School libraries have always had the dual purpose of supporting the curriculum of the school and providing for the individual reading and learning needs of students. This makes the school librarian uniquely qualified to play a leading role in the growing move to personalized learning in our schools. The Every Student Succeeds Act defines personalized learning as “instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are made available that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests and often self-initiated” (U.S. Dept. of Ed., Office of Ed. Tech. 2016).
True personalization requires a wealth of information that school libraries can provide by selecting resources that address the learner’s interest, abilities, and varied learning paths.
Personalization thrives in an environment that allows students to explore, create, and demonstrate their knowledge, all things that are part of a great school library. School libraries also encourage the use of technology that helps students take charge and manage their own learning.
The school library is a safe haven for students to try out their ideas. School libraries are quickly adding makerspaces that allow tools for exploration. It is also a place for group work that builds a sense of community. Imagine the power of working in a place where all student ideas are honored and shared.
The school library through personal and digital connections provides students with a window to a world of information. As such it is a great place for students to make connections to real-world work and the life of the community.
Ultimately, personalizing learning through the library requires librarians to become leaders in the movement by emphasizing with faculty and administrators the crucial role that the library plays.