Something to buzz about: Implementing AASL Standards in my library

This summer, my library is buzzing a little more than usual. The students have all gone, but we are seeing more teachers stopping by and our space is being used by several summer programs. The main space still boasts a bit of a work-in-progress vibe; we overhauled the area behind the circulation desk to clear clutter, efficiently use space, and maintain our resources. Please mind the debris.

In the midst of this mild buzz, we are looking at ways to inform our upcoming program. Last year I focused on collaboration, literacies, and learning. While I will certainly keep these guiding lights aloft, we will focus more deliberately on implementing the AASL Standards. The standards will help us promote our program, give us common ground and vocabulary with other school libraries, and allow us to reflect and set new goals as we fulfill the promise of our vital service.

Synthesizing and implementing new standards may be daunting. However, the six standards are accessible, relevant, and useful. Shout out to the mobile app: my staff and I are using it for reference as we work together to get to know the standards and how to implement them. Below is a statement of the six standards, their key commitments, and the ways I resonate with them.


Build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems, and developing strategies for solving problems.

Before I became a librarian, I worked as a teaching artist. In museums like the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Isamu Noguchi Museum, we relied on inquiry to foster student-centered dialogues with art and artifacts. The library space lends itself well to open-ended inquiry with multimodal texts. Librarians help students develop and pursue questions, develop skills to sift through texts to build knowledge, and develop capacities to express what they figure out as they strive to solve problems. In this way, librarians are in an advantageous position to promote study over instruction. This year, I will work with my staff to develop a shared understanding of inquiry and its efficacy in the library.


Demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community.

Libraries share a commitment to equity. As such, it is incumbent upon librarians to promote services for a wide range of needs and abilities. Much of this work is predicated on listening: Who are our learners? What are their histories–personal, scholarly, and otherwise? What are our audience’s needs and goals? Libraries need to model inclusivity to help our audience find spaces to fit in and stand out. Modeling occurs throughout all aspects of the program. From collections, displays, and signage to staffing, programming, and collaborations, we are constantly sending our audiences messages about diversity, inclusion, and equity. I am inspired by Torie Quiñonez’s work; she employs Chicana Feminist Epistemology and Laura Rendón’s validation theory to explore ways in which librarians can serve to support students as they navigate new, sometimes painful, academic identities. This year in the library, I aim to listen, create a family atmosphere, and appropriately challenge learners as I strive to help them develop scholarly identities and achieve their goals.


Work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals.

Collaboration is essential to my library. Collaboration is not only a guiding light, it is also a cornerstone that guides choices in layout, resources, and pedagogy. In this way, I am easily duped; just use the word “collaboration” and I am onboard! I am excited about our library’s collaborations with faculty. I love our collaborations with students. I love fostering collaboration between students. The library is that perfect interstitial place where people can meet, share, and broaden their horizons. This year, I aim to foster collaboration within my school as well as pursue collaborations with outside institutions and professional organizations.


Make meaning for oneself and others by collecting, organizing, and sharing resources of personal relevance.

We often model “the response to a need to gather and organize information.” This happens at the circulation desk as we chat with students about research, in classrooms when we visit to highlight resources and tools, even casually as students share stories about their projects, interests, and hobbies. We have completed major weeding projects to hone and update our collection–our school has undergone major curricular shifts; I like to collect to reflect our audience’s needs. Teachers tend to drive circulation, so I try to make the collection relevant in and out of the classroom. E-resources are always popular and powerful. Our job this year is to promote them and help students build useful collections that help them along their path toward scholarship.


Discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection.

I work to make our library a place where students can hang out, mess around, and geek out. We have a reading challenge that has engaged our community in the process of reading widely and deeply in the library. I advise the journalism program and I love having it live in my library. We recently completed a video game cabinet and my goal is to get more opportunities for coding, making, and computer science to live in the library, as well. This year, I will continue to invest in opportunities for our school community to explore in the library.


Demonstrate safe, legal, and ethical creating and sharing of knowledge products independently while engaging in a community of practice and an interconnected world.

It almost seems like this standard could have been named “Ethics.” Engage works as a verb and I like that it emphasizes an interconnected world. Given our current political climate, the question of ethics is paramount–I want learners who live in my library to develop a deep investment in ethical approaches to citizenship and scholarship. Carrie James, a sociologist and author of the book Disconnected, acknowledges “blind spots” and “disconnects” as well as opportunities for citizens to exercise “conscientious connectivity.” This year, I plan to focus on ethical approaches to engagement.

What’s missing?

In this brief piece, I did not acknowledge the three roles embedded in the standards: learner, school librarian, and school library. I also did not focus on the four domains: Think, Create, Share, and Grow. My goal over the course of this year as a Knowledge Quest blogger is to delve deeper into the AASL Standards with more nuance and specificity. I am interested to see what I learn and am interested to see how the standards help me develop an excellent school library.

What are your goals for this coming year? How might the standards help you frame your thinking and plan a course of action? Let us know in the comments below.


Author: Mark Dzula

Categories: Blog Topics, Professional Development

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