AASL National Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries

I felt very fortunate to be able to attend the 2017 AASL Conference this year. I was very interested in the pre-conference workshop around the newly released AASL Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Learn more at http://standards.aasl.org/.

The AASL National Library Standards for Learners are framed around the Shared Foundations of Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, and Engage and embrace progressive pedagogies.

Our challenge is to create a learning culture centered on innovation, collaboration, exploration, deep thinking, and creativity.  I am considering how I embrace this notion: “School librarians are key to the success of this educational paradigm shift because they provide resources and instruction to all learners through an inquiry-based research model that supports questioning and the creation of new knowledge focused on learner interest and real-world problems” (44).

One of my primary goals, when I am collaborating with classroom teachers this year, is to bring the concept of relevance to the lessons and more student agency. I want my students to be self-directed thinkers who investigate and consider real issues and empower them to develop solutions or expand their understanding.

I look forward to diving into the Standards and share how they will be implemented in my high school and district.

Stay tuned!

Changes in education have influenced library media programs

Blanche Woolls describes in The School Media Manager (2008) how changes in education have influenced and affected library media programs over the years.  Due to economic difficulties or teacher shortages, libraries were staffed by untrained professionals and plagued by loss of funds (Woolls, p. 5).  That was my experience back in the 1990’s when I took on the role of the first paid librarian at a small private Catholic elementary school in Portland.  I was the classroom teacher with the reading endorsement and good technology skills- wouldn’t that be a good fit for a Librarian?  I learned by trial-and-error, lots of research, helpful mentors and was assisted by enthusiastic parent volunteers.  I remember reading Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (1998) in those early days.  It gave me guidelines and directed me towards helpful resources.

Progress in school library media programs is reflected in the development of the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner (2007). These standards are based on the idea that learners use skills, resources and tools and having an effective library program is essential to the development of informational literacy skills of students (Woolls, p. 7). Today, librarians are encouraged to take a stronger leadership role in their schools by collaborating with classroom teachers and placing the resources of the media center into the curriculum (Woolls, p. 11).  I believe this is a critical aspect of our job – to support student learning – otherwise librarians are left with the role of becoming “glorified babysitters” whose primary objective is to manage and check out materials from a “archival museum.”

Today, school library media specialists are also responsible for information literacy.  With constant technological advances, librarians are challenged to help students access, select and evaluate the vast amounts of resources student’s have at their fingertips. Information literacy is defined as the ability to find and use information and is “the keystone of lifelong learning” (Woolls, p. 23). Librarians collaborate with classroom teachers to make sure information literacy skills are taught within the context of the curriculum and not as isolated library lessons.

This is a crucial role of mine at my current school.  Luckily, I teach at the school that values the collaborative relationship between librarian and classroom teacher.  Our school already has developed a scope and sequence of information literacy skills and has identified specific classes where the instruction is integrated within the curriculum for each grade level.  These research projects give students opportunities to practice skills in a variety of subject areas.  Students do not see these skills only belonging to English class because other curriculum areas also require MLA citations/Works Cited, reference databases and consistent use of note-taking among all 9th grade teachers.

Woolls (2008)  describes the development of technology/digital literacy.  I do not distinguish the difference between information literacy and technology/digital literacy. I believe they are one in the same.  Accessing and evaluating information is the same whether you are using a print or electronic platform.  This notion is the same for plagiarism and copyright infringement.  Plagiarism is plagiarism.  The difference today is the ability to access so many more resources and the ease of copying and pasting and declaring it as your own.  What this means for librarians, though, is that they must have and use effective technological skills themselves.  It is no longer acceptable to be digitally illiterate if your primary responsibility is to assist students in accessing information.

Having the school library specialist involved in the development of the school technology plan is essential in order to maintain a technology-rich environment in the library (Woolls, p. 27).  Focusing on curricular outcomes and student learning is the determining factor whether this plan includes online databases, a library catalog, communication links, a library web page, Internet filtering, LAN/WAN or wireless networks, and/or teleconferencing (Woolls, p. 29-31).  There are so many factors to consider and though the librarian doesn’t have to be an expert in all of them, they should be aware of their uses and implications in the library or classroom. This is one aspect of library media specialist where my technology background gives me an edge.

