This month the BACC co-bloggers are sharing their thoughts about recruiting new school librarians to the profession. With many retirements on the horizon and some districts reinstating school librarian positions, there seems to be a dearth of qualified school librarians to fill vacant or soon-to-open positions.
Texas Flag at Veterans’ Memorial Park, Port Arthur, Texas
Recruitment to the school librarian profession is a hot and timely topic in Texas. I can share my perspective from the Lone Star State. Each spring since 2010 (I arrived in Texas in the fall of 2009) school librarians and district-level school library supervisors post job openings on the Texas Library Connection distribution list. Some of these positions are new openings and some are to fill vacancies that were left unfilled in the previous academic year.
Although I do not have hard data to back it up, I suspect that one reason for the shortage of qualified Texas school librarians (at least in this decade) was prompted by the 2011 cuts to school librarian positions and library programs across the state. In that year, a number of my advisees at Texas Woman’s University who were preparing to serve as school librarians changed their focus to children’s or teen services in public libraries. They were justifiably concerned that there would not be school librarian positions when they graduated from their Master’s degree programs.
In the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed by President Obama on December 10th, 2015, school librarians are included in the “essential personnel” category. This designation by the federal government should result in confidence on the part of library science school librarian graduate students and classroom teachers who pursue a career in school librarianship.
Today, for example, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has a bold advocacy campaign in progress in order to rebuild the district’s school library programs. According to a blog post by Dorcas Hand, co-chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians Legislative and Advocacy Committee, “20% of HISD libraries have no designated staff and another 26% have only a paraprofessional managing circulation. 22% have teachers standing in for librarians, leaving only 32% of HISD libraries staffed with certified personnel” (http://tasltalks.blogspot.com/2016/01/libraries-in-hisd-by-numbers.html).
HISD is actively seeking certification options for classroom teachers to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to serve as effective state-certified school librarians. How can HISD help classroom teachers see that school librarianship is an extension and expansion of the knowledge and skills they have honed as classroom teachers? (Texas certified school librarians are required to have classroom teaching certification, two years of successful classroom teaching plus 24-hours of graduate work in library science or a library science Master’s degree.) How can HISD convince these educators to invest in their own professional growth and pursue graduate-level course work in order to earn certification?
School librarians from across the state of Texas are joining with the HISD school librarians to promote the work, the values, and the potential impact of school librarians on student learning. You can view their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/studentsneedlibraries/
School librarianship needs classroom teachers who believe that:
1. Reading and writing literacy are the foundation for all learning;
2. Libraries, reading, and resources create opportunities for students and classroom teachers;
3. Every student deserves to have physical and intellectual access to ideas and information;
4. Proficient readers have more life choices, enjoy more satisfying lives, and will be able to participate more fully in society;
5. Using the technology tools of our times to motivate students, to help them learn, and to produce new knowledge is an essential instructional approach;
6. Every classroom teacher deserves an instructional partner (a school librarian) who can provide resources to enhance learning and serve as a coteacher to improve student learning outcomes;
7. They have knowledge and skills to share with their classroom teachers and specialists and position themselves as equal partners who are committed to lifelong learning with their colleagues;
How do we invite these classroom teachers into the profession? By telling the library story… To be continued on Thursday.
Bodden, Ray. “Texas Flag at Veterans’ Memorial Park, Port Arthur, Texas.” Digital Image. Flickr.com. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.
Hand, Dorcas. “Libraries in HISD – by the Numbers.” Blog Post. TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU. 30 Jan. 2016. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.