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Local PBS Stations Help Libraries Plan for the Year Ahead

by Jennifer A. English, Senior Director, Strategy & Partnerships for Children's Media and Education at PBS on July 26, 2021

WQED/Pittsburgh’s Inquire Within Network offers a model for collaboration between public libraries and public television stations. Libraries should ask their local public television stations these questions and get resources to kick-start, reimagine, or build upon community-responsive programming.

“I can’t tell you how great it has been to work with WQED on Inquire Within. What a gift it was to receive your phone call saying we could be a part of this excellent program! I was so burned out but being a part of Inquire Within has been revitalizing and refreshing and FUN! It’s an honor to be part of such a wonderful partnership.” Karen, Children’s Librarian, Adams Memorial Library, Westmoreland County, PA

The end of summer is a time of transition in communities around the country. Students return to classrooms, and organizations large and small shift from summer to autumn programs and services. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, PBS member station WQED/Pittsburgh has a network of over three dozen Inquire Within partner libraries, spanning ten counties. They use this time to evaluate their partnerships and reset for the year to come.

Inquire Within is an impactful out-of-school time program which is designed to encourage family engagement and a love of learning through hands-on, family-centered activities. Libraries participating in Inquire Within will have a PBS-themed program that supports 21st century learners by building a community that leads and sustains a new approach to educational media. Young learners will gain STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and early literacy skills. Collaborating libraries choose from a menu of science and math-based children’s resources from PBS KIDS.

To serve its diverse network, WQED works with individual librarians to assess their unique needs and determine the ways in which public television resources can help them meet specific programming and community engagement objectives. While the station ensures that all the libraries in their network are aware of and can take advantage of the station’s programming and content priorities through regular communications and network meetups, the objective of the partnerships and network is to help each library meet their own objectives by tapping the best that public television has to offer.

Public libraries across the country can benefit from partnering with local public television stations to explore available resources that meet local needs. To help you build your partnership with your local public television station, Liz Kostandinu, Manager of the Inquire Within network, recommends you ask three questions of your PBS member station partners.

  • How can you help me? Although your local partners may lead with news about their priority content and resources, public television has thousands of free, high-quality media and educational resources available through your local station and platforms like PBS LearningMedia and PBS KIDS for Parents which can help you build out your library’s programming. Discussion guides, media clips, program screeners, curriculum, lesson plans, and event resources can all be tapped, free of charge, to help you kick-start, reimagine, or build upon community-responsive programming. Make sure your local station contacts know your priorities and timelines so they can connect you with the content and resources that are most relevant to your needs.
  • Who can you connect me with? According to Liz, one of the key benefits of participation in the Inquire Within network is the opportunity for librarians to tap the expertise of colleagues in systems across the region. With participating libraries in ten counties, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience to be shared through the WQED network. Beyond librarians in your region, your public television partners are likely to have connections with an array of institutional partners who may be able to offer you insights, ideas, content, expertise, and resources. When you talk to your local PBS partners, ask about connections, and offer to share your knowledge and resources.
  • What are you most excited about? Find out what’s coming from your public television partners and what they think is most compelling. From local productions to national landmark series, PBS member stations are constantly creating and distributing award-winning content that might ignite interest, conversation, and action in your local communities. Your public television partners can let you know what they have on tap that is already stimulating interest and conversation in your community.

You can learn more about WQED’s Inquire Within initiative here, and contact PBS to find out how to connect with your local PBS member station.

About the Author

Jennifer A. English is Senior Director, Strategy & Partnerships for Children’s Media and Education at PBS. She is responsible for PBS KIDS’ national partnership development and leads strategic initiatives designed to build PBS’s organizational capacity and impact in early learning and education.

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