Why do teachers need to be reminded that they need school librarians?

Updated: Feb 14

A blog post I wrote back in November 2017 called Why do teachers need school librarians? 5 Questions to ask yourself went viral with over 38,000 views (not sure what number classes it as viral but it certainly felt that way to me). I have been trying to work out why so many people read it and shared it. My message was to teachers but I am sure that the majority who read it were probably school library staff and although I was delighted by the reach it felt very frustrating. There is a sad decline across the country of school librarians which is being made worse by Covid and sadly schools do not seem to realise what they are actually losing but how have we got here?

Is it because school librarians are happy to sit behind a desk and issue books? Don’t be daft! Why would anyone who knows how difficult it is to get children, teenagers and teachers to read would risk sitting there and hoping that by some miracle everyone will start using the school library and love reading?

Is it because school librarians are resistant to change? Not a chance! If you follow any school librarian on social media you will see the innovative ideas being shared. From interactive research lessons, breakout challenges, reading groups online, book awards and maker spaces, to online tools and international collaboration, school librarians are trying it all.

Is it because school libraries don’t have what teachers need within the modern curriculum? This makes me laugh because the modern curriculum is everything you need from a school library and librarian, as it is all about skills. Critical evaluation, independent learning, communication, media and information literacy, teamwork and real-world learning. All of which can be taught through inquiry learning and still give teachers the opportunity to teach knowledge-based learning too. So why are teachers not hammering down the door of the school library asking to collaborate?

Is it because teachers are experts in media and information literacy? I would love to say yes, that every teacher knows how to support students in finding good quality information, knows how to use keyword searches, knows how to access academic online resources, understands the importance of copyright and teaching about plagiarism but that would not be true. I know this because there are times I have talked to teachers and they are surprised that I think they should be teaching these things. A teacher telling me that they do not know how to find resources unless they do a Google search. Another said they do not know how to find copyright-free sound effects or music so they download illegally. Another saying that making children reference spoils the enjoyment of research and one of my favourite recently was that referencing and plagiarism is something for our students to learn when they get to university. If we are leaving all of this until they leave school it is too late! What about the students who don't go to university. Do they not need these skills too?

If this is the attitude of even some of our teachers then how do school librarians ensure that this changes? Our teachers work really hard, they do not need someone else telling them what they should be doing but are some school librarians shying away from difficult conversations and missing opportunities.

Advocacy is an important role for today's school librarian. It is important that they are able to explain to their teachers how they can help and support them. One of the best ways I have found over the years is FOSIL (Framework Of Skills for Inquiry Learning) and the IFLA School Library Guidelines, especially chapter 5. These two resources should be part of a school librarians arsenal and will provide opportunities to highlight what they can do.

This FOSIL Inquiry Skill Sets highlights the skills that can be supported through inquiry.

FOSIL Inquiry Skill Sets

Take the opportunity to discuss with others how you can support your school with backing from international research through the IFLA guidelines and colleagues from The FOSIL Group. Come and join, teachers, librarians and academics on our discussions forum and help yourself understand what you can do and through this be able to talk to teachers about your true value.

If you would like a brief introduction to FOSIL and IFLA I recorded a webinar I ran in March 2020 which can be found here.

Have you looked at FOSIL and the IFLA Guidelines? Do you think it could help you talk to teachers about what you do? Are there any barriers to using either of these tools?

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