The Future of School Librarian Research: Beyond 2019

The future of school librarian research

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Last month, I wrote about the 2019 AASL National Conference and the ESLS Research Symposium. In this post, I am reporting some of the symposium results. I am also going to take a moment to brag about my experience. I had a wonderful time, and I was in great company. A distinguished group of school librarians, school librarian educators, researchers, and advocates were in attendance. Our current and past AASL presidents attended. Thank you to everyone that joined us.

Proposed Research Questions

During my presentation, I asked participants to share research questions to support the future of school librarianship. I am sharing them here because I believe that professional practice should inform research and vice-versa. I hope these questions will help you to explore how our profession can fully embrace the multifaceted roles that must be fulfilled in schools. The questions that were generated by the attendees were as follows:

  • How do we impact schools rather than academic achievement? The notes accompanying this question explained that academic achievement is challenging to define. The concepts of motivation and self-concept should be explored within this question.
  • Where do we know we make a difference? We should consider topics like safe spaces and mental health, intellectual freedom, and reading.
  • What librarian behaviors encourage students to read?
  • How do librarians champion choice in reading?
  • How does over-scheduling impact the reading habits of children? How do competing activities?
  • How do students perceive the school library as helpful?
  • How can librarians use fiscal justifications to get the most impact for the money?
  • What does a good school librarian program look like?
  • How do we measure school library effectiveness?
  • Is evidence-based practice effecting change?
  • What is missing from the curriculum for school librarian preparation?
  • What do school administrators know about school librarians?
  • How do school administrators perceive school libraries?
  • Where does information about school librarians fit into educational leadership programs?
  • What do school librarians know about project-based learning?
  • What do school librarians know about instructional design?
  • How do school librarians impact social-emotional learning (SEL)?
  • How do school librarians impact social justice?
  • How do school librarians impact information access and equity?
  • What is the definition of a makerspace?
  • What are the best practices for student learning regardless of the type of schedule implemented in the school library?
  • What is the process that library students go through to become school librarians?
  • How do school librarians transition from the class?
  • How can the impact of the school library programming in the instructional process and on content learning be measured?

Examples of Studies

I also asked participants to provide brief examples of studies based on their questions. Although the cases are not in-depth, they do provide a starting point for studies that can be completed in the future. Some of the groups denoted challenges and methods that could be used to implement their studies. I have transcribed them as closely as possible.

Please pardon me for any notes that I have missed. I also skipped adding two studies because they were well thought out. I believe the researchers that shared the ideas will want to implement them in the future.

  • Study 1: How can the impact of the school library programming in the instructional process and on content learning be measured? The research could be completed with a qualitative study that utilizes interviews with teachers and students. Surveys would also be useful. This study would propose an IRB challenge because it can be difficult to get permission to work with students.
  • Study 2: The Knowledge Quest (KQ) website is a rich data source of trending topics relevant to the school librarian community. A content analysis of topics in relation to the AASL Standards would be useful for educating new school librarians. Analysis of practitioner Twitter and Instagram accounts could supplement the information found on the KQ website.
  • Study 3: There is still a need to understand how school librarians can motivate students to read. For example, do book talks help to increase circulation? This study would examine circulation data, school librarian behaviors that promote reading, and track student reading outcomes after the school librarian promotion behaviors begin. This research would combine discourse analysis as a component of ethnographic research. Data collection methods include interviews with students and librarians.
  • Study 4: How do students perceive the school library as helpful? This proposed qualitative study would involve surveys, interviews, and a focus group to elicit student responses to the research question. It would be good to replicate the Ohio Research Study (Ohio Educational Library Media Association & Leadership 4 School Libraries 2002).
  • Study 5: What do school administrators know about school librarians? This study could be implemented with a survey of administrators and focus groups. Education courses would be compared to the state standards to determine the skills that are required. State department of education personnel and faculty in colleges of education should be interviewed too.

In conclusion, the symposium was only 3.5 hours. Initially, I wondered how we were going to fill up the time. Soon I noticed that we would not have enough time to discuss research thoroughly. There is so much work for us to do. Let us continue with more discourse. It is my opinion that research topics need to be explored through collaborative efforts between school librarian educators, researchers, school district administration, and school librarians to maximize their effectiveness. I hope that the ESLS Community of Scholars will be able to provide guidance for investigating the research questions and studies in the future.

I also promised to share my presentation. Here is the link: The Past, Present, and Future: Examining the State of School Library Research.

Work Cited:

Ohio Educational Library Media Association & Leadership 4 School Libraries. 2002. Student Learning through Ohio School Libraries: The Ohio Research Study.

December 2019 Professional Development
Organization Date & Time Professional Development Title December 3, 2019 – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST Integrating SEL into Everyday Instruction
December 3, 2019 – 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST Successful Women in Leadership: Building and Maintaining Strong Relationships
December 3, 2019 – 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST Fulfilling Students’ Potential Through Engaging Literacy Practices
December 4, 2019 – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST Gamifying PBIS: Changing Behavior by Fostering Lasting Engagement
December 9, 2019 – 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST Effective Professional Learning: The Secret Sauce for Successful Classroom Transformations
December 10, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Growing Together: Developing and Sustaining a Community of Practice in Early Childhood
December 10, 2019 – 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST Create Safe and Equitable Learning Environments through Ethical Decision-Making December 3, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Social Media and Volunteer Engagement
December 4, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Where Do I Go From Here? Engage Volunteers in New Ways
December 12, 2019 – 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST Measuring Success: How to Strategically Assess Your Program
Webjunction December 5, 2019 – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST Doing the Work Externally and Internally: Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
December 5, 2019 – 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm PST Futures Camp “Fireside” Chat


December 3, 2019 – 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm CST YA-Y! The Latest Reads for Teens
ASCD December 12, 2019 – 3:00 pm EST Your Students, My Students, Our Students: Rethinking Equitable and Inclusive Classrooms

Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

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1 reply

  1. Hello,
    I am also in North Texas. I am an elementary librarian and currently working on my doctorate. This article is very helpful in the current research needs for our field.

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