Tony MarxFew sights bring me as much joy as that of an elementary school class field trip poring through the treasures in the Map Room at the Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Teachers always try to keep their students hushed, but the excitement of coming face-to-face with historical documents they’ve only read about it in textbooks often proves too much for these students to enjoy at the level of an appropriate inside voice.
Libraries everywhere have always enjoyed a special relationship with their local schools, offering books and resources that school budgets can’t accommodate. With the nationwide implementation of the new and rigorous Common Core State Standards, it is time for our libraries to look for new ways to strengthen our partnership with schools. With some collaboration and creative problem solving, we can all better serve student and teacher needs.
A prominent feature of the Common Core is the extensive integration of non-fiction texts and documents into everyday curricula. Right now, according to a study by the New York City Department of Education, it takes teachers 10+ hours to locate 5 of these documents appropriate for their subjects—and then they still have to write the lesson plans. This means that teachers need better and faster access to more resources to meet the challenges of the Common Core.
The New York Public Library offers some of the best collections in the world. Our endless repository of historical documents, newspapers, photographs, letters, maps, databases and other treasures provides an excellent source that can bring a classroom to life. For the majority of the NYPL’s more than one hundred year history, teachers had to physically travel to the library and sort through a card catalog for hours to search these kinds of documents, and they could never bring the text into their classrooms. Today, however, many of these resources are digitized online, and a simple keyword search will return thousands of hits in the blink of an eye.
We are now striving to help teachers whittle down our offerings to the most engaging materials mapped to the Common Core’s targeted skill sets. This summer, NYPL is launching an innovative program for NYC's master teachers to revolutionize their daily practice through the integration of non-fiction texts in accordance with these new Common Core guidelines. Over a three-week period, we will observe teachers taking advantage of our world-class collections and curatorial expertise. And in the following months, we will consider how to bring those unique assets to every classroom through a variety of resource linkages and online tools.