The list of qualities for an effective school library media specialist is quite comprehensive:  outstanding teaching skills, enthusiasm for learning, service orientation, creativity, and leadership (Woolls, p. 39).  Its an exciting role.  I love being a part of all aspects of the school curriculum and become excited when I work with enthusiastic teachers who love what they do and their students love to learn.

I read with interest the AASL position statement of the Role of the School Library Program (1990).  Even though it was written two decades ago I believe it still holds true today.  One aspect that was mentioned in this article was that school libraries  “provides a mechanism for choice and exploration beyond the prescribed course of study”.  Yes, our job is to support the school curriculum but also to foster the love of reading and life-long skills that students will use everyday.  The statement goes on to remind us that books and other materials need to be selected to meet the wide range of students individual learning styles and of interest to ALL members of the community.   This is an important aspect of collection development and that’s why we include graphic novels, ebooks, books on tape, etc, in the library.  I love the idea that the library is the symbol of freedom: “the freedom to speak our minds and hear what others have to say”.  Having just celebrated Banned Books Week, this idea is even more important than ever!

Faye Pharr, Principal  from Lakeside Academy of Math, Science, and Technology describes how their school transformed their media center with the Library Power initiative in the article, Reflections of an Empowered Library (n.d.). The goal of the Library Power initiative was to enhance student learning by  improving library services.  They moved to flexible scheduling and the library became a center of instruction, exploration and learning.  Pharr reported that the key to change was the collaborative planning between the library media specialist and the classroom teachers.

I find this as the most rewarding as well as as the most challenging aspect of my new role.  It takes a concerted effort on my part to connect with classroom teachers.  I find that I need to seek them out and ask them how I can support the student learning that is happening in the classroom.  Just because you want it to happen … doesn’t mean it will happen.  I think that it is great that Lakeside Academy reported that “there was a direct link between library usage and test scores in the reference study and reading comprehension” and that circulation of non-fiction books doubled in the last two years.  Results like this should motivate librarians everywhere to evaluate their current library program.


Information power:  Building partnerships for learning. (1998).  Chicago, IL:  American Library Association.

Pharr, F. (n.d.). Reflections of an empowered library. Retrieved October 3, 2010, from http://www.laurabushfoundation.org/Pharr.pdf.

Position statement on the role of the school library media program.(1980).  Retrieved October 3, 2010, from American Association of School Libraries: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/aaslissues/positionstatements/slmprole.cfm

Standards for the 21st century learner. (2007).  Chicago, IL: American Association of School Librarians.  Retrieved October 3, 2010 from http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards.

Woolls, B. (2008). The school library media manager. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

OASL reflections

I attended the OASL 2010 conference in Bend, Oregon on October 8th and 9th.  I attended the afternoon pre-conference and several sessions on Saturday that have impacted my understanding and teaching as a teacher librarian.

On Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure to hear Jerene Battisti and Angelina Benedetti share newly published books at their session titled:  You’re Invited: A Feast of New Literature for Teens. These two women are extremely knowledgeable about Young Adult novels /non-fiction and shared a huge variety of books centered around the following themes:  Fantasy, Old Stories Made New, History in Fact & Fiction, Science Fiction, Lighter Fare, Nail biters, Poetry, Girls In Trouble, War Stories and Boys Boys Boys.  Their session reminded me how important it is for a librarian to stay on top of what has been newly published –which can be very challenging!  Luckily Battisti and Bernedetti review hundreds of books each year and provide attendees with a comprehensive list that will be of great assistance when purchasing new books for the library.  Not only did I receive a list of recommendations but they discussed the authors, previous works they had written, indicated whether the books were award winners and offered related works. Even though I may prefer a particular genre, it is essential as a librarian to read a variety of genres – including graphic novels – so you can recommend books to your students or suggest familiar authors or similar themes.  Attending this session was extremely helpful and I plan to attend future workshops they give.

I was quite impressive with Kristin Fontichiaro who was the Saturday morning keynote speaker.  Her talk, Extreme Makeover: Library Edition, gave practical examples of how a librarian in the 21st Century should adapt and modify their program and become more like a Cultural Anthropologist, Peace Corps Worker, Strategic Technologist, and Community Builder.

