Who is the 21st-Century School Librarian?
The world of school libraries has changed substantially from when most school librarians were students. Automation, greater understanding of the art and science of learning, emphasis on the collaborative process, the print-to-digital shift, changing educational needs, and multimedia products have all contributed to a change in what school librarians need to be. No longer the quiet, behind-the-scenes cataloguer or the sweet story time leader, school librarians are emerging as school leaders and change agents who are deeply integrated in and committed to rigorous, deep student learning. School librarians recognize the importance of being instructionally savvy educational partners who collaborate with staff members to co-plan, co-teach, and co-evaluate student work.
Sadly, tough economic times and shifting educational priorities sometimes mean that school librarians must assume another new role: that of advocate for information access and inquiry-oriented learning. Librarians who advocate for their students’ needs have more success obtaining the staffing and budget levels necessary to achieve those goals. Use the goal of student learning as your guiding compass rather than merely asking for the library to be funded or staffed. Demonstrate the interconnectivity!
For some librarians, these multifaceted elements of school librarianship energize them and remind them of why they entered the profession. For others, this is a radical paradigm shift. We recommend these readings to help envision a vibrant, sustainable role for the school librarian. The resources include a job description, a professional evaluation module, and writings envisioning the roles and responsibilities of school librarians.
As practitioners, we can also draw inspiration from one another. The AASL National School Library Program of the Year award (or NSLPY) gives annual recognition to an outstanding school library. Not only does NSLPY validate a high-performance library program, but it provides a role model and example for other practitioners to explore and emulate.
Fontichiaro, Kristin, Judi Moreillon, and Debbie Abilock. 2009. “The School Librarian's Bill of Responsibilities.” Knowledge Quest 38, no.2 (November/December), 63.
Ballard, Susan. 2009. “Developing the Vision: An L4L Job Description for the 21st Century.” Knowledge Quest 38, no.2 (November/December), 78–82.
Ballard, Susan. 2010. “Developing the Vision: Enhancing Your Professional Practice.” Knowledge Quest 38, no.3 (January/February), 76–77.
Coatney, Sharon, ed. 2010. The Many Faces of School Library Leadership. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Valenza, Joyce K., and Doug Johnson. 2009. “Things That Keep Us Up at Night.” School Library Journal 55, no.10 (October), 28–32.
- Zmuda, Allison, and Violet H. Harada. 2008. Librarians as Learning Specialists: Meeting the Learning Imperative for the 21st Century. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
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