I believe a high-quality education is a human right, and literacy is the foundation for all learning. From my perspective, every student and educator in every school across the country and around the globe deserves to have a literacy learning leader in the person of a certified school librarian. However, lack of funding and misplaced priorities at the state-, district-, and school-site levels have resulted in fewer and fewer professional school librarians and a loss of equitable education for all.
Over the past decade, and in some cases longer, many state legislatures have chipped away at district public school funding. (For the unconscionable situation in my state, see the Arizona Center for Economic Progress’s 5/27/20 “K12 Budget Webinar.”) With ever-shrinking funds, school districts have been put in the position of making difficult choices and far too many times school librarian positions have been seen as “extras” and have been eliminated.
In addition, and as unfortunate, our local reliance on property tax-based funding for public schools undermines an equitable education for all. This perpetuates a system that results in “have” and “have not” districts. Districts with less tax revenue struggle to provide complete academic programs, including well-resourced, fully-staffed school libraries, up-to-date technology tools, art, music, and more.
Site-based hiring practices have also negatively impacted school librarian positions. Without leadership from district-level leaders, far too many site-level administrators fail to understand the value of having a professional educator guiding the literacy learning that takes place through the largest, most well-equipped classroom in the school—the school library. If cutting librarians is based on their poor job performance, then the appropriate response would be to put them on plans of improvement or replace them rather than depriving students, educators, and families of professional library services.
What Is a Librarian to Do?
The school closures of spring 2020 created an opportunity for school librarians to demonstrate to administrators, colleagues, and families their many contributions to student learning outcomes whether or not anyone had access to the physical space of the library.
It is in that context that I share indicators that demonstrate the roles effective school librarians fill in their learning communities as leaders, instructional partners, teachers, information specialists, and program administrators. In these five roles, they:
Culture of Learning
- Create a sense of belonging, ownership, and inclusion in the physical and virtual spaces of the library.
- Design a welcoming and universally accessible online library presence.
- Provide and advocate for equitable access to diverse resources representing all cultures/identities and divergent points of view in multiple genres and formats.
Library Advocacy & Support
- Collaborate with administrators to assess students’ and classroom teachers’ needs and develop and implement plans to address them.
- Communicate clearly and frequently with library stakeholders (students, other educators, administrators, families, and greater community) in order to share the impact of school library resources and the library program on student learning.
- Seek learning community support for library initiatives to improve student learning.
Instructional Partner and Teacher
- Reach out to teaching teams and attend face-to-face and virtual team meetings to support colleagues’ teaching goals.
- Reach out to classroom teachers and specialists to coplan and integrate the resources of the library into the classroom curriculum.
Integrated, Collaborative Teaching
- Coteach with other educators whether face to face or online to engage students in critical thinking, deep learning, and the ethical use of ideas and information.
- Co-assess student learning outcomes with other educators to improve instructional strategies and resources and ensure continuous improvement for students and educators.
Reading and Information Literacy Instruction
- Promote reading for information and for personal enjoyment.
- Coteach how to locate, find, analyze, and use information.
- Coteach making meaning from texts in all formats (reading comprehension).
Information Access and Delivery
- Reach out to colleagues to support educators’ and students’ use of digital devices and tools and electronic resources.
- Integrate the paper print and virtual resources of the library into the school’s face-to-face and remote academic learning program.
- Provide instruction to support students and educators in using electronic resources ethically and safely whether from home or from school.
- Provide online tutorials to support students and educators in using electronic resources effectively.
- Align the library vision, mission, and goals with those of the school and the district.
- Use library management software to generate reports and use data to improve library services.
In-School and Remote Collection Aligned to Curriculum, Classroom Teacher, and Student Needs
- Assess and develop the paper print and electronic library collection to meet the instructional needs of colleagues.
- Assess and develop the library collection to meet the academic and personal reading needs of students.
Funding & Budget Management
- Write grants and seek funding to provide students and other educators with resources, including technology devices and tools.
- Manage the library budget responsibly and help guide district-level purchases to meet the academic program and personal learning needs of students, educators, and families.
Serving as an effective school librarian is a complex job. It requires a passion for learning and literacy and a steadfast commitment to serve the entire learning community. There are exemplary librarians serving at this high level across the U.S. and around the globe. For two examples, see last week’s post School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 1.
If you are an effective school librarian or other educator, please share with me what I missed. If you are a school administrator or school librarian educator, consider how we can shore up the school librarian profession to ensure that all students, educators, and families have equitable, high-quality library services.
Wokandapix. “Equity Fairness Equitable Letters.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/photos/equity-fairness-equitable-letters-2355700/