Students Can Also Be Experts in the Library

School librarian Kristina Holzweiss was flipping through the American Library Association’s (ALA) graphics catalog when she saw the Libraries Transform campaign’s “I’m an expert in” badges. The first thought that came to her mind was, “How can I use these in my school library?”

Rather than she being the only one to wear a badge, Holzweiss decided to try them out with her student “techspert” team at Bay Shore Middle School (BSMS) in Long Island, N.Y. At BSMS, Holzweiss works with “techspert” students throughout different periods of the day. They help her in the library with everything from wrangling robots to creating websites and organizing the makerspace.

Badge: Libraries Transform, I'm an expert in [fill in the blank]About a month ago, Holzweiss presented the badges to the “techspert” students, asking them what they were an expert in. Students filled in the blank spaces with a broad range of subjects, including being an expert in reading, 3D printing and coding.

The badges give the students the opportunity to showcase their expertise in the library to other students as well as to the school’s staff. Since the badges are reusable, they allow students to be an expert in math one day and an expert in Legos the next day or the next week. The students don’t have to remain an expert in only one subject and can learn to be experts in other topics.

Holzweiss says the badges have been a big success in the school library. “For the students, the badges have been really empowering. They have taken ownership of their expertise. And the students have realized that the library is theirs too. The badges have helped the kids see that the library is not a me versus you kind of environment, that we’re all in this together to learn and grow,” she said.

Students at Bay Shore Middle School in Long Island, N.Y. wearing "Expert in the Library" badges“Techspert” team member Prisca says, "I think wearing this badge shows that I like to help, and have dedication to the library. As a ‘techspert’ I am determined to help change the library in good ways so that students are more comfortable coming and learning new things through technology and reading. Students can participate more. Libraries can change your attitude and expand your mind."

Holzweiss hopes other school librarians will give the badges a try with their students. She says the badges have become popular in the library and are now also being worn by the library paraprofessional.

Holzweiss says, “I didn’t know I needed the ‘I’m an expert’ badges until I saw them.”

The expert badges were created as part of ALA President Julie Todaro’s presidential initiative which focuses on librarians as experts and the critical role they play in our nation’s communities by transforming lives and communities through education and lifelong learning.