Updated: Aug 30, 2021
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 school librarians can support teaching these things and are very grateful when we offer to work alongside them. This should be the norm but unfortunately, it is not well known enough that this is what school librarians can do.
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 showing them this free skills framework - 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 by understanding 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. Or take part in my new Moodle course Exploring and understanding the IFLA School Library Guidelines and FOSIL.
It is important that school librarians and teachers recognise the expertise and value that can be gained from the school library and I believe that starts with giving yourselves the right tools.
I look forward to talking to you on the FOSIL forum when you are ready...
This blog was updated 30/08/2021