School Library Advisory Committees: The Key = 4 Cs

key2What are the keys to an effective school library advisory committee? I propose these: Communication-Connection-Commitment-Collaboration.

Communication:
If classroom teachers have not had positive input into school library collection decision-making, then they may refer to the library collection as the property of the librarian. When a classroom teacher tells students to be careful with “Ms. Jones’s books” (the librarian’s books), the wise school librarian will make it clear that the library collection belongs to all of the library stakeholders: students, teachers, administrators, and families.

Once collective ownership is established, the librarian can invite classroom teacher colleagues to join the school library advisory committee in order to participate in decision-making regarding library purchases and initiatives, such as grant writing and literacy events.

Connection:
The wise school librarian will ensure that the resources of the library are aligned with the curricular needs of classroom teachers and students. While the Common Core State Standards may make this a library goal in many states, the school library has always been charged with providing resources and technology tools to support teaching and learning the required curriculum.

Commitment:
In most schools, the school library advisory committee will meet during before or after school hours. It will be important for the school librarian to honor the extra commitment it will take for classroom teachers to participate in developing the library collection as a shared resource for the school community. Likewise, the school librarian’s commitment to shared decision-making must be genuine and clear to all advisory committee members.

Collaboration:
One of the most outstanding benefits of a library advisory committee is increased collaborative teaching between classroom teachers and school librarians. When advisory committee members have shared responsibility for selecting resources, they will have a shared commitment to using those resources for standards-based instruction. While classroom-library collaboration ensures that valuable resources will be integrated into instruction, it can also improve educators’ teaching and students’ learning.

School library advisory committees that achieve the four keys, communication-connection-commitment-collaboration = win-win-win-win for all library stakeholders.

Word cloud created at Tagxedo.com

 

School Libraries – Reinvented?

shooting_starThe BACC bloggers are experimenting with exploring a shared topic each month. We will share various perspectives and points of view.

This month we are looking at school libraries as compared with classroom libraries and book rooms and the impact of leveled reading on library resources. Overarching question: If a school librarian’s goal is to strengthen her/his relationships with classroom-bound teachers, what roles might the library collection play in supporting teachers’ teaching and students’ learning?

While I was pleased that the eSchool News noted their #1 Top Story of 2014 was “Libraries, reinvented,” I must take exception with the reasons they cited in this article. According to eSchool News: “With libraries serving as many schools’ central hubs, it’s only natural that they would intersect with many of the other top trends on our list—by setting up maker spaces, letting students explore coding, and helping to increase student access to the internet after school hours.”

Providing students with “trending extras” such as makerspace and coding opportunities does not capture the most meaningful contributions school libraries make to learning and teaching. These two examples should not be restricted to the library environment and would be most effective if integrated into a total-school program. School libraries that are open for after school hours have always provided students with access to whatever resources they need; this is not new and should not be news.

In my opinion, school libraries first and foremost contribute resources and the expertise of the school librarian (not necessarily in that order). While library resources and school librarians’ skills have changed, these contributions have been consistent — at least for the quarter of a century I have been involved in school librarianship.

According to literacy educator Frank Serafini, at least 100 books per child should be the goal for a well-stocked classroom library and recommends that classroom libraries contain 2,500 – 3,000 books in all genres and at all reading levels (37). While I applaud classroom teachers that write grants, raise funds, and use their own financial resources to provide students with classroom libraries, my experience tells me that a classroom collection cannot compare with a well-developed and managed library collection.

A school librarian who aligns the library collection with the curriculum and provides independent reading selections for students can provide a wider selection of books and resources in all genres and more support for readers at all reading levels. Involving classroom teachers in reviewing, recommending, and purchasing resources for the library is one way for the school librarian to strengthen her/his relationships with classroom teachers. This can be done formally with a Library Advisory Committee or informally with individual teachers and grade-level teams.

Reference

Serafini, Frank. Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days: A Month-by-Month Guide to Effective Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006.

Word cloud created at Tagxedo.com

OER for Resource Access

This month as we have been focusing on how school librarians can provide equitable access for all students despite financial challenges many school libraries are experiencing. My fellow bloggers have discussed human resource sharing, partnering with nonprofit organizations, and sharing with non-school libraries.

http://wikieducator.org/OER_Handbook

http://wikieducator.org/OER_Handbook

When I think about providing resources for students I immediately think about how many great free resources are out there. Recently there is a good bit of buzz in the school library world about OER: Open Educational Resources, which are “are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. Although some people consider the use of an open file format to be an essential characteristic of OER, this is not a universally acknowledged requirement” (“Open Educational Resources”, n.d.).

