It would come as no surprise to any of you that education budgets are constantly being stretched.
The slow erosion of funding has led many schools to debate the value of their resources to determine which ones need to be cut in order to survive fiscally. Unfortunately, school libraries are the department that is being most adversely affected. This adverse effect can be seen either by the absence of a qualified teacher librarian and or the complete absence of a school library. Cook (2018) suggests that libraries are robbed of their funding because they are deemed useless in this internet age. I have spoken previously about the importance of a teacher librarian so this post is not about that. But some schools, overburdened by numbers, convert their library spaces into additional classrooms. When this occurs, most often than not, these schools sometimes set up classroom libraries to combat the loss of a school library.
According to Cook (2018), libraries are essential to a school’s success.
But are classroom libraries the same as having a school library with a qualified teacher librarian? We are all aware that exposure to books is positively correlated to improved literacy (Neuman, n.d.). We are also know that not all households have the same bibliophilic tendencies. This means that there are a proportion of students who are not exposed to books in the home. Neuman (n.d.) elucidates that it is the presence of books in close proximity that correlate directly to increased literacy.
Schools historically are known for exposing young minds to the wonderful world of imagination and literature via the school library. But with no school library, is the alternative a classroom library? But what if the classroom library is poorly executed? By executed, I mean poorly stocked and unable to meet the needs of the students. This can lead to limited student engagement with the classroom materials and if there is no school library, then there is no safety net for these disengaged readers. Implementing an assortment of books in a box is not equivalent to the presence of a qualified professional. After all, teachers are not trained in information management and resourcing, and it seems foolhardy to leave the resource management to at the hands of an already overburdened classroom teacher.
One suggestion is that the classes each have their own classroom library but they are managed by a teacher librarian.
So rather that rather than a random assortment of materials, the books are carefully curated by the teacher librarian to meet the evolving needs of the students. An example of this would be a box of books are rotated in regular intervals and that the reading levels within are appropriately aligned to the needs of the students (Sacks, 2018). But whilst in theory is outstanding, the practicality is far more complicated. Sacks (2018) surmised that consistency and equity are the largest issues with classroom libraries as the titles will vary between classes. The primary problem is that schools would need to almost double their collection for them to adequately service the needs of all their classrooms. This would incur extra costs for the school. There would also be greater difficulty in tracking the books and ensuring that they are maintained.
The downside of having a teacher librarian manage physical classroom collections is that they are then limited in their ability to create, manage and implement information literacy programs.
Lance & Kachel (2018) indicate that the research is clear about the correlation between high quality library programs and increased student achievement. Frierson & Virtue (2013) believe that it library programs that need to be embedded into classroom practice. They go on to illustrate that this improvement is not just for affluent schools but for all schools. In fact, arguably the lack of a school library is discriminatory to students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, that do in desperate fact, require regular access to libraries, their programs and books in order to engage equitably with educational practices.
There are currently teacher librarians in Australia that are creating LibGuides that are specifically relevant to units of work and use the school’s learning management systems to reach their audience.
This method also means that students that are away from school due to ill health or other personal reasons are still able to engage with their learning off site. An example of this would be the class novel study with appropriate supporting materials and related works. So with our Year 7’s currently studying the Jackie French novel “Hitler’s Daughter”, the LibGuide contains the ebook version as well as; study notes, worksheets, supporting extracts from other similar novels such as “Boy in a wooden box” by Jim Boyne, “Book Thief” by Mark Zusack and “Dollmaker of Krakow”by R M Romero. I have also created an online museum with images relating to the book where students can view artefacts and watch short video-clips.
All of this take time. Time that I have because I am not curating classroom library boxes. But if I was not there, or if the position of teacher librarian was not there, then students would not have access to these resources. Yes, there are teachers who do have the time and energy to go beyond the normal to create amazing learning experiences for their students. But with 50% of teachers leaving the profession within 5 years, and nearly ⅓ of employed teachers suffering from a mental illness and or addiction, overburdening them further is foolish.
If prisons have mandated librarians to ensure that their collections are servicing the needs for their community, then I think our children can have the same access. Removing school libraries to minimise costs is short sighted. It is not beneficial for the teachers, the students and society.
Cook, H., (2018) Extending the shelf life of the school library in the internet age. SMH. Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/education/extending-the-shelf-life-of-the-school-library-in-the-internet-age-20181016-p50a0l.html
Frierson, E., & Virtue, A. (2013) Integrating academic library services directly into classroom instruction through discovery tools; Bringing library resources into the online classroom. Infotoday.com. Retrieved from https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-345277685/integrating-academic-library-services-directly-into
Lance, K., & Kachel, D. (2018) Why school librarians matter: what years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan. Retrieved from https://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/
Neuman, S. (n.d.) The Importance of a classroom library. Scholastic Teacher Resource. Retrieved from http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/paperbacks/downloads/library.pdf
Sacks, A. (2018) Why school librarians are the literacy leaders we need. Teaching the whole story [blog]. Retrieved from https://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/whole_story/2018/05/why_school_librarians_are_lite.html