Updated: Feb 12, 2020
Everyone knows that school libraries are important! Ask any teacher if they think their school should have one and the majority would say yes. Why then are we seeing school after school making the financial decision to not replace their qualified school librarian? Why is it that they really don't understand the value of such a person and resource?
I have been grappling with this conundrum for many years now and written on several occasions about my frustration of this. I know the problem is mainly down to funding but if something is important you fight to keep it. School libraries are not in that category and I really don't understand why.
Over the last few days, I have seen Scott Beck's article The Nonnegotiable Role of School Librarians being shared many many times. School librarians across the world are shouting a collective YES! In the article, Beck states "When comparing the new AASL standards with these skills, the role of excellent libraries and school librarians in every school becomes compelling—even essential." If this is the case then why are not all schools demanding them?
I finally went back to Beck's article this morning to try and understand the problem and it hit me like a smack between the eyes... The first sentence explains perfectly why we have a problem!
"What principals know and think about school libraries we have learned largely from our own past experiences and school librarians" @scottabeck
If this is how our most senior educators are learning about school librarianship we are failing our children. As our numbers decrease who will be left to share what we do?
My solution for what it is worth...
This should not be left to the individual school librarian to make sure everyone in their school understands what they do, it should be known and understood from the top. The Education Department within our Government, our senior educators, our headteachers and our teachers need to understand the role and value of the school library and librarian within education and the curriculum. Not by taking our word for it, however, they need to read the research around it. IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) has over 50 years of research showing why school libraries are important in education and have set an international guideline for a good school library based on it.
New teachers should be taught about the importance of collaboration with the school librarian in their training/university courses
Librarianship courses should include a module specialising in school librarianship
Until this happens is there anything a school librarian can do?
School librarians should be aware of these guidelines and use them to highlight the ideal even if it seems a million miles away from reality. Using the IFLA definition of a school library is a simple and good way to start.
Definition of a school library (p. 16) | A school’s physical and digital learning space where reading, inquiry, research, thinking, imagination, and creativity are central to students’ information-to-knowledge journey and to their personal, social, and cultural growth.
I don't think there is anyone among us that would argue with this definition but how do we go about making this happen? It is important that you make sure you can talk confidently about your role and have the resources you need to collaborate with teaching staff if asked. Build up your confidence through learning about what is out there and talking to other school librarians who are on this journey with you. My online forum is one place to start...
IFLA has provided free workshop materials to get you started. Implementing the IFLA School Library Guidelines Workshop Materials
Choose a framework that can support your teaching within the classroom. FOSIL (Framework of Skills for Inquiry Learning) is my framework of choice, again with free resources and support which can be found here
What can you do today?
Take the definition of a school library, create a poster and put it up within your library and when someone asks what this is, tell them it is the start of an important journey!
If you want to read the article that inspired this blog click the picture below.