Updated: Jun 9
Are you one of the lucky schools that employ a school librarian? I wonder if you appreciate what you have or is this just someone who looks after your library? Is this someone who you would secretly like to get rid of to save money? What do they do anyway? Anyone can issue and return books so why do you need to employ someone to do it?
You might have guessed it already but I am not going to be advocating for removing your librarian. If you are one of the schools lucky enough to have a school librarian you have someone who is of extreme value to your students and staff. Someone who has the ability to not only support your current literacy problems but can also help with your 'levelling up' goals. As the Rt Hon Justin Greening states "With a common understanding and shared objectives, there can be action that drives change on the ground". Your school librarian can and should be part of this 'change on the ground' but can only do this if you recognise their potential.
School librarians have such a lot to offer a school which was covered in my blog post The Power of School Librarians which highlighted the different ways that school librarians can support education and the curriculum. But what about 'Levelling up' that schools are currently focused on?
I decided to go through the Levelling up goals outlined by the Purpose coalition in order to help schools understand the expertise you have in your school librarian.
How can your school librarian make a difference to your Levelling Up Goals?
2. Successful School Years
"The so-called attainment gap between the most and least privileged remains stubbornly high".
Research shows that schools that have access to a school library and librarian see an increase in attainment across the school. "School libraries have been found to impact pupils’ general academic attainment, reading and writing skills, plus wider learning skills, as well as their scores in history, mathematics and science" (National Literacy Trust Research Report, 2017).
The Great School Libraries Report (2019) showed that schools which are in areas of deprivation are less likely to have a school library and librarian. These are the students who need more access to resources both physical and online with the support of a school librarian to close this 'attainment gap'.
8. Good Health and Wellbeing
"Health and wellbeing inequalities lie at the heart of driving levelling up and improving social mobility".
Research is emerging on how the school library supports Mental Health and Wellbeing. As Merga states "Promising findings on how school libraries operate as safe spaces for young people; promote and resource mental health and wellbeing initiatives; and, support and promote bibliotherapeutic practices and reading for pleasure suggest that these, amongst other areas of relevance, can be useful starting points for furthering this research agenda" (2020).
Clark & Teravainen-Goff also state that the "National Literacy Trust research shows that children and young people who use the school library have, on average, higher mental wellbeing scores" (2018).
10. Closing the Digital Divide
"The internet revolution is an opportunity for a level playing field but it also poses a growing inequality threat for those who can’t take advantage or cope in an online world".
School libraries can provide the space and resources to ensure equality for all students who may not have access from home. School librarians are information professionals who can teach research and inquiry skills ensuring their students have the skills they need to cope in an online world.
14. Achieve Equality, through Diversity and Inclusion
School librarians value diversity, creating collections and vital spaces for all students. Rachel Altobelli writes that "It’s clear students respond to this inclusion and respect. When they are seen, respected, and appreciated by their school librarians, they are engaged and excited learners"
Why does this matter?
The more schools ignore our school librarians potential the more likely they are to lose what they have. The old adage of not realising what you had until it is gone is very clear here. Not only are your schools and teachers in a much poorer position without a school library and librarian but you are severely disadvantaging your student's ability to achieve.
What can you do now?
Have a meeting with your school librarian and plan a way forward
Read their latest annual report so you understand what they already do (or ask them to write one for you)
Find out what CPD they require in order to support your curriculum
Be the school librarians biggest advocate. If you, as part of your SLT, are not supportive why will your teachers work with them?
Successful leaders recognise the value of all their staff... Your school librarian is a professional person within your school and needs to be treated as such. The more you value them the more value you will get.
Finally, if you are still unsure please watch this short video about the amazing work of school librarians and libraries:-
Overdue: The Value of School Libraries from the School Librarians of Rhode Island, USA, a section of the Rhode Island Library Association
And look at this poster:- Students reach greater heights with school librarians - From the American Library Association https://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/stateandlocal/School%20Librarians%20v2.pdf
There is so much evidence out there that school librarians make a difference is it not time to start taking your school librarian seriously?
Rachel Altobelli (2020) Going Beyond School Libraries as a Safe Haven. Knowledge Quest. Accessed 5/10/21 https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/KNOW_48_3_GuestEd_6-7.pdf
Great School Libraries Report (2019) Accessed 5/10/21 https://www.greatschoollibraries.org.uk/news
Levelling Up Goals (2021) Accessed 5/10/21 https://www.levellingupgoals.org/
Margaret Merga (2020) How Can School Libraries Support Student Wellbeing? Evidence and Implications for Further Research, Journal of Library Administration,60:6,660-673,DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2020.1773718
Anne Teravainen and Christina Clark (2017) School Libraries: A literature review of current provision and evidence of impact. National Literacy Trust Research Report Accessed 5/10/21 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anne-Teravainen-Goff/publication/328539120_School_libraries_A_literature_review_on_current_provision_and_evidence_of_impact/links/5bd3304b92851c6b2791cb06/School-libraries-A-literature-review-on-current-provision-and-evidence-of-impact.pdf