Guest post by Afterschool Alliance staff

All across America, afterschool programs love their libraries! According to a 2017 study of more than 350 afterschool programs, nearly three-quarters reported that they were working with their local public library in diverse ways, from literacy initiatives to book lending programs and STEM activities.

Those informal learning relationships deserve to be featured, and that’s why “Library Partnerships” is a theme of this year’s Lights On Afterschool—the only nationwide celebration of afterschool programs, annually featuring more than 8K events and 1M participants across the country.

If you’re not already in partnership with an afterschool program, it can be difficult to imagine the full spectrum of benefits that close collaboration can produce. But just as libraries aren’t just places for books and study, afterschool isn’t exclusively about childcare.

For instance, the Ignacio Community Library in Colorado used a STAR Net curriculum to create a pop-up science museum for students and parents in the area. The success of the exhibit hinged on reaching out to local community-based organizations, including afterschool programs, to get their input about the needs of their students and foster collaboration.

According to Lucas Gass, Systems Librarian and Technology Coordinator for the project, one of the keys to the success of the Explore Space exhibit was reaching out to local community-based organizations and afterschool programs, saying in an interview, “We reached out as soon as we knew we had the grant, and we reached out to a few [programs] before we got the grant to make sure they would want to do programming with us.”

Reach out to your local afterschool program to see how you can get involved in their Lights On Afterschool event or consider hosting your own! Here are a few possibilities for libraries to join the celebration:

  • Reach out and offer to serve as the location of the event, as libraries often serve as valuable community meeting places
  • Encourage librarians to promote and attend the local events, which also double as a great PR opportunity for the library
  • Library staff can offer to read to the students or work an in-event library card sign-up booth

There are many different ways to get involved in this year’s Lights On Afterschool—reach out today to join the party!