can hand deliver them to students the next day.

● Either Susan or Jennifer introduces freshman classes to the online resources to which they have access thanks to their public library cards, and instructs them about how to search the public library catalog and place holds. There is a link to the public library directly under the link to the high school library catalog on St. Helena High School Library’s webpage.

● Throughout the year, if a student needs his or her library card number to access online resources or place holds, public library staff will gladly confirm the number immediately over the phone!

● For students who have a hard time getting to the public library, Susan will pick up and deliver books, help track due dates, and return books as needed.

● The public library will help track down multiple copies of specific books, including classroom novels, to fill in gaps in the high school library’s collection of assigned reading.

● Susan loans copies of frequently used textbooks so students and tutors may use them in the library throughout the school year.

● The public library plans special teen events on early-release days. The school helps publicize the programs and Susan actively promotes them.

● We collaborate on creating many of the library events—designing programs that complement the school curriculum and give teachers a reason to encourage participation. Susan is currently serving on the board of trustees for the public library, so the two libraries stay in close touch that way too.

We hope our ideas help you make the most of your libraries. For more information, or to share your ideas with us, please contact

Susan Swan

Susan Swan

Susan Swan has been the Library Media Specialist at St. Helena High School for seven years. She holds a degree in Linguistics from U.C. Berkeley. Prior to working full time, she volunteered in the local libraries and was a long-term substitute in St. Helena’s school libraries. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of St. Helena Public Library. Libraries, bookstores, reading, and anything having to do with writing or language are her passions. One of her favorite parts of her job is working closely with juniors and seniors to help the counselor guide them through the college application process.

Jennifer Baker

Jennifer Baker

Jennifer Baker is the director of the St Helena Public Library, a 2014 Best Small Library in America finalist. She has worked in public libraries for over 20 years, including ten in youth services, and spent two years working in a junior high school library. In her spare time she is the online voice of the world famous Elsie the library cat.


The New and Improved Library Staff

by Patty Slate Warner

It seems not long ago that when you walked into your school library and asked for assistance from the library staff, you were directed to an enormous card catalog. You weren’t sure where to start flipping through drawers of endless cards trying to decide what interesting books to read or which you needed for your research paper. The unfamiliar library staff would help you search for the call number on the shelves and check out your books.

Now, the explosion of technology has created a new and improved library staff.

Library staff today have to know how to Tweet, Tumble, SnapChat, post videos on You Tube, generate a Facebook account, be a “pinner” on Pinterest, how to “embed” a link, what Vine is, how to use email, Gmail, Google Plus, Google Play, Google Drive, and Yahoo, to name a few. Whew! We help students learn how to use the school’s library database and webpage, how to check out ebooks and audio books, numerous online research databases, and making their own accounts to access them all.

It doesn’t even sound like we have real books on shelves, does it? Schools fortunate enough to have computer labs are afforded library staff that assist students with specific programs and personal printing, too. We rent laptops to students, check out Chrome books and net books to teachers, and are even ascertaining troubleshooting techniques. With the newest transition to Common Core and 1:1 computing, library staff have become the essential Technology Specialists.

I find the new and improved library staff to have a closer connection and a creative relationship with their students. We spend increasingly more individual time with students, utilize much of the same technology and social networking services as our students and help them create accounts, essays, sites and blogs. The new and improved library staff has a clearer understanding of the needs of their students which allow students to feel more connected to their library staff; regardless of the age difference.

I love being part of the new and improved library staff. Is it time we changed our titles?

Patty Slate Warner

Patty Slate Warner


Patty came to Napa Valley with her two children in 2001 after a lucrative career in corporate America as an Executive Assistant, Employment Specialist and Recruiter. Her career with the district started at Donaldson Way Elementary School as a Yard Duty Supervisor, and then became their Instructional Assistant and Library Clerk. After losing her husband of 17 years to cancer in 2008, she was ready for a fresh start, and was recruited for American Canyon High School, where the library has been her home for the last 4 years.

Patty is currently collaborating with the district and Library Services to implement the student laptop rental program at ACHS for the district. She will also begin to finish her goal of obtaining a BA in Child Psychology this summer. Patty’s favorite part of her job is the connection she makes with students every day.

Evolution of a BYOD Library

by Sandy Killian Biale

Picture a library built with 21st century learning in mind. You hear the wonderful hum of learning as light shines through the beautiful two-story windows onto a large open workspace where teenagers collaboratively work on their own or school-provided devices accessing the library webpage, the library catalog or the school databases. Some are reading a novel from Follett Shelf or from the stacks. Some students sit on the couches and chairs perusing the magazines while others work quietly in the no-talking study rooms.

Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful place for students to congregate and learn? This was the vision the principal, library clerk and I had for the district’s first Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) library at American Canyon High School.

Cue music screeching to a halt. Picture the reality, which is that same library now filled to overflowing with 150 students, seated around the tables, couches and on the floor because all the seats are taken. It is so loud that you can hardly hear the student asking a question across the circulation desk. There are large groups of 9th and 10 graders (the only two grades in the school) playing Halo and Minecraft. The quiet study rooms are the hangout rooms.

How did our dream of a BOYD Library turn into this hub of chaos?

When planning the library, there were a few factors we didn’t consider.

First, the school opened with only 9th and 10th grade so the school was missing the maturity of the upperclassmen. Second, the library clerk and I had been at the middle school library. In many ways this was wonderful. The students knew us, they felt comfortable in the library, but they felt too comfortable. At the middle school, we have many board games, like chess, for the students to check out and play. When they came to the high school they felt that any type of gaming in the library was fine. Finally, staffing was too low. The district cut our librarian’s hours the year we opened, so the library was staffed with a 20 hour-per week clerk and a librarian who was present 50% or the time, resulting in only one staff member in the library at a time.

This is not enough staffing to establish a school culture and it definitely wasn’t enough staffing when the library became the place to hangout. Very little learning was happening in our BYOD library. Students couldn’t study as it was too noisy, chaotic and there were just too many people for the space.

So readers I ask you, was the fearless library staff able to create the library they first envisioned for American Canyon High School? How could it be done? These questions and more will be answered next month when you tune into Part 2 of “The Evolution of a BYOD Library”.

Have you created a BYOD library at your school? I’d love to hear about your journey. Please share with me by commenting below.

Sandy Biale

Sandy Biale