As a Cultural Anthropologist, Fontichiaro suggested that we should be “embedded” in the classroom – always be watching and observing the students.  We need to connect to our local needs.  Fontichiaro explained that if students aren’t coming to the library – then the library should come to them.  She reminded us that libraries are not museums and we need to move away from the idea that the entire collection needs to be housed in one area.  I really like the idea of creating classroom libraries to match the curriculum.  I’ve already discussed creating a mobile science library on a cart that could be wheeled between each of our science labs.  We subscribe to several science magazines and this would be a great way to increase circulation among those items. Coming into the classroom with the mobile library cart is another opportunity to book talk!  Fontichiaro also discussed creating a library webpage that provides students with information 24/7.  One way to meet the diversity of learning styles is to have pathfinders that include multimedia – not just text.  By adding YouTube videos, Google Books, links to audio files and International resources we can reach all of our students while providing a valuable service.

As a Peace Corp Worker, our goal is to make the staff independent users of information.  Success in our position is defined by what the staff can do without our mediation.  Getting the staff to this point may take some professional development and coaching along the way but empowering the staff makes a sustainable community.  Once again, having a webpage that patrons can easily access is essential –something I am currently working on!

Our role as a Strategic Technologist suggests that we carefully evaluate technology and be strategic with planning.  Fontichiaro recommended that we get over “toolishness” and focus on effective ways to integrate technology.  I was please that Fontichiaro discussed technology as part of her extreme makeover.  I think the message that librarians today need to see themselves as instructional technologists is essential and I’m not sure many really know what that actually looks like.  Especially at the high school level, a good portion of my time working with students involves accessing electronic databases, recommending eBooks, teaching effective search strategies, assisting with MLA formatting – but at the same time being able to recommend a new novel for a patron.  We must be users and creators of technology ourselves so we can work with faculty and students when the opportunity arises.

Finally, Fontichiaro recommends that teacher librarians become Community Builders.  She suggests that we should build our learning networks online and at our school.  We need to feed ourselves so we stay current and know what others are reading and discussing.  This can happen through sites like Ning, Facebook, and Twitter but it’s not meant to replace the community you are working with – just enhance it. Participating in these networks is like a daily dose of professional development.  As a Community Builder we can encourage meaningful work such as a book study with the faculty or comment on articles from educational leadership magazines.  We can share instructional strategies with our staff and share resources we learn from our network.

Fontichiaro asked, “What kind of leader will you be?” and encouraged us to stay current on educational research, inform ourselves on current practices and participate in networks with other librarians who are emerging as leaders. Her message reinforced the path that I have taken and inspired me to reach out and invite others to join my journey.

Another influential session I attended at OASL was given by Cassandra Barnett, Past-President of AASL.  Her session, Empowering Your Learners – Implementing the AASL National Standards for the 21st Century Learning helped me to understand how each of the four standards are organized the difference between each of the strands:  skills, dispositions, responsibilities and self-assessment strategies.  The standards provide a framework for academic and personal learning.  Students have an unque opportunity in a library media center to develop their skills, hone their attitudes, independently practice their responsibilities and further their own learning.  Additional Indicators provide action items of what this might look like and finally Benchmarks offer specific skills that students can be expected to achieve by different grade levels.

Barnett provided us with a handout that we could use with our faculty about identifying partners among the faculty who can provide evidence of commons beliefs.  The goal of this activity is document what is happening in your school in a variety of classes or departments related to these beliefs: Reading is a window to the world, Inquiry provides a framework for learning, Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught, Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs, Equitable access is a key component of education, The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changes, The continuing expansion of information demands all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own, Learning has a social context, and School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.  Once the documentation is complete, you can determine areas that need attention and define action items and make plans for successful implementation.  I think that its essential to get the faculty working towards a common vision any time your planning a new initiative or curriculum implementation.  All teachers want their students to be informational literate and if we can find commonalities between our goals, we will have a greater chance at success. Additional Resources:   AASL, NETS & Partnership for 21st Century Comparision Resources for Librarians

These and the other workshops I attended at OASL gave me much to think about.  The time and opportunity to network with other teacher librarians was so beneficial to my growth as a newly returning librarian.  I am a true believer in professional development and am glad that my school library association does a good job of filling that role.