Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) is honored to be selected as the National School Library Program of the Year by AASL. This award allows us to showcase the multiple ways in which we have leveraged our school librarians in our systemic transformation of teaching and learning. The transformation of teaching and learning toward customized and personalized student learning happening in all BCPS classrooms is equally evident in our school libraries. Our school librarians perform a critical role as they are uniquely qualified to teach information and technology literacy. Our school librarians have knowledge and experience of the ever-changing information landscape. They collaborate with and offer professional development support to their colleagues, are experienced in the use of technology tools for teaching and learning, and support student learning on digital citizenship and digital leadership. BCPS’s school librarians have an understanding of the inquiry process and know that students are best engaged when they are able to pursue within curriculum limits topics that are of interest to them. They have knowledge and experience with information literacy and its role in the research process.
Our Superintendent, Dr. Dallas Dance, Board of Education, Chief Academic Officer and Leadership throughout BCPS, recognizes the value of a certified school librarian in every school. Our staffing model demonstrates this commitment to the value of school libraries as centers of teaching and learning and literacy.
We’ve been redefining school libraries in our school system for the past several years. The distinct honor that comes with the award enables us to share our experiences and model for schools and school systems the transformation in our programs and practices. Moving from the historical role of library media specialist as resource manager we are emphasizing the primary role of teacher and instructional partner. School librarians in BCPS focus on activities that enhance student achievement. They collaborate with teachers to provide students with curriculum-based information literacy instruction. The provided instruction focuses on standards by using the “backwards-design” model for instructional planning. Student learning experiences and instruction attend to research-based strategies.
BCPS’s library spaces have shifted into physical and virtual learning commons in order to support student inquiry and collaboration both during and outside of the school day. Our twenty-first-century learners enjoy learning spaces that meet their needs; therefore, our school librarians manage these programs and spaces with careful consideration of the physical spaces, print and nonprint collections, technology, and delivery methods to best accommodate their constituents. Makerspaces have been created in many of our school libraries to provide students with hands-on, interest-driven, collaborative learning opportunities that socialize learning and design.
Our program is supported through strong community partners. Our long collaboration with neighboring Towson University enables us to recruit teachers who have a passion for school libraries and are invested in matriculating for a master’s degree with a concentration in school library media. Currently, 75 percent of our school librarians are a product of this collaborative professional development effort. Our combined efforts have enabled us to maintain a highly qualified staff. Through a partnership with our public library system, Baltimore County Public Library, we collaborate to create shared programming in order to serve our students, families, and teachers. Student library card campaigns, teacher loan programs, resource curation, BCPS wireless access in all public library branches, author visits, summer reading programs, and summer nutrition programs in public branches are part of a multi-tiered campaign to serve Baltimore County Public Schools’ stakeholders. A combined BCPS/BCPL task force meets regularly to collaborate on initiatives that promote literacy and lifelong learning.
Our strategic plan regarding twenty-first-century teaching and learning is characterized by a student-centered model, where all students are engaged in constructing meaning through research, exploration, problem solving, creation, and communication of new knowledge. We see school libraries, highly effective school library programs, and the critical role of qualified school librarians as essential to this work.
Our school librarians have embraced a growth mindset. The National School Library Program of the Year Award is a testament to our school librarians and their willingness to join us in redefining our programs and practices. We are grateful to our community as we seek continuous improvement.
We are proud to share BCPS’s progress! We hope you’ll continue to follow our work on Twitter using the hashtag #bcpslms.