School Librarians Not Even an Afterthought in Education?


Last week (September 26 & 27, 2011) librarians were conspicuously absent (to School Library Journal at least) from NBC’s second annual Education Nation Summit, “a two-day event that brought together 350 educators, policymakers, business leaders, parents, and students to talk about improving education—but one thing was clearly missing: the discussion of librarians.” Shouldn’t there be a hue and cry of outrage from someone, somewhere?

According to SLJ, “… the only talk of librarians during the 19 panel discussions was when education activist Diane Ravitch, speaking about student achievement, said “closing libraries and getting rid of school nurses is not the answer.” No doubt librarians will love being in the same category as school nurses – and vice versa. Should janitorial staff be included in there?

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic, but to think that school librarians are not considered a critical stakeholder in education – as equally so as “business leaders, parents, and students” – is an outrage. For librarians not to be included in any public education summit, conference or conversation of any group is an outrage. Unfortunately, it is not a new phenomenon, but this slight seems to take marginalizing school librarians to a national extreme.

Back in May I Posted Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program Eliminated writing that “ALA tells us that literacy within our schools is no longer a priority for our government.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program was zeroed out under the Department of Education’s allocation for FY2011 funding (PDF), released today.

Improving Literacy Through School Libraries is the only federal program solely for our nation’s school libraries. This program supports local education agencies in improving reading achievement by providing students with increased access to up-to-date school library materials; well-equipped, technologically advanced school libraries; and professionally certified school librarians.

“This decision shows that school libraries have been abandoned by President Obama and the Department of Education,” Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office, said.
….
Nancy Everhart, president of the ALA’s Association of School Librarians (AASL), said school library programs provide students with the skills they need to select, interpret, form and communicate ideas in compelling ways with emerging technologies, preparing students for the demands of a global, competitive economy and a 21st century workplace.

“Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that students in schools with strong school library programs learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized tests even when differences in socioeconomic factors are taken into consideration,” Everhart said.

It appears that school libraries and librarians have also been abandoned by “educators”, and those like NBC purporting to support education.

A year ago I was encouraged by AASL’s “Standards for the 21st-Century Learner IN ACTION“. In my Sep 13 Post 21st Century Skills in Action in School Libraries, I wrote;

If you thought the 21st Century Skills list of Information Literacy expectations for 21st century learners was impressive in the previous Post, then just read what the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) … has developed as guidelines for school librarians and libraries….

7e. Benchmarks to Achieve by Grade 12

Standard 1: Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.

Strand 1.1: Skills

Indicator 1.1.1:  Follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life.

·Independently and systematically use an inquiry-based process to deepen content knowledge, connect academic learning with the real world, pursue personal interests, and investigate opportunities for personal growth.

Indicator 1.1.2:  Use prior and background knowledge as context for new learning.

·Explore general information sources to increase familiarity with the topic or question.

·Review the initial information need to develop, clarify, revise, or refine the question.

·Compare new background information with prior knowledge to determine direction and focus of new learning.

Indicator 1.1.3:  Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.

·Recognize that the purpose of the inquiry determines the type of questions and the type of thinking required (e.g., an historical purpose may require one to take a position and defend it).

·Explore problems or questions for which there are multiple answers or no “best” answer.

·Review the initial information need to clarify, revise, or refine the questions.

Indicator 1.1.4:  Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.

·Identify the value of and differences among potential resources in a variety of formats.

·Use various search systems to retrieve information in a variety of formats.

·Seek and use a variety of specialized resources available from libraries, the Internet, and the community.

·Describe criteria used to make resource decisions and choices.

Indicator 1.1.5:  Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.

·Evaluate historical information for validity of interpretation, and scientific information for accuracy and reliability of data.

·Recognize the social, cultural, or other context within which the information was created and explain the impact of context on interpreting the information.

·Use consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information from other sources.

Indicator 1.1.6: Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.

·Restate concepts in own words and select appropriate data accurately.

·Integrate new information presented in various formats with previous information or knowledge.

·Analyze initial synthesis of findings and construct new hypotheses or generalizations if warranted.

·Challenge ideas represented and make notes of questions to pursue in additional sources.

Indicator 1.1.7:  Make sense of information gathered from diverse sources by identifying misconceptions, main and supporting ideas, conflicting information, and point of view or bias.

·Create a system to organize the information.

·Analyze the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods.

·Analyze information for prejudice, deception, or manipulation.

·Investigate different viewpoints encountered and determine whether and how to incorporate or reject these viewpoints.

·Compensate for the effect of point of view and bias by seeking alternative perspectives.

Indicator 1.1.8:  Demonstrate mastery of technology tools for accessing information and pursuing inquiry.

·Select the most appropriate technologies to access and retrieve the needed information.

·Use various technologies to organize and manage the information selected.

·Create own electronic learning spaces by collecting and organizing links to information resources, working collaboratively, and sharing new ideas and understandings with others.

Indicator 1.1.9:  Collaborate with others to broaden and deepen understanding.

·Model social skills and character traits that advance a team’s ability to identify issues and problems and work together on solutions and products.

·Design and implement projects that include participation from diverse groups.

My point back then was whether any public librarian could read this list of expectations of what the high school graduate will soon know about information literacy and NOT question their own role in the library profession?

My point now is that if marginalized or non-existent school librarians are not the ones to achieve these 21st Century Skills literacy standards, who is? Classroom teachers? Those with math, science and social study degrees? During which class period? Homeroom? Study Hall? Without school librarians – IT WILL NOT HAPPEN!

The proof is in the short video below.

“First the governments eliminated the school librarian jobs and I did nothing, because………” Who will be left to speak for your librarian job?

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One response to “School Librarians Not Even an Afterthought in Education?

  1. Pingback: Die Schulbibliothek ist (k)ein Teil der Schule | Basedow1764's Weblog

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