This week April 9th through 15th is National Library Week. This year’s theme is “Libraries Transform.” It is fitting that this public awareness week is embedded in School Library Month (April). The SLM#17 theme is: “Because school libraries empower students.”
There is a strong relationship between these two themes: empowerment and transformation.
What does empowerment mean? This is the second definition offered by Google in a quick search: “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.”
How then do school librarians empower students? School librarians empower students by helping them become engaged, effective and critical readers, avid inquirers, and motivated knowledge creators. Empowered students develop agency and become self-directed learners; they are prepared for lifelong learning.
In my experience, the way school librarians empower student learning is through classroom-library coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing outcomes. When school librarians bring their expertise to the collaboration table, they influence the curriculum, instructional strategies, and resources, including technology tools, available to students.
Through reciprocal mentorship with classroom teachers, school librarians influence other educators’ teaching, even when they are not coteaching with the librarian. They impact the learning of all students in their schools. This is the way empowered school librarian leaders best serve empowered students and colleagues.
In her chapter on staying visible and vital in Leading for School Librarians, Hilda K. Weisburg offers key ideas related to empowerment. I have selected a few of them here:
• When you empower someone, you help them feel more confident and sure of their abilities.
• Leaders need to empower their stakeholders.
• Through your teaching, readers’ advisory, and one-on-one help, you empower students.
• You empower teachers by helping them with technology and current educational practices.
• Keeping administrators aware of tech resources being integrated into instruction, and showcasing the work of teachers whose classes have used the library, empower administrator (134).
What does transform used as a verb mean? Google says it means: “make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.” In my experience, libraries lead by progressive librarians can transform entire communities. Through community-based librarianship, school, public, academic, and special libraries enter into partnerships to help people achieve their goals.
As David Lankes writes in his book Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World: “The mission of the library is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in the community” (33). He goes on to discuss the importance of the word “improve,” which along with “facilitate” implies proactive, collaborative, and transformational action (42-43).
Libraries led by progressive librarians collaborate to transform their communities.
Empowerment and Transformation
In the age of innovation, empowered educators and administrators have the potential to transform the school learning environment and the quality of students’ learning experiences. They also collaborate with a goal of transforming educators’ instructional practices. Through transformed practices, educators and administrators can cofacilitate learning opportunities that are authentic, relevant, and meaningful to students.
School librarians can serve as leaders who help develop the culture of collaboration in which empowerment and transformation can thrive. It is no accident that the title of American Association of School Librarians’ guidelines for school library programs is entitled Empowering Learners…
Empowered students, school librarians, and other educators can transform learning and teaching. That’s what I am celebrating this month.
Side note: On Tuesday, April 11th, the #txlchat topic is school library advocacy. James Allen, Suzanne Dix, Sara Kelly Johns, and Jane Lofton will be guests. The chat is held on Twitter at 8:00 p.m. Central time.
Lankes, R. David. Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2012.
Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.
Image credit: Remix image from Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am A Community Organizer,” 7 Sept. 2008, Flickr.com, https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493