What are your core values as a school librarian? As a person? Your answers affect the decisions you make and how you interact with others. Living by your values makes you trustworthy, which is essential in building relationships. It makes you a leader people can count on.
As school librarians, we embrace the six Common Beliefs of the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018 p. 11-16). These are, in essence, core values. What do they mean to you as you go about your day and build your program?
- The school library is a unique and essential part of a learning community – You undoubtedly believe it, but are students, teachers, administrators, and parents aware of how this is true? Be mindful of what makes you unique and look for ways to demonstrate it. Make certain they see how the library contributes to the learning community?
- Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries – How effective are you? What are you doing to increase your effectiveness – and making your stakeholders conscious of it? One way to assess the effectiveness of your library is to download the School Library Evaluation Checklists. The checklists give the competencies for school librarians for each of the six Shared Foundations (Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, Engage). Where can you increase the presence of these standards into the learning experiences you bring to learners and in your daily practice?
- Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life – How are you improving “all learners opportunities for success?” This means recognizing that learners are different. They bring different strengths and weaknesses, different backgrounds and perspectives, as well as different goals and challenges. You work to ensure that your collection, digital and print respond to these individual needs. Make certain you also reach out to students to guide them to the resources that meet these needs.
- Reading is the core of personal and academic competencies – Libraries are always about reading. The printed page is still fundamental, but e-books and audio books should not be minimized. Students learn and experience stories and information differently. All formats should be included – and in the days of COVID, e-books have become more important. As librarians we ensure that our collections speak to our diverse student body. We go beyond the five “F’s” (festivals, food, fashion, folklore, and famous people) to books about life in general written by people who live it. Students need to see themselves in the collection – and to see normal life of other people. That builds understanding and tolerance as well as seeing that they are accepted for who they are.
- Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right – This is a challenging area. School librarians must deccide whether this is a truly a core value for them and what it means in practice. The Top 100 Most Challenged and Banned Books of the Past Decade show an inordinate number relate to LGBTQ+. We know those students need to see themselves in books but are you prepared to live the consequences if your library is in an area where this is topic is difficult to present? The choice is always yours, but you should be honest with yourself about it.
- Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available – Much of this is out of your control, but it is important to advocate for it. In exposing the enormity of the digital divide, COVID has brought the inequities into the spotlight. Access to computers and internet is not equitable. This is your time to be among the leaders who are changing the environment. How accessible are your resources 24/7? What is needed to change that? Can you apply for grants or other help to get the support your students need? Don’t forget to work on ensuring that your information technologies are accessible to disabled students.
The above may not be a complete list of the core values you hold as a librarian. For me, creating a safe, welcoming environment for all is first on my list. I want students to think the library is the best place in the school no matter what grade they are in, and I want teachers to feel the same. If this is true for you, look for ways to lure teachers in and make them comfortable.
My personal code of values includes keeping my word, and this influenced me as a librarian. If I say something, I mean it. I also believe in being helpful to all. I work at listening carefully and letting people (students, teachers, and administrators) see where they are doing a great job.
When you live by your values, when they define you, then people know who you are and what they can expect, no matter the context. If you’re not sure what yours are, look at your priorities and commitments – then look at the reason beneath them. That’s where you’ll find what you value. Once you know your code of values, you can use it help you make decisions which support your library.