Unfortunately, not many non-school librarians understand what an effective school library program entails. Why does this matter? The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is about to be voted into law by Senate on Tuesday, December 8. The new Education Act will replace the No Child Left Behind Act that was last authorized in 2001. The updated ESEA includes new provisions for school libraries. It will, for example, authorize local plans to describe how the Local Education Agency (LEA) will “assist schools in developing effective school library programs to provide students an opportunity to develop digital literacy skills and improve academic achievement.”
It’s easy to bemoan the fact that SoCal campus libraries are understaffed, underdeveloped, and under-utilized. But now is not the time to express bitterness about the lack of school librarian positions or to throw around quotes from the state-adopted, too often ignored, model library standards. Now is the time to clearly and simply define “effective school library programs.”
What follows is what I’ve been using with some success. Consider it my mantra.
Basically, school libraries serve three main purposes on campus.
1. Space – The school library is a student-centered space. All students should feel comfortable coming to the library to study, to read, to research, and to collaborate. In many cases, the library serves as a classroom and meeting space, not only for students, but for teachers and parents as well. Therefore, school libraries need to be welcoming and “transformative” – able to adapt to a campus’s ever-evolving needs.
2. Resources – The school library is a provider of resources. Its physical and online resources support the school’s curriculum, standards, as well as self-directed student inquiry… beyond Google.
2. Services – The school library is a provider of services. Library tours, live demonstrations, and/or online tutorials about how to access and use information independently and ethically help to build students’ 21st century digital citizenship skills. Author visits, crafting corners, or makerspaces offer students extended learning opportunities.
These three combined purposes create an effective school library (SL) program. Fully functional SL programs have been proven to improve academic achievement. It’s exciting to know that, after 50 years, federal legislation is finally authorizing the use of funds to support school libraries.
To learn more about the language about school libraries included in the new ESEA, read the ALA – ESEA Conference Overview (11-30-15). If you haven’t yet contacted your Senate Rep, consider doing so tomorrow (Monday, 12/17) right before they vote on December 8. Keep your fingers crossed.