Being given the following mission:
“AASL Chapters are asked to connect with their Superintendent/Commissioner of Education, Principal Association, State Librarian, or Teacher of the Year to discuss the role of school librarians.” – I felt it necessary to do ore than simply pass on materials.
In providing the AASL Standards to the above representatives of all things education in Delaware, made possible by a generous grant from AASL member Marina “Marney” Welmers, I wanted to make sure as librarians we are represented more than just a handoff of materials. The AASL Standards are pretty daunting by themselves, and the need to delve into them critically, is vital to applying better approaches to libarianship in Delaware.
There are the takeaways that seems most vital, when I looked into the Delaware School Libraries Master Plan, from 2016, keeping the current AASL Standards in mind:
page 7 -10 of the 2016 study – aspects of English Arts Performance that improve with school librarians:
Areas of Reading, Writing, Research Skills, Math & Science, Information Literacy Skills, as well as Graduation Rates are directly related with the presence of a librarian in the immediate building of a school. The SB 195 that directly required students to receive Media Literacy Skills as part of their education complements what school librarians can do to facilitate this at every grade, with the time and presence of a school librarian for students.
Page 11 outlines the very 7 points that even in 2016, and still today, will create a better impact among students, all involving librarianship. The flexible versus fixed scheduling is one of the many characteristics that directly impacts the effectiveness of a librarian among students. Freeing the library media specialist as state don page 12, and well as moving towards a certified full-tine librarian shows the trust and belief of the very impacts that are shown to occur with librarian specialists among students.
The mention of focus groups held throughout the state, with library/media center personnel, as stated on page 12 is another key component to increasing librarianship throughout our state.
The statistics presented on page 13, of the decline of the school librarian in districts was in 2016, to see a more recent picture, please take a look at Debra Kachel’s slide project HERE. The bottom of page 13 sums it up best, “Even more alarming is the fact that Delaware’s school libraries appear to be headed in an increasingly dire direction in regard to the number of schools with full-time, certified librarians.”
This was in 2016.
Again on page 14 – qualifications, erosion of time allotted to the profession of librarianship, how units need to be reconsidered in lieu of this situation on page 15, and the continuous justification of librarian positions being cut – all concerns that have remained unattended to for too long.
Page 17 delves into the insight of school-library catalogs, and with the possibility finally of schools being part of an consortium, whether you realized it or not, the call for librarians with a Master’s of Information Science, and experience with ALA certification, has never been more important as librarianship begins to turn a new corner in providing for needs of students that cannot be found in a standard job description of this position.
Addressing the fact that no paid staff are assigned to a council, as referred to on page 17, the fact that indeed, without formal staffing, change happening is not able to occur.
Recommendations, that are appearing starting on page 20 are relatively similar to what veteran librarians in schools have been askng for before, and after 2016’s report. School librarians in each school, a pilot project where is put in place, funding for a pilot of this nature, (the school library consortium can help this area as well), expanding access to E-content and expanding the Delaware Library Consortium (YES! Happening) as listed on page 22 – we are moving and need to continue to move in the directon of recommendations that were provided in 2016.
Establishing specific governance and helping coordinate school libraries is a huge factor. As DASL has been trying to remold the model of reaching out and bringing together all individuals (paraprofessionals, graduates, soon to be graduates of an MLIS program, public librarians, adminstrators, Technology Specialists) who are making strides in librarianship, we all need to meld together to help make the strides we need to see across the board, so to speak, for librarianship. Working with Everylibrary.org has also helped build a Delaware coalition to make changes and get out of the quicksand of inert activity that has been occurring long before 2016 with librarianship in Delaware.
Pages 24 focus on factors that inhibit the role of a librarian, be it inadequate staffing, resources, non-supportive administration, professional development freedom lacking for librarian development, flexible versus fixed scheduling, ongoing programs of data collection and management established, tracking student performance alongside contributions of librarian support to students (hard to do if many of the above factors do not exist to allow this!) – from pages 24-25, the recommendation and focus that needs t be taken, is just there waiting for us to bring to the forefront.
