Friday, September 16, 2011

The winds of fall challenge my library role

For the 3rd time this week I heard that our budgets will probably be cut again by up to 25% next year. I also have heard principals are questioning the value of keeping librarians in the face of all these cuts. They ask the why keep a librarian if they can get a full FTE classroom teacher that make more of an impact on kids?

My neighboring district to the south who has district employed/building specific librarians have already cut 1/2 their HS & Middle School librarians and just this year cut 1/2 their elementary librarians. Other districts are headed the same way. What does a half time librarian look like? Well, due to equity discussions- one librarian often serves two schools (sometimes a few days in one school then another, sometimes full weeks).

I'm really curious how effective I would be if I was only 1/2 time in a school? If a teacher is collaborating with me and gets behind in curriculum, maybe I can't float back and forth. How can I build relationships and trust so that I can collaborate if I'm only part time?

Perhaps a bigger issue is what is the role that librarians or teaching/collaborates will be playing in their buildings in the future?

Will we be Learning Specialists who focus more on professional development and 21st century learning standards as Allison Zmuda, Violet H. Harada suggest. Will we be developing a Learning Commons or instructional Facilitators as Koechlin Luhtala and Loertscher suggest? (February 2011 page 20)

I think if we are really going to be an active part of the future learning for our schools, we need to play an active role in the change that is coming. There may be some parts of our jobs that it is time for us to let go- perhaps some carry over from the "old librarian model". I'm not sure what those are, but I wonder what things we aren't willing to let go that might hold us back from serving our staff and students? Are you willing to give up reading picture books? Book talks? Being the sole coordinator of your collection development? What things keep us from being able to collaborate with teachers, training staff, work to support student achievement and 21st century learning skills?

Hmmm. Lots of thinking for a Friday am. I would be very curious to hear your thoughts! What will the new role look like? What can we do to best help kids? Thanks for your help!


Laura L Summers said...

In response to your statement about principals thinking that "a classroom teacher makes more of an impact on kids," makes me cringe.

How do we show/document that you can have just as much impact as a classroom teacher and that your classroom extends to hundreds of students each day? Statements about $$$ usually indicate one of two things:

1. that the administrators haven't thought it all through in terms of all that you do. I am starting to wonder if we truly have to wear signs on our heads to get their attention about how a 21st Century Teacher-Librarian impacts students! : )

2. that the administrators have only worked with a librarian who doesn't want to step up and be an instructional leader.

Beckie Large-Swope said...

I have been pondering similar things. A retired Language Arts teacher reminded me that as a librarian I touch every student in the building multiple times. This year my schedule has every Lang Arts class coming to the library every week. Philosophically I always try to see every student in the building in a two week period. This year it is weekly. No one else in the building sees every student weekly on an academic basis. The last two years we have seen growth in reading. I can't imagine taking that away from our students. They have no other access to print sources.

We adapt every year to meet the needs of our staff and students. We must continue to adapt. My library will look very different from Phil's. Libraries are the center of the school's community.

Kim Ackerman said...

This topic takes up a lot of space in my head! Something we don't like to talk about is that when you have ONE of a position in a building, the success of that position is very dependent on the personality of the person holding that position.

In my district, librarians have freedom to do what they believe is needed in that school and what will most impact students. This is good and bad.

Some librarians are the center of the school and collaborate with classroom teachers regularly because they are friendly, approachable, encouraging colleagues. Others are not as beloved. But every one believes they are indispensible and every one works very hard at whatever they've chosen to focus on.

Does every librarian ask for feedback and act on it? Does every librarian strive to change with our changing times? Does every one work hard to be an indispensible teacher and colleague in their school?

We talk about the effect of librarians on student achievement. Do we each assess the skills we teach and reteach as necessary? Can we SHOW the effect or do we want others to just "know" that we are effective? At least in my district, most librarians do not regularly assess and reteach information literacy skills, so we truly have no data to prove that what we do effects student achievement.

We do know that in some schools, people appreciate and value the librarian, and in some schools they don't. So much of that judgments of effectiveness is based on the librarian's personality and people skills.

We also have principals (and some teachers) who don't understand what the librarian teaches - so don't appreciate this teacher of skills that are not taught elsewhere in school. How do we correct that? People don't appreciate what they don't understand and many principals are overwhelemed with their duties already.

The cuts to school and public libraries in our state and in our nation are distressing and there are no easy answers. I'm hoping some of our great library minds can turn this tide. Not for the sake of our jobs, but for the sake of our students. Can you hear my frustration?

Nancy said...

I find myself wondering if it would be productive to shift the conversation from "what do we teach" to "how we help students learn." The goal is for students to learn, after all --not to have x number of teachers who teach.

If a principal understands the need for differentiation to reach every child where he is and move him forward --then he must appreciate the fact that this is what we do for individual students in libraries.

If a principal understands the need to go beyond teaching to the test so students are really prepared for their future with 21st century skills, then he should understand the importance of a strong school librarian.

As a profession, we need to do a better job communicating what we actually do. We need to build advocates outside of our profession who will fight to protect students from school library cuts.

Pamela Hill said...


You articulated what I've noticed for years now. "The success of that position is very dependent on the personality of the person holding that position." So TRUE! I've been a librarian in several different states now & I've found that each school's library is so dependent upon the librarian. We really can make a huge difference in people's perception of what we do. Our profession as a whole can only do so much. Non-librarians don't see or hear what our profession says about us. They only know what their particular librarian is doing (or not doing). So really, it's up to each and every one of us to advertise what we do and to become invaluable to the students, faculty and staff.

the cowgirl librarian said...

Jefferson County Schools teacher-librarians are facing unprecedented cuts - including completely eliminating all middle school librarian. Here's a blog post I wrote for our Save School Libraries Campaign.

Teacher Librarians - Hearts and Keys

Having been a teacher-librarian for 16 years - at two elementary schools and now a middle school - I can attest to the fact that our libraries are the academic "hearts" of our schools. Students have access to a wide variety of books and resources on a myriad of subjects at different reading levels. Libraries provide students with opportunities to follow their personal reading and learning interests along with one-on-one support from a highly-trained professional. Research shows, time and time again, that a well-funded and appropriately staffed library has a very positive impact on student achievement, engagement, and test scores.

Teacher-librarians are also the keys to effective, safe, and ethical technology use for students and teachers. In most schools, libraries were the first places to get computers, used to manage the searching and circulation of books and materials. Librarians became the technology pioneers in their schools. Since then, technology in libraries and schools has exploded. The Internet and Web 2.0 tools have expanded the educational use of technology exponentially. Now, computers are found in almost every room in every school. Librarians have changed with the times and are still at the forefront of the training and one-on-one support for each one of those computers...not to mention SMARTBoards, document cameras, projectors and more. We are the experts on online research and ethical use of information, online safety and cyber bullying - knowledge and skills essential to today's students.

Our libraries are no longer contained on shelves within the walls of a building. We teach students and teachers how to use technology to collaborate, create, and share their work in new and exciting ways. Every Jeffco librarian connects students with ideas, cultures, and people all over the world.

What can you do? Recognize that our teacher-librarians are the hearts and keys to technology and learning in our schools. Tell your teacher-librarian how much you appreciate him or her - these are stressful times for all of us and kind words mean so much. Most importantly, teachers, continue to send your students to the library to find those special books that spark a love of reading and learning; continue to collaborate with your librarian and integrate great resources and technology into your classroom; and continue to rely on the expertise of a professional "teacher and librarian" who is there to support you and your students in every way possible.

Kim Meyer, Teacher Librarian
West Jefferson Middle School

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