Students’ smiling “shelfies” that display their favorite summer reads greet you on the wall as you enter. Spheros glow and whiz by your feet. Music fills the air and ignites pep in your step. A pair of students collaborate in the makerspace to continue their work on a prototype carefully crafted out of cardboard and duct tape. A class of students and their teacher cheer loudly in celebration of cracking the codes for a student-designed Breakout EDU. This most certainly isn’t your grandmother’s library–or even your mother’s. Gone are the days of a quiet school library with a sole emphasis on reading books, studying, and researching. A modern-day school library is an active learning hub for all–truly the heart of the school.
Sadly, we are in an age when school librarians’ jobs are in question, even being eliminated with library collections dismantled and books distributed to individual classrooms when, in reality, school librarians and libraries are more essential than ever. According to Common Sense Media’s 2015 study The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, “On any given day, American teenagers (13- to 18-year-olds) average about nine hours (8:56) of entertainment media use, excluding time spent at school or for homework. Tweens (8- to 12-year-olds) use an average of about six hours’ (5:55) worth of entertainment media daily.” Students are spending a vast amount of time online while in school and during their free time, and it’s school librarians who are at the forefront of digital citizenship, helping students learn how to be responsible and stay safe online, encouraging critical thinking when evaluating sources, teaching about intellectual property and copyright, and promoting equal digital access.
Librarians create magic in a modern-day school library. Librarians are innovative, service-oriented, well-trained individuals who are there to lead and support staff and students while connecting them to the community or the world at large. They honor students’ identities and personal struggles while opening their eyes to worlds beyond themselves through carefully curated book collections that provide “windows and mirrors” for readers. They identify titles of well-reviewed, just-right books to meet instructional standards but, more importantly, to meet the individual needs of students–all while instilling a lifelong love of reading.
Librarians curate resources for research lessons or assist students and staff in seeking out reliable, unbiased, current sources for information. They emphasize the importance of digital citizenship, carefully weaving in thoughtful lessons about appropriate, responsible use of technology and helping others navigate oftentimes complicated digital and virtual worlds. They select innovative technology tools and resources that can take a lesson to the next level and provide a more authentic and engaging means for learning. They partner with teachers and administrators, meeting them where they are at, and providing the individualized support and scaffolding necessary to make the experience of trying something new a success.
Librarians are open to new ideas, using their library as a sort of learning playground, where staff and students can explore concepts or teaching methods and “run the experiment” with the support and reflection of library staff.
Librarians promote flexible, adaptive active learning spaces, creating a library that meets the needs of individuals while helping everyone feel safe, comfortable, and welcome. They build a makerspace that allows students to tinker and explore, encouraging a growth mindset of learning from failure. They provide engaging and fun school-wide activities in the library that emphasize creativity, collaboration, and community.
Librarians connect with the community beyond the walls of the school, creating partnerships with individuals and groups not only in town but across the country or in other parts of the world with the help of technology. School librarians make it happen. All of it.
Librarians of today continue to adapt and evolve to remain educational leaders in schools in a time when technology and education are moving forward at an increasingly rapid pace. Thanks to the concerted efforts of certified school librarians, a school library isn’t just the heart of the school, it is interwoven in the fabric of the school community; it reaches far beyond its walls and its influence can be observed in the lessons, tools, and mindset all around the school. Behind each reader, each green screen video, each virtual reality lesson, and each community outreach project is a school librarian.
Andrea Trudeau (@Andrea_Trudeau) is a National Board Certified Teacher with an M.S.Ed. in educational psychology as well as a “No Shh” Future Ready Librarian who has over two decades of experience in education, holding a variety of teaching roles at Alan B. Shepard Middle School in a northern suburb of Chicago in Deerfield District 109. Most recently, she became the school’s library information specialist and hit the ground running in order to create an active learning commons that breaks free of the stereotypical library and embraces creativity, collaboration, and risk-taking. Andrea is passionate about project-based learning, literacy, innovative digital tools and resources, as well as the Maker Movement. She attended a roundtable discussion at the White House in June 2015 to discuss the potential of the Maker Movement in schools with educational leaders across the nation, presents and leads workshops regularly about topics such as makerspaces and augmented and virtual reality technology in the classroom, and has been a contributor to books about digital citizenship and educational leadership. She continues to be a strong advocate for hands-on, meaningful, and fun learning experiences for students.