Promotional poster for the ALA 50th Anniversary

Even if your school is fortunate enough to include its own library, consider arranging to take your class on a field trip to your local neighborhood library. Even better, take your students to the main branch of a city library. Some students have never been to a grand town or city library. You will be giving them a gift that lasts a lifetime.

A library trip can be arranged simply to introduce your students to everything available to them there or to look for specific materials for a particular assignment that may not be available in your’s school’s library collection.

Before You Visit

Librarians are eager to share books and library services with young people, but you should call in advance so the librarian can prepare for your students and you can all make the most of your time during your visit. When you call the library, ask to speak with a staff member in the Youth Services department. Discuss your plans for an upcoming class visit and get advice on what you need to do to maximize the success of your visit. You may want to ask the following:

  • Will it be possible for your students to be given a guided tour of the building and various departments?
  • If a guided tour is possible, could the librarian include information about the different types of services the library offers (such as classes and museum passes) and the wide variety of items—beyond books!—that can be borrowed and taken home (such as DVDs, puzzles, games)? Your students may be thrilled to learn that many libraries now offer equipment such as 3-D printers and telescopes for patrons to use at home.
  • Will students who do not already have a library card be allowed time to sign up for one? If so, what information will the students need to provide?
  • Will a librarian have time to give a tour of the stacks and show them where to find different types of books, such as sports novels, mysteries, action books, historical novels, romance, science fiction, family stories, or other genres that your students may be interested in?
  • If your students will be checking out books regarding a particular topic or in a particular genre, you may want to ask if the librarian can have a selection of those books already out for your students to peruse.
  • Is there a room where you and your students can gather together? This may be important if all of your students do not have a library card and can only look at books in the library. You may also want to use time in this room for students to share books they have found with their classmates and for you to conduct a class discussion.

When you have confirmed a date with the library for your visit, be sure to attain guardian permission slips as mandated by your school and arrange for transportation if needed.

At the Library

Keep these recommendations in mind for managing your class visit to the library:

  • When you arrive, gather everyone at the designated entrance recommended for class groups. Make sure all students and chaperones are present. Find out where students can leave coats and backpacks. Make sure your students know the location of the restroom facilities. Make sure students know what to do if they become lost or separated from their group.
  • Explain to your students your plans for the visit so they know what to expect.
  • Remind students they need to listen to and respect the librarians and chaperones.
  • Make sure students know they can ask questions.
  • Encourage students to look through the stacks and find books as allowed, but be sure to show students how to use the card catalog system on the library’s computer to find specific titles if needed.