In an informal, open discussion I have begun with educational friends and colleagues, I posed these questions: What do you want from your School Library Media Specialist? What skills do your students need? I was surprised that their responses all bordered around the same five topics. I am a K-6 School Library Media Specialist, but I solicited answers from teachers in kindergarten through twelfth grades and “special” teachers (P.E. teachers, dance instructor, special education, etc.).
So, what did they want from their School Library Media Specialist?
They want research skills taught.
Almost every teacher I spoke with mentioned something about research skills. This is a hot topic for me. When discussing and instructing lessons on research, students and I have a long, drawn out discussion about Googling questions. Googling is not research. It is ready reference. Teachers want students to know the difference. Research, good research, comes from wading through many sources and choosing the best, most relevant information for your topic.
Also, teachers remarked that they would like students to know how to cite sources. Or, if nothing else, they would like students to have a general knowledge of some resources they could use to generate citations. There are many citation builder websites available, such as EasyBib, Citation Machine, and BibMe; students simply need that information in their toolbox.
They want resources gathered and shared.
A colleague of mine teaches a remedial English class for Junior High. She loves being able to schedule time for her class to visit the library to have the Library Media Specialist discuss resources available. In Arkansas, we are blessed with resources provided by our State Department of Education and Arkansas State Library; resources that many teachers and students would not have knowledge of or access to without it having been disseminated by the Media Specialist.
For our Media Center instruction, we often turn to Symbaloo to easily compile resources. It is great for younger students because it uses icons and has a touch-screen/app feel to it, even though we use it on desktops.
They want basic reference skills (map reading, how to use a dictionary, etc.).
Teaching students how to use reference materials is a big part of my curriculum. We spend much of our time focused on research and sources to use to gather information both in print and online. Many reference skills have been lost to technology, such as map reading. One third grade teacher stated that:
“teaching students how to use dictionaries, reference books and/or, websites, and mapping skills…are hard for teachers to fit in to our busy schedules, but are still important skills that are needed and comes in hand in the classrooms.”
I taught a lesson a few years ago on map skills. The local Chamber of Commerce donated over 500 copies of our count map to our students. They absolutely loved learning how to use it. Our school buildings were marked in the legend, and many students were able to locate the street on which they lived. It was a great and informative lesson; and the materials were a product of collaboration with our local community.
They want instruction to reflect classroom teaching.
Teachers across the board said that they would love library instruction to reflect classroom teaching and incorporate their units of study, if possible. One teacher simply said, “Can you just put COLLABORATION in a sparkly font?”
Having research skills, knowledge of resources, and references skills does absolutely no good if a student cannot translate that from “what I learned in library today” to classroom learning or life skills. Fortunately, I am blessed to work with an amazing faculty and staff that love to collaborate. Granted, much of that collaboration is done via text and occasionally on post-it notes left on my computer screen. Collaboration time can be difficult to schedule, but try to be flexible. I had a college professor once tell me to “work smarter, not harder,” and that is what collaboration does!
They want library skills taught.
I was surprised by this one! Several teachers stated that they loved having library skills taught to their students so that students could utilize the library independently, not just to come check out a book, but actually knowing how to utilize a card catalog, locate materials, and synthesize whether or not the material is a good choice, whether it be for leisure reading or research. Another skill that was mentioned several times was genre recognition. My principal has told me time and time again, “if I just knew what I liked to read when I was younger, I would have read more.” Genre recognition can be tough; however, many libraries are moving away from Dewey and into genrefication (organizing the collection by genre).
An evaluation of the services provided by your school Library Media Center doesn’t have to be formal or on paper. Send out a quick text to a few colleagues or ask around the lunch table in the lounge: what can I do to help with your classroom instruction, do you need any materials from me, or can you bring your class to the media center–I have a great resource to show them?
Or…you can be like me and bluntly ask, “What do you want from me?”
Author: Ashley Cooksey
Library Media Specialist in Arkansas. Self-proclaimed geek. Lover of nature and music. Always learning.