Just last month the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSO) reported on their survey that examined the state of Open Educational Resources in K-12. They found that:

  • Twenty states are currently planning OER initiatives.
  • Sixty percent of SEA respondents recognize the value of OER in school districts in their state and are promoting OER as either a supplement and/or replacement for traditional instructional materials.
  • States with existing OER programs are utilizing a variety of online methods to develop, curate, and access OER materials and integrate them within school programs. (p. 4)

They are also launching the K-12 OER Collaborative and are currently asking for people to participate.

OER provide benefits to teachers by providing them with cost-effective materials that are available for sharing, accessing and collaborating for personalized learning (Bliss & Patrick, 2013). There are lots of resources out there to get you going using OER in your school library:

OER definitely has the promise to assist in our efforts as we strive to provide resources to our students and teachers!

 

References

Bliss, T. & Patrick, S. (2013). OER state policy in K-12 education: Benefits, strategies, and recommendations for open access, open sharing. International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Retrieved from http://www.inacol.org/cms/wp-content/ uploads/2013/06/inacol_OER_Policy_Guide_v5_web.pdf

Council of Chief State School Officers. (2014).Open Educational Resources in K-12. Retrieved from http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Digital_Resources/ State_of_the_States_Open_Educational_Resources_in_K-12_Education.html

“Open Educational Resources.” (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_educational_resources

Resource Sharing for Manpower

Hello everyone! Before delving into my first blog post, I would like to thank Judi Moreillon, Melissa Johnston and Judy Kaplan for inviting me to be a part of “Building a Culture of Collaboration”. I have followed this blog and shared it with students and future school librarians for quite some time now, and I am honored to be a part of this project.

I first became a school librarian (without a library clerk) at a middle school located in a large urban district. Due to the district’s size and centralized format, our students benefited from a giant inter-library loan system, plenty of connections with the city public library system, and nearby universities. Consequently, I did not think about resource sharing in terms of books or materials. I thought of it in terms of manpower. How could one person implement all of the instructional partnerships, programs, and academic support systems that I dreamed of implementing? Resources and experiences I knew our students, many of whom were economically disadvantaged, desperately needed? I quickly realized that HUMAN “resource sharing” had to become a part of my library program in big way. Over the years, my library program shared HUMAN resources with neighborhood churches that adopted our school (helping to shelve and check out books); Paws Across Texas – a wonderful organization that brought in therapy dogs and volunteers to help struggling readers on a weekly basis, and local businesses that provided incentives and rewards (many times at no cost) for student reading achievement. These folks helped extend my time and ability to focus on collaborating with teachers for student achievement.

Years later, I moved to a middle school in a small, rural town. HUMAN resource-sharing became more important than ever! There I partnered with the local radio station that broadcast a show from the school library helping to boost family attendance at library literacy nights. The local newspaper regularly agreed to run short notices on the new books and materials we received to help promote the school library’s resources. There is no doubt in my mind that HUMAN “resource sharing” significantly amplified my ability to provide a stronger school library program, and consequently, a higher level of collaboration with teachers, students and parents. My program developed a reputation for being able to network with “out-of-the-box” resources. A science teacher and I connected with a northern university to study the phases of the moon. A language arts teacher and I established a partnership with a Native American reservation that resulted in several years of cultural exchange and rich book study experiences for her 6th graders.

Now, there are even more opportunities for HUMAN resource sharing! Science museums with educational outreach programs, virtual project based learning communities that can connect your students with real-world, authentic issues, after school coding clubs, even a thriving HUMAN resource sharing example spearheaded by the mayor of Nashville! The possibilities for HUMAN resource sharing are mind-boggling (and extremely exciting). When thinking about ways to HUMAN resource share, consider how you can enrich the partnerships you are fostering with classroom teachers. What HUMAN resource can you connect them to? Can you Skype in an expert? Can you involve a community member such as a medical professional or local business owner as a part of your guided inquiry team? Are there untapped HUMAN resources in your area that could provide an authentic audience for student projects? I encourage you to consider HUMAN resource sharing as a way to enrich your school library program, expand the expertise and resources you can offer teachers when collaborating, and maximize your impact on student learning.

Works Cited

Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided inquiry: School libraries in the 21st century. School Libraries Worldwide16(1), 17-28.

Resource Sharing with Non-profit Agencies

icon_teamAssets-based community development is a way of thinking about how libraries can embed their work within their community rather than waiting for the community to walk through their doors. School librarians who consistently reach outside the walls of the library to integrate resources found in the community can increase the real-world relevance of their cotaught lessons. They can go the extra step to build collaborative partnerships that take the literacy learning expertise of the school librarian and resources of the school library program out into the community.

