BKLYN Library Teacher Lab

Submitted by Amy Mikel, Coordinator of School Outreach, Brooklyn Public Library

With almost 850 enrollees and counting, Brooklyn Public Library’s online library & research skills course is connecting with K-12 educators throughout NYS and beyond.


Librarians spend a lot of time and energy trying to connect their services to schools. It’s not easy! At Brooklyn Public Library, our School Outreach team -- three full-time librarians and a Coordinator -- exclusively focuses on building stronger, mutually beneficial relationships with K-12 schools at every level.

We take a big picture approach to school outreach, meaning we try to get the whole community (students, families, teachers and staff) on the same page about the value of the library. And in Brooklyn, we concentrate on connecting with one school audience in particular: teachers.

For librarians, teachers can be an elusive and intimidating audience. Teachers are busy, stressed and overworked … but their opinions about the library have such an influential reach within a school building. It’s critically important that teachers know what’s available to them at the library, how to access and use those services, and what librarians (both school and public) can do for them.

The Teacher Lab online course, launched in July 2017, is Brooklyn Public Library’s effort to share library resources with as many teachers as possible. The Teacher Lab is billed as an “information literacy and research skills course” and promises to help K-12 educators feel better equipped to find teaching and learning texts and media for their classroom.

The course introduces fundamental library skills, like navigating the collection and using the online catalog, and builds to more advanced topics like finding primary sources in an archive, working with databases, using Google and Wikipedia as research tools, writing citations, and evaluating resources ranging from journal articles to tweets. Educators also learn to make an annotated bibliography, which they must build for their final assignment to earn a passing grade in the course. (To see the topic bibliographies that Teacher Lab graduates have produced for their final assignment, click here).

The Teacher Lab is self-paced, free to enroll, entirely online, and takes roughly 12 hours to complete (although enrollees can “sample” any course content they like without commitment!) Brooklyn Public Library is a certified sponsor of Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) credit in New York State, and so course graduates can earn 12 hours of CTLE credit towards their 100 hour requirement. Since July, almost 100 educators (teachers and school librarians) have graduated from the course, earning NYS-certified professional development credit.

Short lectures model use of Library resources. Click here to enlarge video.

Word of mouth contributes to new educators joining the course on a daily basis, with nearly 850 enrolled to-date; and thanks to a recent School Library Journal article, teachers and librarians have joined from Michigan, Texas, Montana, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Virginia. The course is designed to be generally applicable to any public library and school district, so educators from out-of-state can find value in the content; and if state requirements apply, earn professional development credit for their coursework, too.

The growing interest in the online course simply confirmed what I noticed when I started teaching a version of the Teacher Lab at the Library in August 2014: so many teachers desperately need help guiding their students (and themselves) through our rapidly expanding world of information. Teachers are amazed at all the resources available to them at the library and beyond, and feel a sense of relief learning they have a classroom partner (whether school or public librarian) to teach students the information literacy skills they need to succeed.

School librarians often enroll in the course, too, looking for new ways to turnkey these essential skills to their students and teachers. The best way to support a school is by having a school and public librarian working together, and I hope that by building awareness of the absolute necessity of librarians (now so more than ever!), the Teacher Lab course can contribute to the goal of having a certified librarian in every school building in the state.

Brooklyn Public Library has jumped at the opportunity to connect with teachers by offering many more certified professional learning programs for the K-12 audience (just search our calendar for “CTLE”). Our Brooklyn Connections team, the school education arm of the Brooklyn Collection archive, offers history workshops over the summer and throughout the school year. In 2018, the Library is launching its Early Childhood Educator Series: six free workshops on topics like talking about racism with young children, gender expression, and more. And every summer, the School Outreach team hosts a weeklong series of professional development workshops for teachers - stay tuned for information about the 2018 August series!


Photo Credit to Gregg Richards