School Librarianship 101 and SB 195

Why School Librarians Are the Literacy Leaders We Need

I have been talking much about the passing of Senate Bill 195, first in the Senate, and now the House, requiring Media Literacy Skills to be part of any educational curriculum in Delaware. That sounds kind of insignificant, quite obvious that it should be and a “No Duh” statement/action, or leave many scratching their heads and asking, “So, what that does this mean?” or “Who cares?”

In order to see the value of SB195 and see how it is tied to librarianship, it is essential to break down some “Do you know’s” of Librarianship and what exactly librarianship is. So here we go:

  1. Standard Procedure – In education, there are standards that various educators/disciplines have to guide the essential skills that various disciplines follow in order to get across an enriching education for students. For example, you have heard of Common Core Standards, in Science there are Next Generation Science Standards, in mathematics exists a heading of IXL aligns with Common Core Standards, Social Studies has standards specific to Delaware, English /Language Arts, Visual and Performing Arts, FFA and Agricultural focuses, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Standards, Physical Education, World Language and Immersion Standards, School Counselor Standards, School Nurse Guides/Manuals and ongoing training, sooooooo, what about certified School Librarians? Yes there are awesome positions where paraprofessionals support the goals of a Library Media Center, (yes this term encompasses the wider job description area many might not be aware of), but what about certified School Librarians? What does that mean? There ARE a specific set of standards that encompass the wide range of knowledge students encounter in research, media, organizational strategies, and literacy – known as the AASL (American Association of School Libraries) Standards. It is vital to understand what a certified librarian is.

2. Just as you would not want an untrained, unlicensed educator to be providing insights and passing them onto future graduates, the same goes for first having a certified librarian at every level, and making sure there IS an individual, certified. What does certified mean? Can’t anyone basically check books out to students? (it is true in fact that anyone that works in a library does not necessarily make them a librarian), and yet, there is some VERY important work paraprofessionals do to promote librarianship. A- ha! – so here is the important thing to know. The idea that books being checked out to individuals makes up the main role of a librarian- that is a task that an assistant, a paraprofessional, and of course a certified librarian CAN do, but a certified librarian means: a) In Delaware (every state has unique requirements for being a certified librarian)-just like every other discipline. Delaware requires a teaching license as well as a degree from an accredited college/university in an ALA (American Library Association approved program). The ALA national recognized degree is also stated in the Delaware Standards Board.

3. How does Delaware provide a path to be a librarian? Good question! Some individuals have a Master’s Degree and the missing professional classes the University of Delaware offers helps provide insights into the professional knowledge that changes in intellectual literacy as this area changes. Check out the options HERE . ALSO – there is a great program called the Common Market, that is a full-blown Master’s Degree Program in Information Science (which is a licensed, ALA program for certification of librarians), that specific schools can be attended, that will count you as in-state tuition, if your home state such as Delaware, does not have a Master’s program in that area. This is a GREAT opportunity and a HUGE saving. while providing the top professional insight into ever changing approaches to educate future generations in media literacy.

4. If you look at a typical Library Media Specialist/Librarian field of study, technology is a part of this training, obviously, but also HOW to interpret the world around us in lieu of so many claims, social media claims, public relation statements, and dealing with false news versus factual events, eliminating bias and prejudice, it is essential that future generations are not told what to believe based on someone’s agenda, but truly, knowing what are facts and what are false facts, in order for every person to be able to decide for their own, based on the facts that have been presented to them and facts they can internalize as true versus being fooled.

Imagine for a minute, NO SUCH PERSON is available to introduce skills of the contents of a book, how to find varying types of material like magazines, books, databases, sources for employment and building a portfolio of skills as students rise through grades? Imagine a student trying to figure these and other vital skills out on their own? Finding an apprenticeship, a vocation, finding grants and funding that will assist them manage their farm, tap into resources that will help them weather bad times, the certification in the department of information literacy and training certified librarians into informational professionals, is a very specific line of study that is meant to connect every other discipline together for students.

Think about that- that is a HUGE TASK to make connections to every single discipline for students in a very specific focus, navigating the world today amid a rapidly technological world. THAT is exactly what Library Media Specialists are trained to do – and imagine not having that person in a building to offer that insight at all? That is a HUGE reality all over our state. Many do not realize this.

Technology is important, but a technology specialist alone is technology focused, and not always infusing every other discipline with a personal tie to that education; certified librarians are trained to take technology, taking information, and analyze it, compare it, dissect it, evaluate it, APPLY it. This is above and beyond building a library collection tied to a CURRENT school’s curriculum, weeding, monitoring resources as ineffective or effective, and constantly asking and polling students, not waiting for them to come to the certified librarian, but always being a presence and a resource that is looking out for students.

