Neverending evolution of the school library

“But… a librarian shall be focus on reading, right?” Sometime back, I heard a new administrator expressing his thoughts about the role of the school librarian. I was surprised to hear that from a person with international experience but not everywhere the role and impact of librarians are really appreciated. On my previous post, I was talking about how the design of the library space is changing to adapt it to the new librarians’ roles. As a result, the title of librarians is changing. It’s evolving in different ways to show the impact of technology at the school library and new pedagogical approaches in the classroom.

Sheldon Soper at ASLC (Association for Library Service to Children) blog, ‘The constantly evolving role of the school librarian’; synthesizes the transformation of the position of the school librarian because of the evolution of the learning practices. Librarians support students on their learning, creating spaces of innovation inside of the school.  Collaboration is one of the most challenging duties. However, teamwork between librarians and teachers produces unbelievable results on the benefits of the students. New technologies are introduced through the library creating a new tech hub that attracts students and teachers. It’s also giving another role of leadership, integrating technology, information literacy, innovative practices, and research instruction

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Is the school community recognizing the same roles of the school librarian? I will go further and wonder: Is the school leadership team seen our role with our lenses? or like the comment at the beginning of my post, are they still attached to a nostalgic figure and role of the school librarian? and going even beyond… how can we make a change on the way they see us?

International Baccalaureate and the school librarian

“It is a multipurpose space that can provide resources for reading, both for academic development and personal enjoyment. It can be a social space, an experimental space, as well as a safe space in many ways. A functioning 21st-century library system, therefore, energizes the curriculum and the school more generally, in some areas driving school life and culture.” (IB blog World magazine, 2018)

The International Baccalaureate has been promoting a change in the nostalgic vision of the role of the librarian through articles on their magazine, workshops, blogs, etc. However, the policies were not cleared enough. Only for MYP, the role of the librarian was clearly specified. On other documents for IB Diploma and PYP, the impact of the role was a bit vague.

Until this year, the IB has published ‘The ideal libraries: a guide for schools‘. Long-awaited publication by the IB librarians community. For school management, leadership committees and boards, it clearly defines the new roles, leadership, and the impact of collaboration (planning, teaching, and learning) into the community. Also for librarians, it gives a series of topics and questions to reflect on the IB expectations. Moreover, the questions are directed to the schools. It means to the management and leadership teams. Can we expect a change? I always wonder about the contrasting realities of IB school libraries in different countries. If they applied the same evaluation criteria, they are places in which the IB is a new program and many nostalgic practices are applied. And they approved the evaluations. I think that only improving the evaluation tools and criteria considered to assess school libraries will push the changed. It will be a way to reduce the gap between school libraries and benefit the students, that at the end of the IB Diploma, will face all the same exams.

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The role of the librarian on the Extended Essay

Learning theories and the school libraries

When do school libraries begin to change? In my opinion, when new approaches like constructivism enter the classroom and begin to change the ways of teaching. As a result, the librarian also started to change their approaches to teaching and learning. Just a simple example: If a student is learning about ideologies and revolutions, it’s a great opportunity to review sources of information (printed and online), find different points of view for the same topic (to promote critical thinking), academic honesty (encouraging citation and bibliography) in the context of the topic. It makes sense to the student and it becomes part of the inquiry process. How do concepts were introduced before? Through long lectures. Not interesting nor engaging at all. The student was a passive learner, not exploring just learning from the teacher.

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When I was reading the Andrew Churches’s Bloom’s digital taxonomy, I could connect to the Big Six skills theory that I mentioned before on a previous post. The use of action verbs on different phases show the complexity of the research process. The additional step of ‘creating‘ is the maximum expression of deep understanding put into practice. A librarians’ homework can be to do a selection of verbs in each step according to the grade of the students in order to design research.

Knowing that the brain development continues even on students’ age of ’20s according to Heather Ridley, makes me wonder on the impact and protagonism of educators in their life.  The importance of the relationship of teachers can help them go over any problem faced in the past and feel that they are in a safe environment. Also, the relevance of personalization and scaffolding learning experiences according to their level (differentiation).  Discover that the brain doesn’t stop developing when you are a child, really makes me see this as an opportunity to offer a safe environment at the library so students can feel the space as pleasant and supportive. Offering different resources and tools will help children to select and curate. They will learn in multiple ways. A library becomes a lab in which students will connect knowledge (information sources), recognize patterns that appear to be hidden and create a product.

Challenging? Yes, it is. Connectivism will encourage STEM, support innovation and creativity. Is your school library ready?

5 thoughts on “Neverending evolution of the school library

  1. Liliana, thank you for this post, it actually could not be more timely as I have been working with our librarian on the shifting role at our school and how things have drastically changed. As you mention, the way students learn has changed, so librarians must change as well. I have loved to see how collaboration is at the forefront of this, enabling and encouraging librarians to connect what is happening in each classroom with what is happening in the library. As teachers have become more innovative, librarians have become more innovative too. I think one of the things that must be kept in mind for those librarians who operated under an old system is that they must be offered training in order to operate under new expectations. Just like we train teachers in new modalities of teaching, so must we too, train our librarians in what it means to be innovative.

    • Ryan, I agree with you. Collaboration is the key. I hope that administrators will open their eyes and encourage more collaboration between librarians and teachers. Librarians shall be more involved in training and/or innovative projects of the school. But also, their own willingness to learn shall drive their personal and professional growth.

  2. Hey Liliana! I am a Coetail Online 10 participant and I fell upon your blog post this week and the content of it is something that has been going through my mind for a while. I agree with you completely that when collaboration between the librarian and teachers happens, then there are unbelievable benefits for the students. I think the biggest challenge is finding the time to do so. As teachers, we always wear the hat of ‘busy’ as we need to collaborate with so many different individuals on a daily basis. I think administration should carve out specific time for teachers and librarians to collaborate because it really is such an important thing to happen to allow our students to gain those 21st century skills.

    My school currently has library put into a set 6 day schedule for all teachers but they are looking to maybe think about making it more of a flex schedule. What are your thoughts in regards to this? Do you think it more beneficial for teachers to have a set day/time to go to library? Or do you think it should be more on a as need arises basis? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • Hi Jessica! I strongly believe that more than a fixed timing to go to the library, teachers, and librarians should plan common sessions as the need arises basis. Students will benefit because the sessions will be the result of their collaboration. Thus, a good planning is required to cover the goals of the teachers, librarians (information literacy) and technology integration.
      I also have at my school a 6-day schedule and, unfortunately, it’s not the best option. Especially, when the library session it’s the last period of the day.

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