An under-utilized resource exists in schools and, shamefully, it’s not valued. That’s a mistake and detrimental to effective teaching and learning.
Trendsetters are hailed with blazoned empowerment in our schools. I’m changing that narrative and shifting the perspective.The high level of competency required to organize information and give others a chance to have access to knowledge defines the workings of a skilled individual.
Consider one who remains steadfast, astute, practical, and transcends time. Rather than a trendsetter, let’s concentrate on someone who changes minds. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck studied achievement and success. Throughout her research on mindsets, two terms were created: “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset.” The outcomes show that some believe innate talent fosters success without additional effort and others believe that abilities can be transformed through dedication and hard work.
Within school communities across New York, the original growth”mindsetter” is the school librarian. Appropriate recognition is long overdue. They are not given their due respect until someone is in dire need. Well, that “dire need” presents itself in an all-too-real achievement gap. Closing the achievement gap can be accelerated if schools value the whole-child approach offered by their librarians.
Take, for example, this very real story:
A school’s budget gets cut. The first places where resources are tightened are music, dance, language classes, physical education and the library. In my collaboration with school librarians, I have learned that they are crucial to students’ social-emotional and intellectual growth. We find that in school communities, people want texts, technology, printing services, and quiet learning spaces but are overlooking the bearer of all of these physical representations of learning: the librarian. This is ignorance manifested and is counter-intuitive to education’s purpose: igniting a commitment to life-long learning!
According to Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s, “Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life,” school librarians cultivate the following nine Thinking Behaviors:
- Clarity: Supports detail of thought. Showcases methods of distinguishing facts from opinions.
- Accuracy: Models best research practices for seeking up to date information.
- Precision: Brings learners together and uses effective questioning techniques to polish specific detailed thinking.
- Relevance: Connects problem-solving activities to their audience’s life.
- Depth: Highlights topics’ possible different outcomes based on problems with one’s thinking. As well as the study approach used.
- Breadth: Proving resources and sharing how those options present different points of views.
- Logic: Encourages critical thinking habits based on evidence.
- Fairness: Promotes a comfortable space: meets you where you are on your path to learning. The librarian will house various works. Each taking into consideration others’ thinking and lifestyles.
- Significance: Optimizes their’ time by investing in digital and print resources. This guidance helps learners to discover the most important idea.
So, why do school communities disregard their librarian’s effective contributions? Perhaps some practical, actionable steps are needed.
- During the first month of school, schedule an introduction to the library with your students.
- Join forces with your school librarian. Each has a love of reading and learning that extends far beyond the walls of the library. Conduct research with the librarian as your ally.
- Parents must engage with school libraries to push their child’s 21st century thinking. The school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) needs to establish protocols for engaging regularly with their librarians.
- Parents can volunteer in the school’s library. Lead a reading group, help to reshelve books, or become a guest speaker.
- Administrators must include librarians to lead scheduled professional development sessions.
- Librarians should be a part of learning walks in school buildings.
- Administrators’ curriculum writing teams must collaborate with their their librarians.
- Librarians should have access to schools’ literacy scores at the same time as a school’s principal and assistant principal(s) receive said information.
School librarians’ resourcefulness is a cornerstone of a vibrant school community. Resuscitate the heart of our New York schools’ health. Invest your time. Seek out wisdom. Volunteer your voice. As Aretha Franklin said, “R.E.S.P.E.C.T., find out what it means to me!” It means school librarians matter!