Do administrators know what we do?
Have you had one of those days when you wondered “Does my principal even know what I do?” If you have, you are not alone. It is hard to find a way to let your administrator know in an elegant way some of the benefits of having a school librarian. I believe a first step is to work towards embedding the library standards across the curriculum. AASL has done a fabulous job of creating not only the National School Library Standards but also standards crosswalks for the Future Ready Framework and ISTE standards. Check out the administrator’s tab on the standards website to get videos and other downloads to share with your school’s leadership team. And if you are at a STEM school Open Educational Resources offers resources for school librarians to expand their role as instructional leaders.
Other tips for reaching out to your administrator include:
- Having an “elevator speech” for your school library.
- Creating annual reports for your school library.
Trying to embed the standards in the curriculum is different for every school. This past fall, I read two online articles about the benefits for teachers of collaborating with a school librarian. The first feature by Jamie Gregory highlights how librarians can work with other teachers to help enhance reading and literacy instruction. Another write-up by Amelia Harper focuses more on the digital side of collaboration. However, my favorite recent article about collaborating with school librarians is geared towards school administrators, “10 Ways Administrators Should Be Collaborating with Their Librarians” by Nader Qaimari.
Interview with a future school leader
I have often wondered what pre-service administrators learn about the role of a school librarian. I was so pleased to hear from my childhood friend Joseph Giles, a teacher in Alabama who is working on his Ed.S. in Instructional Leadership. He asked if he could interview me about the future of libraries and librarians and their role in curriculum from the perspective of a school administrator. I am happy to speak with a possible future leader about school libraries and librarians. Joseph’s topic area is the library’s role in the curriculum for the future and the question he posed is “What are the functions of a future-ready librarian and what might a library of the future look like?”
Below is the interview with Joseph. Please add comments, especially if I have missed an important point.
What is a future-ready librarian?
Besides being an educational buzzword, there is a huge Facebook group called Future Ready Librarians. This group has more than 20,000 members. This social media group supports an organized initiative of Future Ready Schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education. The Future Ready Librarians is an official program of Future Ready Schools that is endorsed by both Follett, a library vendor, and by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).
So, that can indeed be a loaded question “what is a future-ready librarian?” since it is a now a trademarked word. As a professional librarian, I like something that Seth Godin said a few years back about the future of the library and the librarian.
“Librarians … are defending library as a warehouse as opposed to fighting for the future, which is a librarian as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario… The next library is a house for the librarian … This librarian takes responsibility/blame for any kid who manages to graduate from school without being a first-rate data shark.”
Now my history teacher corrected my view a bit and said he wanted kids to be more discerning about their data than sharks. But you get the point; we want them in passionate pursuit and not to give up until they find the best answers, not just the first thing they discover on Google. And a shark is your school’s mascot so that it is perfect!
What were the main functions of librarians in the past?
This answer would be purely a history report for me because I trained after the Internet was a significant part of the field. There was and is sometimes a stereotype that librarians simply cataloged, shelved, and circulated books. We may also be known for shushing patrons more than anything else. However, librarians have been information professionals for a long time. Reference librarians conducted “reference interviews” that helped students and patrons get to more in-depth information on a topic.
What are the main functions of librarians today?
AASL released a new set of standards for school librarians in 2017. The standards framework includes six Shared Foundations: Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, and Engage. Although I try to work out all six areas in my practice, I have to admit that inquiry and curation are my strengths. The Association of College and Research Librarians (ACRL) also has a framework that I look to since I am a college preparatory librarian.
What might the main functions of librarians be like in the future?
I like the word purpose rather than function. If you get the right librarian, they can be the intellectual leader of your school. The person should be a reader. I have not read a paper book in ten years, but I consume 2-3 books a week and about a hundred or more reviews each week. Since I have a terrible dust allergy, I prefer e-books and audiobooks (thank goodness for technology). My school provides me a Kindle and an Audible subscription. The person like any other educator should not settle; they should be a life-long learner. Finally, this profession has changed more than most, therefore someone who is not intimidated by change
What is a future-ready library?
The library environment is, I suppose, one of my specialties. The learning commons model has worked very well for our library. Sure, we have experimented with makerspace/hackerspace as well. I do not believe that the two models are mutually exclusive. The future is all about providing space and service for the specific needs of our communities.
Here are just a few articles I have written about the library space and programming.
- Learning Commons Theory to Practice
- A Peek into the Future School Library
- The School Library as The Third Place
- Future-Ready Libraries and Librarians
Describe the environment of a library from the past or what did it look like?
When I first became a librarian, the libraries were predominately shelves and shelves of print books. Then we went through a phase of rows and rows of desktop computers.
Describe the environment of a library today or what does it look like?
Now, most of my students bring their own devices, so there is a need for charging the devices. The user experience in the environment extends to how I design my virtual space. Right now I find myself asking, “What sites are responsive?” “Do my patrons want apps or responsive sites?” “Will they use their phone or a laptop?”
Describe the environment of a library of the future or what does it look like?
If you want to know what is next, ask a student. I have a student library advisory committee. This committee helps me to be on top of trends and engage with students.
What type of updates or remodeling projects are libraries receiving today to make them future ready?
Another AASL author Diana Rendina writes about “6 Active Learning Spaces Your Library Should Have.” The spaces she suggests are:
- Small group area
- Large group area
- Community area
- Technology-rich area
- Quiet, solitary areas
Many, many libraries are including makerspaces, but in my opinion, this should not replace the library. For my library space, I am looking for creative ways for the collaborative areas to coexist with the quiet, solitary areas. I have been thinking about soundproof glass enclosures to add visible yet quiet areas. I have also considered the high-density space-saving shelves as you see in archives. Any furniture that I now add must be moveable since the library is often re-configured throughout the week.
What are some current library trends and how do they help promote mastery of curriculum goals and/or/or instructional methods?
The reason I favor inquiry and curation in the AASL Standards is that these two more than the others help librarians embed materials and instruction across the curriculum. Of course, without collaboration with teachers, it is impossible to teach the skills effectively. Information literacy skills need the teachers content to make the skills relevant to the student. I would never teach a lesson called “the Dewey Decimal system.” However, I would show a history class how to find the history books for research activity. I might even reserve or curate a collection for the project.
What are some concerns regarding the future of libraries?
Nostalgia. Libraries whose collections are never weeded because the librarians or teachers are sentimental can be full of dated misinformation. Teachers who insist on print-only resources can be hurting their college-bound students. College can be primarily an electronic research world, and high schools need to prepare students with electronic databases and basic online search strategies.
Is there anything else you would like to share with me?
There are some “core values” that have been a cornerstone of my career in library science. No matter how much the industry changes and library trends come and go, these fundamental values help guide my decisions even today. I wrote about these last year, and I feel these should be part of the interview process for school librarians.
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.