One-Question Survey
So Many Ways to Collaborate!

This month's One-Question Survey revealed a lot about what we are doing in conjunction with our fine arts teachers. The question was "How do you collaborate with arts (visual, theater, music, etc.) teachers?" I'm encouraged by the fact that 63% of our respondents answered that they are collaborating at all levels, K–12.

The future ready librarian is an expert collaborator, who builds instructional partnerships with teachers ( One of our charges under the new AASL standards is the Shared Foundation to "Collaborate." This includes the key commitment to "work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals" (2018, pp. 84-85). The learner, school librarian, and school library domains and competencies within the standards spell out the multitude of ways to demonstrate collaboration through thinking, creating, sharing, and growing.

Collaborating with our fine arts teachers can be challenging for many of us. As a former arts teacher myself (elementary music) I feel like a special area/arts team member, but I can easily understand how it might feel awkward or difficult collaborating with other specialists. What I really appreciate about this month's survey is that we were given a multitude of ideas for further collaborations. Here are some of my favorites:


  • One librarian told us how the teachers at their school paired their work: "if we are studying World War II, the art teacher teaches about posters and propaganda, physical education teaches swing dancing, and music does songs from the period."
  • Another described an art show collaboration in which students researched charities and made artwork to sell, with proceeds donated to the charity of the students' choosing.
  • At another school, students researched animal adaptations after reading several Steve Jenkins texts. Students created a hybrid animal based on their research, then created a collage of their hybrid animal with the art teacher.

Middle School

  • Collaborate with teachers to create makerspace activities. For example, one librarian worked with the choir teacher and used their fifteen-foot Lego wall to put up musical notes that the students then had to sing.
  • You could also hold a mock Caldecott Award contest with advanced art students or host a t-shirt design contest.

High School

  • Attend band, choir, mariachi, folkloric, and musical performances throughout the year or support Music in Schools Month. One librarian told us that she writes press releases on contest winners and outstanding artists and submits them to the local media.
  • Try participating in art club activities or offer you student artists supplies from, as one librarian described it, "the weird collection of items I seem to accumulate."

Our fine arts teachers are often in the same boat as we are when it comes to having to prove their relevance as more than just "enrichment" in high-stakes testing environments. In examining the role libraries play in supporting the arts, I was reminded of a quote by President Barack Obama from a speech to the Class of 2009 of the New Economic School in Moscow.

You get to decide what comes next. You get to choose where change will take us, because the future does not belong to those who gather armies on a field of battle or bury missiles in the ground; the future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create. That is the source of power in this century. (Obama 2009)

In our collections, we have access to thousands of beautifully illustrated books, shelves of poetry, and biographies on great artists. You get to decide what comes next, school librarian. You get to choose where change will take you. Education and imagination are the source of power in this century. Be the expert collaborator on your campus and find a way to get your foot in the door with your arts teachers. Encouraging our young artists and helping ignite their creativity while educating them in the art of digital citizenship and digital literacy can be a powerful combination!

Works Cited

AASL. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. American Library Association, 2018.

Obama, Barack. "Text: Obama's Speech at the New Economic School." New York Times (July 7, 2009).

About the Author

James Allen is a teacher librarian and EDhub Director at Eminence Independent, a K–12 public school in Kentucky. He is an organizer and regular moderator of #KyLChat, which gives librarians across Kentucky a place to share and explore new ideas. He is also a co-founder of the #KyGoPlay movement, which is changing the way people think about libraries, makerspaces, and play in school. James is a Google for Education Certified Innovator. He is also a past president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians.

MLA Citation Allen, James. "So Many Ways to Collaborate!" School Library Connection, October 2018,

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Entry ID: 2173441

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