For all the teachers in Baltimore County who go to the public library after school hours to help them prepare for future lessons—searching the catalog, tracking down books, requesting materials—the Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) is introducing a new system.
“They come in, pick up a crate, and go,” says Melissa Gotsch, manager of the BCPL Catonsville branch.
Gotsch (which rhymes with “coach”) is leading the implementation of a new program this school year that will allow the county’s teachers to fill out an online form indicating an educational topic they’re planning to teach, a grade and reading level, and the number of items they need. Two weeks later, they can pick up a collection of materials hand-picked by a librarian and ready to go at their local library. The contents, packed into a sturdy plastic milk crate for easy transport, may include nonfiction, fiction, and picture books, as well as audio or video materials from any of the county’s 19 library branches. Teachers can request up to 30 books/audio materials and five videos at a time.
To participate in the program, educators need to have a BCPL teacher loan card, which they can use to check out materials for six weeks without having to renew them and without having to pay fines for any overdue items. The cards are available to all public and private school teachers, day care staff, and home-schooling parents in Baltimore County and must be renewed annually starting Aug. 1 of each year. (Without renewal, they expire on Aug. 31.)
While the teacher loan cards have been available for many years, the library system and Baltimore County Public Schools began more active promotion of their use last year through a new partnership called SAIL (Students Achieve in Libraries). The new venture to gather materials for teachers on request “is taking that one step further,” making it more convenient, says Linda Frederick, BCPL’s marketing and development manager. Teachers “are in a busy, hurried world. This takes some of the stress off them.”
Frederick says the library will spread the word about the new program at the school system’s new teacher orientation program, through county media specialists, and via the Maryland Field Trip and Teachers’ Guide, an online resource produced by Baltimore’s Child, among other outlets.
Gotsch, who has worked for BCPL for eight years and been branch manager at Catonsville for three, says she witnessed the benefits of a teacher request program firsthand in her previous work as a librarian at the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio. She brought up the idea with her fellow branch managers earlier this year. They were receptive, she says, and already prepared.
After all, “we [already] do a version of this with every customer,” says Gotsch, noting that librarians are trained to help people find materials on any topic they need.
In addition to the convenience the program provides, adds Gotsch, teachers who request materials through the new system will benefit from the librarians’ expertise. The county’s librarians have a broad knowledge of what would be most useful to them for a unit on oceans, a lesson for Black History Month, or a plan to teach a classic novel, to name just a few examples. Library staff are also familiar with new materials that arrive.
One important step in ensuring the new program runs smoothly, emphasizes Gotsch, will be making sure teachers know to ask for the materials at least two weeks in advance. “As long as they send it to us with that window, we can make something magical happen,” she says.
Teachers can get more information on the new request program by contacting their local BCPL branch. The library system already has a range of resources for teachers online, at www.bcpl.info/kids-teens-parents-teachers/teacher-features. BC