Successful school librarians lead by example, and share the passion for their unique role within a school community with their students, colleagues, administrators, and the wider world. For the past four years in this venue, BACC bloggers have attempted to capture some of the joys and challenges that keep us energized and committed to our profession, even in the face of budget cuts, ever shifting educational “reforms,” and the information and technology tsunami.
Now we are looking to a future that includes renewed possibilities for strengthening school library programs across the country. Traditional school libraries are being reinvented as 24/7 learning spaces or learning commons, in a variety of schools. Makerspaces are the current buzz. Research studies continue to demonstrate the correlation between strong school library programs and student success by multiple measures. ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015) is finally on the books and language that recognizes the role of school library programs, resources, and certified professionals is included. There are new guidelines that open areas for funding resources for school libraries and professional development for school librarians.
Telling our stories, listening to others…
As Judi and Karla have shared in their posts this month, there is a growing need for new school librarians to replace retirees and to staff open school library positions in school districts across the states. They have suggested ways for practicing librarians to encourage teacher colleagues to consider making a shift to the largest classroom in the school-the school library. We need to tell our own stories of how we made the journey, and the difference that it has made in our lives. (Indeed, the bloggers did that in February 2016!) We need to listen to their stories, too, and to encourage them through collaborative teaching experiences, and by suggesting that they sample a school librarianship course or two.
With the idea that we tell and listen to stories to promote and recruit new school librarians, I decided to ask a few of my current students about their journey to the world of librarianship. The adult learners in the course are very goal oriented and focused on new ideas and skills that will help them succeed as school librarians. They have a range of backgrounds and experience in education, mostly in literacy or humanities, and more recently, from educational technology. Each person brings a distinctive voice to the group, and it is a pleasure to have them contribute to our shared learning.
So here’s a sample of what I heard:
- Having been an educator most of my professional life, I find library work to be a really wonderful fit for me at this time. It gives me an opportunity to lead collaboratively with a focus on curriculum. It provides opportunities for teaching and learning for me, though not the full time role of a classroom teacher. I love children’s literature and the difference it can make it readers’ lives, and my life. Libraries are exciting places to be: They have the potential to be on the forefront of innovation—providing new resources, equipment and learning environments to bring education forward in this changing world. Libraries create a space for creativity and curiosity whether it be makerspace, arts programs or reading clubs. Libraries can be a vestige of welcome, calm and delight, and an antidote to high stakes testing. —-Eileen Riley: email correspondence April 22, 2016
- As a child I dreamed of becoming a librarian. I had a collection of books that I would check out and stamp. I found that I was attracted to the LMS endorsement because there were only 6 classes in the sequence that I would take in order to gain my endorsement. It seemed to be a manageable goal that could be accomplished since each class was taken during a fall, spring, and summer semester. I did have two other classes that I have to take since I do not have an education degree. I have been able to take one of the classes last semester and have one other class to take. The classes are a hands-on experience for me. I enjoy working with the other classmates and am able to discuss different situations that occur in the library. The benefits of the LMS are to provide an environment where one can gain life long learning skills, and to be a leader who promotes literacy and technology skills. —-Faith Lucas: email correspondence April 19, 2016
- I always wished to be a librarian. I kind of forgot about that wish, though, when my “real life” became my life! Four years ago I was a traveling literacy specialist for kindergarteners in suburban CT, and worked in a bunch of different schools each week. I used the libraries for books, for work space and to take my kiddos to…it all came back to me that I wanted to be a librarian, especially in a school. When we moved up to VT and I realized I could have a fresh start, I went for it. Our pivotal conversation two years ago changed my life! Thanks, and hooray! —Kristen Eckhardt: email correspondence April 19, 2016
We need you in our school libraries!
In Vermont, the Agency of Education publishes a list of shortages for educator positions, and the library media specialist (school librarian) position has a perennial spot on the list. The University of Vermont School Library Media Studies courses are designed for educators who want to add that endorsement to their teaching licenses. There is also an option for enrolling in a Masters of Education program, with a concentration in school library media studies and additional education coursework to complete the program with an advanced degree. Some candidates are experienced educators are looking for new options, and are attracted to the program. Other candidates who enroll in the courses have been hired to fill vacant jobs, and are working within provisional licensing regulations.
Telling our stories to administrators:
In this small rural state, there has been a continued tradition of support for school libraries, and there are not enough certified professionals to fill all the positions in the state. Professional school librarians continue to advocate, individually and together for school library programs, by communicating with administrators about the impact of school libraries on learners. Administrators play an important role in recruitment, and they need to have current data and information that will inform their decisions about the role of the school librarian..
Superintendents and principals are often the headhunters and recruiters who identify educators from within their ranks who might be willing to make a shift to the role of the school librarian. Those folks are encouraged to enroll in the UVM two year program, or some other recommended graduate program in school librarianship. Once the educators are committed to the required coursework, they may be hired as professionals with a provisional license under the direction of the school district. Upon completion of the courses and a practicum, the educators are eligible for a Vermont prek-12 endorsement as certified library media specialists. When administrators recruit from within, and encourage and support the professional learning of potential school librarians, they will get a return on their investment through a valued employee whose professional skills will enhance the teaching and learning for all members of the school community.
We are all stakeholders in the future for school library programs, so get out there and do your part. Spread the word locally and globally! Tell your story!
Image: Judith Kaplan Collection