Back-to-School Checklist for a Learner-Ready School Library

What’s on your school library back-to-school checklist? Do you have a learner-ready school library?

I’m kind of like a second-grader when it comes to a new school year. I love new school supplies and the excitement of seeing all the people I’ve missed over the summer. My feelings about a new school year may resonate with you, but sadly they do not resonate with all of our learners.

As I thought about posting a blog at this time of year, I contemplated what I share with new teachers, principals, and administrators about school libraries in my district. I began to rethink what it is that they all need to know. What do our learners need to know? What do you want them to feel when they come to the school library?

I have been contemplating how our new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries play into this conversation. How do we sustain and build on the excitement of those learners who are ready to jump into the new school year? How do we support those learners who are less than eager to come back, and how can we help them engage in the school community throughout the year? How do we foster a sense of belongingness and a community of learners through the school library?

So let’s start a back-to-school checklist for a learner-ready school library:

  1. Your Goals for 2018-2019
    • Have you written several goals for the 2018-2019 school year? What is most important (think big picture)?
    • Have you considered your goals through the lens of the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries?
    • Have you determined how the Shared Foundations look in the school community you serve? And how they impact your practice within that community?
    • Have you considered how the new standards promote belongingness, deep learning, knowledge creation, and innovation?
    • How are you building relationships and a culture of empathy?
    • Have you built in ways for learners to successfully demonstrate competence in the Competencies? Do these pathways to building fluency in the Competencies position the school library as the focal point for a school-wide community of learners?
    • Have you considered a goal about providing opportunities for a variety of ways learners demonstrate their learning? What will the process and products of student learning look like?
  2. Your School Administrators:
    • Have you considered the ways the school library can support school and district initiatives and plans?
    • Have you shared the new national standards with your school administrators and emphasized how your work aligns with the broader school community by championing exploration, inclusion, inquiry, ethical engagement with information, belongingness, collaboration, and the ability of learners to curate their own information?
    • Have you shared your goals for the year and articulated their connection to the goals of your school and your principal’s initiatives?
  3. New Teachers:
    • Have you prepared something fun and exciting for new teachers that entices them to collaborate and co-teach with you to build learning experiences for all learners? I always connect with new teachers by asking them about their childhood school library experiences. Then I share how our school libraries look now.
    • Have you shared that your school library is an active learner-focused place, as well as a safe haven for all students?
    • Have you shared that the school library is a place that encourages diverse perspectives and compassionate, caring dialogue? A place where all learners belong and flourish?
  4. Returning Teachers:
    • Have you given returning teachers the opportunity to revisit your learner-ready school library?
    • Have you shared new materials, norms, and opportunities that support their specific curricular areas, as well as the culture of learning epitomized in the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries?
  5. Your Collection and Resources:
    • Does the school library collection reflect the kinds of dispositions found in the frameworks of the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries? For example, does your collection include diverse perspectives about a variety of topics?
    • Does the collection reflect the diversity among your learners, your educators, your state, and the larger world around you?
    • Does the collection provide a variety of perspectives on a wide range of subjects?
    • Does the collection support the curriculum that is currently being taught in your school?
    • Can every learner find something in your library that speaks to him or her: a book, an online resource, maker equipment, a safe place to visit with a friend, a place to doodle or read?
  6. School Library Norms:
    • Have you built practices that encourage that “I can’t wait to get to the school library” attitude among all learners in the school community? Do learners feel a sense of belonging in the school library?
    • Have you created library norms for appropriate behavior that invite learners to enjoy, learn, read, discuss, tinker, innovate, question, research, and create in the library?
    • Have you written all expectations in a positive way? Have you banished rules, regulations, and procedures in favor of our school library norms or simply In Our School Library, we… For example: In our school library:
      • We respect all points of view.
      • We honor people when they’re speaking.
      • We respect the physical space,
      • We care about each other and so on.

One of our greatest challenges and one that I deem as a priority to strive for is helping ALL learners engage in deep and meaningful learning steeped in creativity, innovation, engagement, collaboration, inquiry, and exploration. This requires learners to feel safe, confident, and a sense of belongingness within the school library.

Yes, this list is long and may seem daunting, but you’ve got this! My suggestion is pick a few goals to focus on this semester or quarter and then re-evaluate. It is a process and takes time to make shifts in your practice. I’d start with what you think is most important for your learners–after all, that is why we all do what we do, for the learners!

Have a wonderful, exciting school year in your leaner-ready school library!

Categories: Community, Presidential Musings

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