Town Talk: School-Public Library partnerships

Town Talk

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

New Ulm Public Library thrives on developing partnerships with other community stakeholders, and I’m excited about a new opportunity to collaborate with local schools.

Public Library Cards for All is a nationwide initiative to connect students with public library cards. Our regional library system, Traverse des Sioux Library Cooperative (TdS), is spearheading a potential pilot project, and the New Ulm Public Library Board has authorized me to discuss how we could be the public library that launches the program in this area.

What makes this unique is that public library technology and school technology would exchange data so that every student is issued a public library card. Teachers and school media specialists could use public library resources in their curriculum knowing that every student has access with their card. The public library would gain new users and help foster the concept of the public library as a lifelong learning center. In addition, I hope to develop even stronger relationships between public librarians and school faculty and staff. Our missions are complementary, after all. Also, keep in mind that Martin Luther College is part of the TdS system, and its staff and resources would become part of this collaboration.

Schools and public libraries across the country are launching this project. Three examples in Minnesota include St. Paul Public Library, whose program is called Library Go and provides free, virtual public library cards; it began with public school students, and it is expanding to charter and private schools in 2018. Hennepin County Libraries and Hopkins Public Schools have a similar program, and Duluth is implementing its program in 2018.

A lot of details will be in the hands of New Ulm Public Library, and we’ll consider whether our program would include physical and digital items, checkout periods, and fines. I’ve been told that there is no one best answer, which means we’ll assess what might work best in this community.

Currently, students (in fact, everyone) are eligible to receive a public library card by applying in person at the public library. Young adults under 16 years of age must have a parent or legal guardian with them when they apply. A photo ID and documentation of current address (such as a driver’s license or utility bill) is required.

As I told the Library Board, this will be a learning process, and there inevitably will be challenges. However, it’s a great opportunity to lead the way in developing creative, exceptional partnerships and expanding the role of New Ulm Public Library in the community.

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