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 specific 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?
Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Pearson, please click on the following link.