Wednesday, September 3, 2014

School libraries need full-time staff

My coursework this week for LIBT 210, School Library/Media Center Services, asked me to state my opinion concerning how school libraries should be staffed. In a class forum, I advocate full-time staffing at professional and supportive levels.

In a position statement, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) emphasizes, “The success of any school library media program, no matter how well designed, ultimately depends on the quality and number of the personnel responsible for managing the instructional program in addition to the library’s physical and virtual resources. A well-educated library degreed professional staff, supported by technical and clerical staff, is crucial to build effective school library programs.”

The AASL further specifies, “Each school must employ at least one full-time technical assistant or clerk for each school librarian. Some programs, facilities, and levels of service will require more than one support staff member for each professional.”

School Libraries Work!, a “research foundation paper” produced by Scholastic Library Publishing, documents studies demonstrating school libraries’ “measurable impact” upon increased student achievement.

Specific gains highlighted in School Libraries Work! include increases in Illinois of 12.7-percent in reading and 17.3-percent in writing/ACT among elementary school students. The same study correlates higher academic achievement with “flexible” library scheduling, that is, making the teacher-librarian available whenever classes need him or her, instead of restricting classes’ access only during specific times.

A library assistant can easily fill a full-time day to capacity: with check-outs, check-ins, re-shelving materials, ongoing shelf maintenance, inter-library loan, processing and tracking purchases, generating overdue notices, assisting patrons to navigate the catalog and locate materials in the library, designing exhibits that showcase library resources, preparing new items for use and making recommendations for collection development.

The AASL identifies three unique roles of a teacher-librarian or library media specialist: that of information specialist, teacher and instructional consultant.

With routine duties and operations performed by a full-time technician or assistant, the teacher-librarian can focus on effectively fulfilling those three important roles. She or he can build a school library collection that supports the curriculum and reflects the unique needs of the student population. The teacher-librarian can design lessons and train effective information consumers who can locate, evaluate and select a variety of information sources.

Beyond library operations, the teacher-librarian can serve on school and district committees, bringing greater visibility to his or her value as a professional. By extension, the visible library professional brings greater visibility to his or her library media program.

Bottom line according to our readings for LIBT 210: Professional associations and study findings advocate for full-time availability of a library assistant/technician and a teacher-librarian. Districts’ investments in library staff hours are amply repaid in students’ academic achievement.

Works Cited:
  • American Association of School Librarians. Position Statement on Appropriate Staffing for School Libraries. American Library Association, June 2014. Web.
  • ----. Position Statement on the Role of the Library Media Specialist in Outcomes-Based Education. American Library Association, June 2006. Web.
  • Scholastic Research & Benefits. School Libraries Work! 3rd ed. Scholastic Library Publishing, 2008. Web.

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