A School-Public Library Partnership Creates Boundless Potential | Editorial

The collaboration between Hartford (CT) Public Schools and the Hartford Public LIbrary boosts access to learning.

Partnership is a crucial tool for achieving all kinds of goals, but it can be hard to see fully realized. Look no further than the ­burgeoning collaboration under way in Hartford, CT, where the school district and the public library are hitting their stride in their work together in service of the people of that city.

"Boundless," the aptly named multifaceted ­approach to mutual goals, was among the many partnerships discussed at last month’s Achieving Together event, hosted by Library Journal and School Library Journal and held at the Indianapolis Public Library (see more photos here). Underpinning the conversation was the concept of partnership as a continuum of possible applications, ranging from individual instigators reaching across a divide to get something done to integration at the strategic development level, enabled by formal agreements and diligent follow through and creativity on resource sharing and more.

Two Hartford leaders delivered insight into their effective partnership, which has evolved from a 2015 agreement to share resources. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, superintendent of Hartford Public Schools (pictured right), and Bridget Quinn-Carey, CEO, Hartford Public Library (left), showed us what can be accomplished in relatively short order, to the benefit of all.

To enable more seamless sharing, Boundless ­Universal Cards use student IDs to ensure that each child has access to materials. Afterschool and ­summer programming are among the mix of publicly offered services. Each school in Hartford is paired with a public library partner to foster connections. Branch librarians visit schools and coordinate public library visits, while working with the media specialist where one is in place. And, the project has its own voice at boundlesshartford.org.

Boundless Library at Sarah J. Rawson Elementary School leaps along the continuum to provide service in a school, functioning as both a school library and a public library. In the wake of recent branch closures, library leadership had devised the program to maintain service to the affected communities.

Now, Rawson is home to a pilot library branch, open to the public during critical afterschool hours (3–6 pm, Tuesday through Thursday). And students have a school library available to them five days a week (11 am–6 pm). The public library brought on a full-time library media specialist and a part-time assistant to ensure strong service to the school.

With a full evaluation under way, initial outcomes are looking good, noted Quinn-Carey, pointing to strong reading level improvement for Rawson fifth graders since the location soft launched in 2018. Overall, the Boundless initiative has lifted awareness of ­library ­resources and supported the school’s goals.

This successful partnership, needless to say, has many moving parts, and numerous individuals make it hum. But at its head and heart are two civic leaders invested in achieving goals toward a mutual vision, attending with focused intent to its success and sustainability. That’s a model to watch.


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