Still Relevant: 3 School Library Systems Doing it Right

Despite many K-12 libraries finding themselves on the chopping block in the budget cuts of recent years, I believe this aspect of student learning is essential for academic and real-world success. Librarians, information associates, media center specialists – call them what you want, but these professionals are just as important to student success as homeroom teachers and administrators. I’ve written before about what K-12 libraries need to look like in the coming years to maintain relevancy. Today I want to look at three school library initiatives that are reaching students in the right way and cementing the libraries’ priority spot in their respective schools and districts.

Ogden School District, Utah

At the end of last school year, the Ogden School District laid off ALL teacher librarians as a drastic budget cut. An uproar from the parents, students and community at large ensued and resulted in seven of the original 20 returning to full-time spots. With something to prove, the returning librarians spent the summer developing a plan to help students become top-notch researchers in the digital age. This includes information technology training that puts the responsibility of learning into the hands of the students – and teaches them to dig a little deeper than a simple Google search for information.

Takeaway: Successful K-12 libraries will not simply house information; their staffs will teach students how to access that information for lifelong learning.

The Meadowbrook School of Weston, Massachusetts

In November, this elementary school library was honored by the American Library Association for its interdisciplinary learning track for third graders. The “Transforming Tales” program starts in the physical library, where third graders read fairy tales from across the globe. The students compare cultures through the fairy tales read and then take those comparisons back to social studies, music, art, math and P.E. classes. In the end, the third graders develop their own fairy tales in groups and incorporate building blocks, song, dance and drawing into their depiction. The end product is the result of cross-curricular learning but it all starts within the school library walls.

Takeaway: School libraries should be the common thread that ties all disciplines together for most effective K-12 student experiences.

New Augusta South Elementary School, Indianapolis

In May, this elementary school library was honored by the American Library Association as the National School Library Program of the Year. Headed by librarian Lauren Kniola, this open-access library facilitates student learning all day (not just during scheduled library visits) and also takes the lead on technology training for teachers. To help with student research, the school library has a link that maintains bookmarks of previous student’s research to help others find information more quickly. By welcoming students and teachers through the library doors, New Augusta South makes the library the hub of the school and encourages collaborative learning.

Takeaway: The resources of a K-12 library should be accessible to all students and teachers, all the time. This can be accomplished through open-access policies during school hours and virtual access to materials and research around the clock.

What all three of these library systems are doing right is avoiding isolation. By collaborating with other teachers and staff, these libraries are using their own resources most effectively and giving students the skills to succeed in research, technology and literacy well beyond their K-12 years. Instead of making information a commodity, these and other successful school libraries are viewing that information as a common right amongst students and educators – to the benefit of every individual at the school.

What other characteristics do you think make a successful K-12 library system?

0 Replies to “Still Relevant: 3 School Library Systems Doing it Right”

  1. I take issue with this article. I take issue, because the take-away the author presents have been a common practice among academic libraries and school media centers for a long time. I got an MLS in the early 90s and never did I consider isolation or warehousing of information a foundation of library services. It was always proactive teaching library skills that drove my library experience. This article makes it appear that all libraries everywhere just warehouse information in an isolated manner without teaching information literacy. Not so. . .

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  3. I think that libraries do have that “hands off” feel sometimes, even if librarians don’t intend it to be that way. Instead of waiting for students/teachers to come to them, school librarians should be reaching out and connecting and finding ways to bring students into the classroom. Bravo to these schools and all the others who are using school library resources right.

  4. I think there is a disconnection between college libraries and K-12 ones. I remember using my high school library very infrequently (and that was only three years ago). In college, I go to the library for so many things beyond checking out books. I realize that most colleges have the funding to make this happen, while K-12 schools may not. But shifting the paradigm to models like this one are very important to keeping the libraries relevant.

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