Supporting School Librarians – not just a luxury

I’m back! At least I hope so!

I came across this recent article explaining how librarians in many types of libraries can and should support school libraries and even more importantly school librarians. Unfortunately many school libraries are disappearing or at the very least losing their librarians. In my own state of Pennsylvania, this is most egregious in the city of Philadelphia, where eight librarians are somehow expected to serve 220 schools and 134,000 students – impossible, I say!

Perhaps school boards and parents think that because ‘everything is online’, there is no need for librarians. They do no realize that librarians teach students how to effectively search for, locate, access, and evaluate information that they find in all formats – print and online. In a day and age where fake news is rampant, this evaluation skillset is even more critical. For school districts that keep libraries “open” with a few non-certified volunteers, rather than librarians- yes it is good that students still have access to some print books, but they also need access to a professional librarian and those information literacy instruction sessions!

Academic librarians witness the impact of the loss of school librarians every day, where we need to engage in remedial information literacy before we can even begin to address college-level information literacy research skills. From the Without Foundations article:

“Academic librarians find themselves unable to cover the higher-level concepts without covering the basic concepts from K-12. Many college courses have prerequisites, however there are no prerequisites for library instruction or research. For example: a popular assignment in college is for students to find sources, many times scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles. Librarians can focus their information literacy session on how to distinguish a scholarly peer-reviewed journal article from a trade publication. However, without learning what a periodical is- something that should have been learned at K-12 level, the concept of what a scholarly peer-reviewed journal article is becomes impossible.”

Academic librarians, what are some practical ways that we can advocate for school librarians? In my case, whenever I am approached by a high school wanting an information literacy session, I always include the school librarian in those discussions. The teacher needs to know the value that their school librarian brings to the table. I am fortunate in that the local schools I work with seem to already know that!

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