Today we feature Holly Fuhrman, school librarian at Shiloh Middle School in Maryland, who talks with us about a very cool close partnership between Carroll County Public Schools and Carroll County Public Library. One project out of that partnership is a new Makerspace Monday program, which launched this year. ~Laura

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): Can you give us a brief rundown of what a typical Makerspace Monday looks like? What would a new program attendee experience?

Holly Fuhrman (HF): When students arrive, we gather them together and give them a visual tour of the space and what activities are offered that day.  We try to keep the station group numbers to three or four students at a time, so that every child gets the most out of each activity.  Two public library employees are on hand to assist me and my media clerk for the duration of the event.  The public library provides a couple of our station options, so often they give a “tutorial” or some type of instruction to help the kids get started.  Between the four of us, we circulate to each station, we sit down with the kids and have them show us what they’re doing and discuss their thinking and design.  

LAIP: This program is a partnership between Shiloh Middle School and Carroll County Public Library; can you give us an overview of how that partnership originated and how responsibilities for the program are split up/shared?

HF: Dorothy Stoltz, Programming and Outreach Services Manager at CCPL, recalls, “In 2005, administrative and front line staff from CCPS and CCPL met at library headquarters to listen to Howard County library and school staff describe their newly created Education A++ school/library partnership.  Although Carroll libraries and schools collaborated since the 1960s in many ways, for example, with summer reading programs, it was deemed time to formalize the collaboration calling it The Learning Advantage Partnership or LAP. At the heart of the LAP is the energy, dedication, and inspirational work between library branch and each school.  The outstanding activities and impressive creativity at the local level is the driving force behind the collaboration.”

LAIP: How do you think the program has benefitted from having a school/public library partnership? What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in having multiple institutions involved?

HF: Having a partnership with the Carroll County Public Library has been a tremendous benefit to all of the schools in Carroll County.  From the Makerspace perspective, they have tools and programs that we just don’t have the funds to provide at our individual schools.  The CCPL offers a variety of programs at the branches on weekends and in the evenings, but some of our students don’t have a way to get there or activities and sports make it hard for them to attend.  By partnering with the public library, they can bring those tools here for students to experience without ever leaving school.  And certainly, if the kids are engaged in and motivated by what they do here at school, they are more likely to register for and attend those programs at the public library.  It’s a win-win for us and for them.

I personally have not found the partnership to be challenging at all.  In Carroll County, we have partnered with the Carroll County Public Library on several endeavors in the past ten years.  Battle of the Books began six years ago and we have also partnered with them on the S.C.O.R.E. Challenge in recent years in the North Carroll region.  The support and publicity we have gotten from the Carroll County Public Library for these events has been an integral part of their success.  

LAIP: Any words of advice for public OR school librarians looking to start a similar program/partnership?

HF: Public librarians and school librarians truly are cut from the same mold.  We love working with people.  We enjoy learning by doing.  We thrive on sharing ideas and collaborating.  We want to expose our patrons to information and technology. Librarians are a group of people who are experts in so many different things.  We are creative, innovative, and dedicated to making your library experience meaningful and exciting.  The individuals I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the last fourteen years have encouraged and inspired me to take the leap and get involved in some really terrific initiatives.  

Make the connection.  You won’t regret it.

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