In a day and age where support and a mental relief of knowing someone is in your corner to help with any discipline someone might be struggling with, or to get the resources to help with a specific problem area, certified librarians, as you can see – assist the daunting tasks educators have. This cannot be done when a certified librarian is non-existent in a building. Not even close.

5. If you think about one position in education that touches very single aspect of life, it is that of a certified library Media Specialist – think about it. Every discipline is represented in a library that a certified librarian has curated and checked, and molded to fit it’s schools curriculum, not an easy task when comparing a collection to the course schedule and planning guide for courses. A certified librarian goes into the community and brings aspects of all vocations, not just four year colleges, every single vocation and has aspects of these available to students from K-12. A certified librarians takes the newest and oldest technology and finds ways to make that technology work for students. A certified librarian proactively checks on students and find what they need, NOT sitting behind a desk and waiting for help to come to them, those days have been over for years. (Trust me, if that is happening you need to question how or why that person is a certified librarian).

6. No, a position as Library Media Specialist is NOT a comfy choice for a preretirement finale. If anything, Library Media Specialists take on the uncomfortable aspects of education and turn them into steps and paths to “comfortableness” for future generations. No, certified librarians are NOT expected to push agendas, push opinions, and push views of one particular focus, they are trained to make transparent all possible truthful paths, teach future generations how to weed through lies, fallacies and fake truths, and identify the truths and be able to decide for themselves based on the tools given to do so.

7. Certified Librarians/Library Media Specialists lead students to opportunity, possibility, connecting the dots from Math, to Science, to English, to Agriculture, to the Arts, to Social Studies, to Physical education, to literacy, to language, to the WORLD. With this position vacant in so many areas, think of the work and connections students try to make themselves and get frustrated because that trained professional is not present!

8. Yes books are part of the librarianship model, but not to the degree the general population applies to their role of what is a certified librarian. They are tools, just as Math can be a tool to understand a concept in English, in Social Studies, in a foreign language, a tool, not the most important item in the world, but a priceless one when applied to all other disciplines.

9. Certified librarians today are trained to, 24 hours a day, connect EVERYTHING. When they listen to the radio, they are always ears up! to see if something can connect to a student or teacher that can be used down the road. When certified librarians are in public and meet people and their insights into procedures or ways to fix things, when they are aware of community events, when they read information that can be passed on to assist another, when they make a connection that can lead another to success, 24 hours a day certified librarians are trained to not let one single possibility go by the wayside without possibly helping another and connecting, connecting, connecting.

10. Senate Bill 195 is pretty simple in wording compared to other bills, and yet -so is the importance and value of a certified librarian. The dangerous aspect is that the information about availability of certified librarians is largely unknown to parents, community members, students, business owners, and if made aware, test scores, college admissions and references, success in every discipline, using technology and having access to technology in a more successful way, working hand in hand with public librarians and paraprofessionals, all help students overcome in the growing and daunting every-discipline-obstacles that students come into contact daily, even hourly. However, the public needs to know more about what is at stake without certified librarians to truly provide the unbiased and uninfluenced views that enable skills for future generations to do the same. Your voice, your support in a bill like SB 195 to now pass in the House insists on the skills that students need to tackle media literacy skills when they are bombarded with media; media loaded with intention, loaded with inaccuracy, loaded with one side or another’s view while leaving out important details. SB 195 insists that that awareness and path to being informed truthfully, to be able to wade through those obstacles equipped with tools so they themselves can discern between the right path for them, is always available.

No one needs to be influenced, persuaded, or fooled into buying into an idea that is someone else’s agenda. What youth do need is a fair and equal shake at resources and media literacy that allow them to make the correct decisions after knowing how to obtain the correct details, and not someone else’s agenda. Enter the certified librarian that can deliver that right and opportunity to every single student in every single school. I hope this first brief look at what a certified librarian truly means to a school and to every student within that school helps clear up what the role of a certified librarian versus the “idea” of what a certified librarian does.

For the record, I am NOT against paraprofessionals in the library – I know some AWESOME ones, and without paraprofessionals, sometimes there are no librarian visits at all – think of that! CRAZINESS! However, there should be a certified librarian at the very least with paraprofessionals in every library.

Another point often made is that individuals that have a Master’ s Degree, PhD, or what they see as a similar degree level is aokay as they hold their own in the library. For the record, there is no equivalent to a Master’s in Library and Information Science. just as there is no equal to a Master’s of Education compared to a Master’s in Technology Information.

When a certified Librarian and/or a Master’s Degree in Library & Information Science is easily substituted and allowed to be substituted for another “equivalent” degree, the problem is it lays waste and credibility to the cutting edge skills that the Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science brings to youth from K-12.

About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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