Lifelong learners

Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School

Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School was crowdsourced by Dr. Judi Moreillon and Dr. Teresa Starrett using funds provided by the Texas Library Association, Demco, and the Dean's Research Funds (College of Professional Education, Texas Woman's University).

Lifelong Learners

Imagine a place where all students feel welcome and are encouraged to grow and learn. That space is the school library. Students and teachers love and value school libraries, and millions use them every day.  School libraries provide more than books, computers and other technology, databases of accurate information, e-books, plus fun and educational activities. School libraries provide a safe haven for all students to think, create, share, and grow. School libraries can be the hub of learning and a favorite spot for many students.

Librarians’ Common Beliefs

The American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st-Century Learner are based on common beliefs among school librarians. Among the common beliefs expressed in the AASL standards document are:

  • “Reading is a window to the world.”
  • “Equitable access is a key component to education.”
  • “The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.”

Importance of Encouraging Reading

We get better only at the things we practice—including reading. Plus, reading really IS a window to the world. Students—especially those who, for whatever reason, feel marginalized—benefit from reading about people like themselves and about people who are very different!

Reading for information and for fun is encouraged by school librarians. Many school librarians actively reach out to other educators and to all students to foster a culture of literacy in their schools. According to Stephen Krashen, a highly respected researcher who has studied factors that impact students’ reading skills:  “Research consistently shows that when children have access to good libraries with plenty of good books and with adequate staffing, they read more, and thus do better on reading tests. For children of poverty, libraries are typically the only possible source of reading material.” [1]

Reading isn’t just a tool for school. Good reading skills will be essential throughout students’ lives—when learning to use new technology at work, when trying to understand a lease, and when figuring out the right dose of medicine to give their own kids.

Importance of Equitable Access

Strong school library programs can make a huge difference in the lives of students and help bridge the “digital divide” (inequalities between people who can afford up-to-date technology and broadband Internet access, and people who can’t).

Strong school library programs can also help close the achievement gap. For example, a study in Pennsylvania revealed:  “Students who are poor, minority, and students with disabilities (have Individualized Education Plans), but who have full-time librarians, are at least twice as likely to have “advanced” Writing scores [on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment)] as their counterparts without full-time librarians.” [2]

Importance of Thinking Skills for Self-Directed Learning

Students now in grades K–12 will live until the latter part of the twenty-first century. Our youngest students may live into the twenty-second century! Surely, many aspects of their lives will be very different twenty—or even ten—years after they graduate. Current K–12 students will need skills that enable them to learn on their own. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills:

“As much as students need to learn academic content, they also need to know how to keep learning—and make effective and innovative use of what they know—throughout their lives. Learning and Thinking Skills are comprised of:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Creativity and Innovation Skills
  • Collaboration Skills
  • Information and Media Literacy Skills
  • Contextual Learning Skills      [3]

These are all skills emphasized in the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. Students can develop these skills when their school librarians and classroom teachers work together. The quote below is from the book Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs.

“By learning to formulate appropriate research questions, organize the search for data, analyze and evaluate the data found, and communicate the results, students develop the skills, dispositions, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies needed to become independent, lifelong learners.” [4]

The phrase “empowering learners” sums up school librarians’ goals.


[1] Krashen, Stephen. 2004. The Power of Reading. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited and Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

[2] Kachel, Debra E. 2011. School Library Research Summarized: A Graduate Class Project. Mansfield University. <http://sl-it.mansfield.edu/upload/MU-LibAdvoBklt2013.pdf> (accessed May 10, 2014).

[3] Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  n.d. “FAQ: What is the Framework for Learning in the 21st Century?” <http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-faq#what_framework> (accessed June 3, 2014).

[4] American Association of School Librarians. 2009. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs. Chicago: ALA.

 

Magazine cover: School Libraries Transform This new digital magazine produced by AASL in partnership with American Libraries, is designed to be shared with parents, colleagues, administration, and policymakers. Available electronically or as a PDF download, this tool can open the door to discussions on the multiple ways school libraries transform learning.