Who School Librarians Are and Learning4Life

A Parent's Introduction to Learning4Life: National Plan for Implementation of the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."
- Alvin Toffler (1990)

As educators, we are trying to teach students to be independent users of information and it is in the best interest of parents to assist in this process. One of our goals at AASL is to “prepare students for life-long learning, informed decision-making, a love of reading, and the use of information technologies” and we would like you, as a parent, to help make this possible by supporting our Learning4Life initiative.

Learning4Life (L4L) is a national implementation plan for the Standards for 21st-Century Learner and Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs. L4L illustrates the idea that a successful school library program should contribute to formal and lifetime learning. AASL believes that these standards are necessary for success in a student’s educational, professional, and personal endeavors. As school librarians it is essential for us to provide learning environments and opportunities for student success in and out of the classroom.

Many states have created curriculum content standards and benchmarks which detail the expected student outcomes throughout a student’s K-12 career. There is an absence of a “library skills” content area in many of these standards. AASL, building upon its "Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning" located in Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (1998), has established Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs and the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner to help shape today’s school library program and integrate it into the curriculum. This is a comprehensive framework of standards and strands which delineate the skills, dispositions in action, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies for students to be successful in a technologically-dependent world.

  • Skills are the key abilities needed for understanding, learning, thinking, and mastering subjects.
  • Dispositions in Action are ongoing beliefs and attitudes that guide thinking and intellectual behavior that can be measured through actions taken.
  • Responsibilities refers to common behaviors used by independent learners in researching, investigating, and problem solving.
  • Self-Assessment Strategies are reflections on one’s own learning to determine that the skills, dispositions, and responsibilities are effective.

The position of school librarian, teacher-librarian, or library media specialist, regardless of the moniker, is synonymous with literacy. Today, our meaning of literacy exceeds that of books and encompasses all information. Technology has changed the landscape of education and schools are attempting to keep up with these changes. According to A Global Imperative: The Report of the 21st Century Literacy Summit, “A profound shift is taking place in the way people communicate and express themselves…a new concept of language – and what it means to be literate – is evolving...incorporating visual and aural elements with textual elements, and an immediacy which itself is a dimension of the new language”. With so much misinformation in our data-driven society, school librarians must help the entire educational community to obtain the necessary skills to survive and thrive in the 21st century.

President Obama’s educational policy is “to deliver a 21st-Century education that will prepare all children for success in the new global workplace”. He aims to accomplish this task “by promoting world-class academic standards and a curriculum that fosters critical thinking, problem solving, and the innovative use of knowledge to prepare students for college and career”. Many states are revising their curriculum to incorporate 21st-Century skills and there are other initiatives with common goals to that of AASL. For instance, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills possesses three areas of student outcomes including Life and Career Skills, Learning and Innovation Skills, and, most relevant to school libraries, Information, Media and Technology Skills.

Parents are the primary stakeholders in their children’s education and the learning environment at school can only be successful if supported in the home. We hope you will embrace the challenge of preparing your children for life in an ever-changing, 21st-Century world by “learning, unlearning, and relearning” the same skills as your children. Why not embrace the role of lifelong educator since you will be their most important teacher? Be courageous; create a profile on a social networking site, learn to Tweet, explore Google, edit a wiki, write a blog; this is your child’s world and it soon will be yours if it isn’t already.

For other resources related to 21st Century skills visit the School Library Program Health and Wellness Toolkit.

For more information on L4L visit AASL Learning4Life.


Issues: Education. (n.d.). the White House. Retrieved June 11, 2009, from WhiteHouse.Gov: Education external link icon

Mission & Goals. (2006, September 27). American Library Association. Retrieved June 18, 2009, from AASL Mission & Goals

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2004). Retrieved June 11, 2009, from The Partnership for 21st Century Skills external link icon

Report of the summit. (2005, April 26). 21st Century Learning Summit [Report]. Retrieved June 12, 2009, from nmc Web site: nmc: events: 21st Century Literacy Summit external link icon

Standards for the 21st-Century Learner [Pamphlet]. (2009). Retrieved June 10, 2009, from AASL Website: Standards for the 21st-Century Learner