A number of years ago, while attending an ALA Conference (remember – I’m a conference junkie), AASL gave us pins that read: “Ask Me How School Librarians Transform Learning.” If someone saw you wearing that pin and asked you that question, are you prepared to answer it? You never know when someone will challenge the need for school librarians and school libraries. You must be able to respond.
AASL produced a mini magazine entitled “School Librarians Transform Learning,” published by American Libraries. Although it came out several years ago, the content is still relevant and it’s available as a free download electronically or as a PDF. It contains six articles and an infographic, all of which will ensure you can effectively answer that challenging question.
As Barbara Stripling says in the opening article, “The vision of school librarians is to enable all students to become independent readers and learners.” She details five ways in which we do so.
- Fostering Independent Reading – Students learn how to read in the classroom. With a certified librarian and a school library, they learn to love reading. In other words, we transform readers into lifelong readers and learners.
- Teaching Critical Information Skills and Dispositions in Collaboration with Classroom Teachers – That’s a mouthful, but translated for the challenging questioner, it means we work with classroom assignments (and the teacher who gave it) to teach students to identify valid, relevant information, so they can create new knowledge. We also help students develop the attitudes that sustain them through the sometimes frustrating experiences of true research.
- Ensuring Equitable Access to Resources and Technology – The sixth Common Belief in AASL’s National School Library Standards states, “Information technologies must be appropriate, integrated, and equitably available.’ By curating websites and other resources that are aligned with the curriculum and then guiding students in how to use them effectively, librarians support students to develop powerful tools for learning.
- Creating a Safe and Nurturing Environment – This one is basic to us, but others are not always aware that learning can’t take place when students don’t feel safe. The library is can be a place in the school where some of students who deal with threats to their safety in school or have stress-filled home lives feel safe. We strive to make the library a haven for those who need it.
- Providing Schoolwide Instructional Leadership – As tech integrators, we bring the latest websites and apps to classroom teachers. We help them incorporate these tools into their teaching and work with them when they have their students use them.
The Infographic follows Stripling’s article and it’s worth reproducing and hanging in your library. Among the great facts it showcases are:
- Students equate research with Googling.
- Use search engines instead of more traditional sources.
- Lack the ability to judge the quality of online information.
The Infographic has many more such supportive facts.
Barbara Stripling also wrote the next article, “Reimagining Advocacy for School Libraries.” This is an extensive article and one with solid information on how to advocate for your library. Rather than go into details, I want to tempt you to read it by listing the headings.
- Clarifying the Characteristics of the Effective School Library
- Identifying Evidence of School Library Impact
- Crafting the Message
- Developing Partnerships and Delivering the Message
- Evaluating the Advocacy Impact
In a third article, Kay Wejrowski responds to the challenging question, “Do Kids Even Use the School Library Anymore?” This article grew out of Wejrowski being confronted by a couple at a charity fundraiser. You need to be ready with a solid response as she was.
Her answer includes how the library builds community spirit (transforming the education community) and is the center for tech skills. I love this line from her article: “It is our library that often serves as a think tank for evolving ideas and programs and finds solutions to local challenges.” I hope the parents who asked the question were amazed and impressed by what Wejrowski told them.
In another article Daniel Mauchley writes about “Creating Coalitions.” They brought in him after the school district tried to eliminate nearly all the librarian positions, forcing the librarians to advocate strongly for themselves. Mauchley writes about being able to work with teachers as an instructional partner despite having to move between two schools. Many of you are in a similar situation. You can’t show how school librarians transform learning unless teachers can see it for themselves. As District Librarian Shelly Ripplinger says, “Working with teachers and co-teaching is better for students. And doing what’s best for students, that’s what it really comes down to.”
The final article by Nancy Everhart and Marcia A. Mardis report on “Building Advocacy Before a Crisis” based on the Pennsylvania School Library Study. Their suggestions should add to your knowledge base of how to place your school library in the spotlight as the place where transformational learning happens.
Be prepared to answer the tough questions. Take the time to read the articles in this magazine and look at the Libraries Transform website. We must get the word out. Each one of us is responsible for ensuring that students, teachers, administrators, parents, and indeed the whole community is aware of the vital contribution school librarians and school libraries make on teaching and learning. If you haven’t done so as yet, use this magazine and your own knowledge to create a plan to bring this message to your stakeholders.