Working at Alaska Native Cultural Charter School (ANCCS) has been one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever been through in library science. Not only have I had the opportunity to build a library and start information literacy classes for students, but I have gained the experience of being involved with a charter school.
Charter schools sit within a grey zone when it comes to the public vs private world of education. While they are publicly funded, these schools do not fall under the same rules and restrictions normal public schools do. Programming can be molded into the framework of the charter of the school. Strong philosophies can change the way a charter school not only operates but redefine how classrooms are designed, how lessons are delivered, and what the teacher-student relationship might be.
For a library, the charter school presents opportunities which may not be found elsewhere. For instance, in ANCCS I have been able to create a special collection of Alaskan Native materials. Some of these items are old and rare; they are never circulated but access is provided to students across the school district. Most public schools would never put money or effort into creating a special collection of this type since they serve a general population, and as can be heard, at least in the Anchorage School District, a school library is not an archive. But we need to remember the charter school is created for a specific type of community who might need very specific needs met.
The meeting of these needs starts by looking at a large spectrum of topics that touch a charter school or private school in general. These topics might cover specific psychological and social areas of interest for educators (think of a Waldorf or Montessori school). Furthermore a library might need to consider issues of space and design for their collection to meet the needs of the school.
This might mean creating more digital access points for students in the case of a technology focused charter school. As I have said about ANCCS,the definition and focus of our school allowed for the creation of a special collection that focused on Alaskan Native culture and voices.
Being in a charter school has also affected the ways we create access at ANCCS. Our school has been highly influenced by the transitory nature of the Native community. While students are present most of the year, we might have several students leave suddenly to go hunting, visit their villages, or live at fish camps. Within the culture these are all naturally occurring situations with nary a second thought given about the situation. To those outside the culture these are seen as interruptions to the normal flow of education and school activities.
If you are in a charter school library or an independent school library (think special homeschooling programs or even private schools) what topics or special points do you bring into the equation when developing your library? Is there something you have had to consider that many of your counterparts in public schools or traditional school environments might not commonly take into consideration?