I am sitting in new library paraprofessional training this morning, where we are welcoming new library staff, getting them up to speed on how we do all of the vital functions related to running a library, and I am struck by my colleagues’ abilities to keep on connecting to WHY our work in school libraries matters, and WHY our work changes our kids’ lives.
We talked about books and reading as effective reducers of stress, about the school library as a safe space for learners who may have nowhere else to go, about supporting the social and emotional needs of our learners. We are spending time talking about equity in our collections, how we create culturally responsive libraries, and WHY these are needed for our school libraries. We learned about the numerous resources available for our learners and educators, along with WHY connecting them matters, and the differences they can make in our schools.
Finally, I presented on all of the things our integrated library system can do to help us get books off of the shelves and into our learners’ hands. Participants came away with a clear understanding that the children we serve are far more important than the books on the shelves, and that their relationships with us, with books, with the library, and with reading far outweighs our needs to get all of those library books back. We connected the HOW of the work with the WHY of the work at every step of the day.
As the school year gets under way and we are flooded with things to do, it will help us stay grounded, sane, and positive if we can all focus on WHY we do the work we do.
It’s not because we love creating reports and chasing data.
It’s not because we love dealing with temperamental technology and spotty access.
It’s not because we love giving the same log-in directions 4,000 times.
It’s because all of those activities mean something.
We create reports and chase data because we care deeply about telling our libraries’ and learners’ stories and getting support for a strong program.
We deal with temperamental technology and spotty access because our learners need to know not only how to use the amazing tools available, but also how to deal with things when they go wrong.
We repeat the same log-in instructions 4,000 times because we want our learners to all have the same access to the resources those log-ins provide, to think, share, create, and grow far beyond where they are now.
Staying grounded and continually reminded of the WHY in our work helps us remain calm in the stormy seas of life in a school library. We sweat the small stuff less, remain focused on what matters, and consistently do what is best for our learners and school communities.
I believe the Shared Foundations in the AASL Standards help us maintain that focus, and give us a great sense of the WHY of our work:
1. The school library is a unique and essential part of a learning community.
As a destination for on-site and virtual personalized learning, the school library is a vital connection between school and home. As the leader of this space and its functions, the school librarian ensures that the school library environment provides all members of the school community access to information and technology, connecting learning to real-world events. By providing access to an array of well-managed resources, school librarians enable academic knowledge to be linked to deep understanding.
2. Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries.
As they guide organizational and personal change, effective school librarians model, promote, and foster inquiry learning in adequately staffed and resourced school libraries. Qualified school librarians have been educated and certified to perform interlinked, interdisciplinary, and cross-cutting roles as instructional leaders, program administrators, educators, collaborative partners, and information specialists.
3. Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.
Committed to inclusion and equity, effective school librarians use evidence to determine what works, for whom and under what conditions for each learner; complemented by community engagement and innovative leadership, school librarians improve all learners’ opportunities for success. This success empowers learners to persist in inquiry, advanced study, enriching professional work, and community participation through continuous improvement within and beyond the school building and school day.
4. Reading is the core of personal and academic competency.
In the school library, learners engage with relevant information resources and digital learning opportunities in a culture of reading. School librarians initiate and elevate motivational reading initiatives by using story and personal narrative to engage learners. School librarians curate current digital and print materials and technology to provide access to high-quality reading materials that encourage learners, educators, and families to become lifelong learners and readers.
5. Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.
Learners have the freedom to speak and hear what others have to say, rather than allowing others to control their access to ideas and information; the school librarian’s responsibility is to develop these dispositions in learners, educators, and all other members of the learning community.
6. Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available.
Although information technology is woven into almost every aspect of learning and life, not every learner and educator has equitable access to up-to-date, appropriate technology and connectivity. An effective school library bridges digital and socioeconomic divides to affect information technology access and skill.
My hope is keeping these Common Beliefs front and center all year long can help remind us of our WHY. Have a terrific school year!