Situating their inquiry in the real world of their community can increase students’ motivation and help ensure that the questions they ask are authentic, real-world questions. This can also help learners identify a target audience that will actually care about their findings. Engaging in this level of “professional” work may be most important for high school students who are considering their workforce and educational options after graduation.

With ubiquitous Web-based information, students (most?) often search for non-print resources when conducting inquiry projects. Non-profit and governmental agencies that publish online information can be a rich source of data for students, particularly secondary students who seek to learn more about their communities as they pursue topics of personal interest. School librarians can assist students and teachers by connecting them with resources in the community with which they are unfamiliar.

For example, in a course in human geography, high school students may be asked to explore various aspects of their community. Non-profit agencies such as chapters of the United Way regularly gather data on demographics, income levels and economic opportunities, education attainment, physical and mental health, and other aspects of their immediate community. School librarians can create pathfinders to support students’ learning as they learn more about the community in which their inquiry questions are situated.

Here is a sample pathfinder I created for the Denton (Texas) Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning project: http://tinyurl.com/di4ll-9-resources. It includes links to data from the Denton Chapter of the United Way as well as “Engage Denton,” an online community forum, and nationwide resources that collect data on U.S. communities.

Depending on students’ inquiry questions, all types of community agencies may be able to provide information. A school librarian who has connections in the community may help individual or small groups of students connect to experts and data that may not otherwise be known or available to them. In the process, community agencies learn more about the learning in which students are engaged. This knowledge can lead to stronger connections, collaborative projects, and can also build school library advocates.

As David Lankes argues, “it is time for a new librarianship, one centered on learning and knowledge, not on books and materials, where the community is the collection, and we spend much more time in connection development instead of collection development” (9). Bringing the resources of the community into students’ learning and students’ learning into the community are places to begin “connection development.”

Works Cited

Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning. Sept. 2012. Wikispaces. Web. 04 Dec. 2014 <http://dentoninquiry4lifelonglearning.wikispaces.com>.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Print.

Image Credit: Prawny. “Icons-icon-team.jpg.” Morguefile. Web 01 Dec. 2014 <http://mrg.bz/EtES83>.

Resource Sharing with Non-school Libraries

public_library_sizedWhen budgets are tight and curriculum is in constant flux, school librarians can be hard-pressed to purchase and provide all of the resources students and teachers need to be successful. In most school districts, school librarians practice interlibrary loan with their colleagues. This can be problematic. For example, when districts follow a pacing calendar that requires, for example, that all fifth-grade students will be conducting U.S. state studies at the same time of the year, district resources will be in short supply. School librarians who serve with classroom teachers who engage students in student-initiated inquiry projects can also find it difficult to meet all of the information needs of individual learners.

The wise school librarian will have strong relationships with public or academic librarians in the community. Being on a first-name basis with these colleagues can increase a school librarian’s success at filling the gaps in the school library collection on an as-needed basis. For print resources, interlibrary loan with institutions outside the school district can increase students’ and teachers’ access. In addition, knowing the electronic resources available to students who hold public or academic library cards can help the school librarian and collaborating classroom teachers expand the options for learners.

Some academic, public, and special libraries have specialized resources that can support student learning. Archives, history, and genealogy collections, more and more of them digitized, can be treasure troves for student inquirers. Encouraging youth to take advantage of these resources helps build broader literacy support for their learning. Students will be familiar with the resources available from other libraries and may be more likely to use them once they no longer have access to a school library.

Non-school libraries may have unique resources that can help students explore local interest topics. For example, the Denton (Texas) Public Library produces a TV show called “Library Larry’s Big Day.” In addition to being aired on a local station, episodes are available on YouTube. School librarians and collaborating classroom teachers can guide students to access the videos which include visits to the Denton Community Market, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and other locations of local interest.

The more school librarians work with librarians who serve in other types of libraries the greater our chances of creating a lifelong literacy pathway for preK-12 students. Resource sharing can lead to collaborative activities that further strengthen literacy in our shared communities. If our mission is to serve the information needs of students, school librarians can make connections and build relationships with other library institutions to support learning today and pave the way for future learning for children and youth.

Works Cited

Denton Public Library. Library Larry’s Big Day. CityofDenton.com. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. <http://tinyurl.com/dentonllbd>.

Image Credit: Emily Fowler Branch, Denton (Texas) Public Library, by Judi Moreillon