Class visits are a type of outreach that a public library does to a school. In a class visit, a teacher brings his or her class into their public library to learn what the library has to offer, get library cards and perhaps hear a story.
The benefits of a class visit include fostering community, helping kids to find materials for pleasure or school assignments, forming a connection with the kids and teacher which leads to better behavior from the kids and perhaps forewarning of upcoming assignments from the teacher and disseminating information about the library's programs and services.
The most common reason I've encountered for why a public librarian doesn't do class visits is simple fear. "What am I supposed to say?" and "How am I supposed to organize it?" block a lot of this useful form of outreach. In this wiki entry, I will share how I book and perform class visits.
If a school is not used to going to the public library for class visits, they will probably be scared and suspicious of the concept. Teachers are extremely busy people who may feel overwhelmed at the thought doing something new. I find it helps to sell it as a service that you provide to help them. Both the public library and the school are serving the same kids. With standardized tests being all the rage right now, explaining how a public library can help improve test scores may be useful.
The first teacher you talk to may slam down a roadblock. However, most schools will have at least one person who likes the idea. The trick is to keep calling until you find that person. I've had the most success with the school librarians and some with the vice principals.
I usually book a visit for two weeks after the date that the teacher returns the library card forms to me, to give our clerical staff enough time to process all the forms.
What to Say and Do
- Remember to introduce yourself and welcome the kids to the library
- Tell them a quick summary of what you'll be doing
- I do the rules first, to get them out of the way. I tell the kids that knowing the rules will make their time in the library more enjoyable. How many rules I tell depends on the age of the kids. The rules that I include are the ones most often broken. Being quiet, no running and no food or drink are the ones I always include. I include the reason for each rule. I conclude this part by telling them how lucky they are that they now have an advantage over kids who don't know how to act and how much easier everything is when you know the rules.
- Next, I talk about what the library has to offer them. I mention any programs we are doing and have a pile of books, magazines, a CD and a DVD to hold up while I mention each item. For the books, I start with a book that will help with school assignments, then a book that they probably know, such as Amelia Bedelia for a grade 2 class, but the majority of books I introduce are ones that may not be in their school library such as magic tricks, how to draw, and books about pop culture movie stars and musicians. Depending on the age of the group, I let them know long the books can be taken out and other small tidbits.
- With a younger group, I tell them how to take care of a book at home, such as keeping it away from younger siblings and pets.
- I ask the class if they have any questions. The kids usually love this part, and are waving their arms in the air to tell me that they've been in the library before, repeat some of the things I've already said or actually ask a question. I ask the teacher if there is anything else they'd like me to talk about at this point.
- If there is time, this is when I read them a story. If the class is grade 4 or up, I do a few short booktalks.
- If the class is getting library cards, I do this next.
- I excuse the kids table by table to go to the shelves, find a couple of books they are interested in, and come back to their seats. First I show them the empty booktruck I've brought out and tell them not to put a book they don't want back where they found it but put it on the truck instead. I take a book off the shelf, flip through it and put it on the booktruck while I am explaining this.
- When every table has their books and are back in their seats, I do a quick summary of what we've done today.
- Next, I ask every child who is getting a new library card or who has brought their card to come stand in line so we can take the books out.
- As the kids take their books out, I give them each a bag with a small toy or eraser in it from our leftover summer reading prizes.
- I walk the class to the door, thank them for coming, tell them that I hope to see them again and try to say goodbye to each child on the way out. Then I wave goodbye to the group.
- Overall, I keep the whole experience very positive.