Staffing, as brought up on page 25 -is a whole realm that needs to be attended to. Be it from how a librarian is considered, and utilized to the actual role a librarian plays to a school (and we know this goes two ways, we need to expect anyone representing the librarianship role to be 100000% (that is alot!) proactive. This means willing to be adaptable at every turn, willing to be proactive and not ever, ever wait for anyone or any one activity to come to them, but always going out and reining in activities, opportunities, and discoveries for the student body at large – to represent the change we want and need to see in the support of librarians in Delaware.
As mentioned on page 29, moving towards a consortium is going to change the way people, students, and administration will view librarians, and it should. For the better, not for the worse. Legions of school librarians need to reappear to change the views of students and how they view education as a whole – which is desperately needed.
Without a doubt, the recommendation made in 2016, on page 30, of a full-time position at the Department of Education, focusing just on school-library programs, has and is a game change. The real power of what impact school librarians can have on the school communities in our state can emerge from this one major action – as well. In order to have a High Quality Library School Program, as mentioned on page 31, recommendations by specialists in the field of education in 2016, need to be enacted now and moving forward.
The details of the power of flexible versus fixed scheduling falls on page 32 and shows how this impacts accountability on page 33 to page 35 that shows a point system of effectiveness school librarians can have if supported and encouraged.
Take a look at pages 39, and see the areas of concern such as maintaining collections with shrinking budgets (page 42), access to resources students do not have at home (43)- ask students who we have enabled to provide free laptops to, thanks to the resources librarians can gather and pull together that others do not have, to the outcomes that occur with certified librarians among students, how reading is STILL relevant (yes, our circulation of books this year, is RIGHT NOW, higher than the year following COVID, and growing, so yes, GIVEN a chance, students can be interested in literacy – if school librarians are given the chance to do what they do best and are trained for.
Please look at the impact on students from certified librarians being in buildings on page 49, how the physical environment impacts a student’s overall performance in their experience as school (the famous “third space” that can be available and should be available to all students, and guess what?
The impact AASL Standards have on students is often underestimated and often unknown. Knowing the AASL Standards is vital to understanding what the potential of librarianship, education, and supporting students can have – AASL Standards are for the community to use as stepping stones to moving the education ladder to the bookshelves many do not know that exist. The competencies are spelled out on page 53, and any and every discipline, combined with librarianship, benefits from these competencies.
Librarians are the gatekeepers of these opportunities.
The barriers listed on page 55 are but a few items that hindered school librarianship in 2016- and need to be revisited immediately.
Teaching students how to use libraries and how to use resources- time needs to be prioritized from the top down, to allow the full potential of librarianship and the role that school librarianships can share, alongside life learners.
Positions that have been cut, are being cut, that will be cut is addressed on page 58, copyright and licensing policies on page 59 (trust me, these can be murky waters and moreso, if you do not have the education about these ever-changing policies), and how books and curriculum is developed as mentioned on page 60 – are ALL under the professional umbrella of librarianship and the certified librarian, and why this is essential.
From the many diverse examples of school libraries in other states (page 63) and WHY, we as a Delaware Association School Librarian group subscribe to the American Association of School Libraries, and their standards, to broaden the opportunity, vision, and possibility of our future generations.
The above was a fly by sky view of the 2016 Master Plan – and we can delve into so many of the sections above and dissect where we go from here to improve who we want to be as librarians in the future.
This is just the beginning as with the help of EveryLibrary.org, we have a taskforce to address the not so backdated issues of the 2016 study that still are lingering today – let’s get started with you !
We were lucky enough to have Secretary of Education Dr. Holodick visit December 13th with our WHS School Principal, Kelly Kirkland, and transferring a copy of the AASL Standards and summaries of the components of these to share with the Department of Education, and even more so – the point he made of librarians needed to be able to adapt, transform, and relay how and when they do this to educate the public, is part of the crux of the survival of librarianship and librarians today. Many and most do this on a daily basis, and communicating HOW and when we do this, to parents, stockholders in the education system, in mass numbers, is vital. Board members, administrators, parents, and students need to realize this is happening, when given a chance, every time education is brought up or encountered.
Giving the AASL standards to the individuals mentioned at the beginning of this essay is not enough, delving into the details and connecting these to specifics of what we need to do to move forward, to improve our educational plan involving school librarianship, has to be a part to, otherwise, we are just seeing pages and pages of information with no synthesis into the real life in which we live.
Yes, school libraries and librarians are still relevant!