HISD espouses this obvious and admirable goal: all HISD graduates will be ready for the world they are entering as adults. Sadly, the last time any data was updated on this program is 2014:
And in those 7 years, HISD has struggled on many fronts. I will focus on libraries. There are 280 schools in the district but only 57 certified librarians in 2021-22; this year, there are 93 schools with no library, whether it is defined as vacant or closed. How can students progress to college without awareness of library skills and resources throughout their K-12 career? At the high school level, out of 40 high schools, only 15 have functioning libraries and of those only 7 have certified librarians. How can HISD expect to send college-ready graduates out the door when they have no clue how to take advantage of the services of their college library?
And now the good news: Superintendent House has just announced in his Strategic Plan an intention to restore library services to all HISD campuses. This will support HISD Global Graduates in their quest for strong life and academic schools based on clear awareness of the services and tools libraries provide.
College level Literacy in 2022 includes critical thinking, understanding of how to vet sources for validity, skills to decode images and infographics as well as text, and much more that is not necessarily covered in classroom curricula. School librarians are teachers with additional training to support students in learning to be skilled users of information. In order to use information to build new ideas, students must first identify the information they need; locate that information; read, analyze and understand it; and finally build new ideas of their own based on what they have learned. College and university students who have no previous experience with libraries or research methods struggle very much, and sometimes drop out of higher education as a result. Houston Community College librarians can also speak to this. The Assn for College and Research Libraries commissioned Rhonda Huisman to do research into this topic in 2015 (see link below). “If we continue to allow these roles [librarians] to disappear from the K–12 landscape, what academic librarians and faculty will be compensating for or remediating will impede the engagement, retention, and success of those college ready, college bound students.”
HISD has been failing its graduates when its schools do not provide strong library services throughout the K-12 years. Knowing there is now a plan to restore library services across the district is very important. That said, starting with high school libraries makes sense as they will be the first out the door. Even students who will not attend college need information skills to find jobs, to use complex catalogs included in those jobs (think looking up auto parts to match year, make, model), to continue to learn for better jobs, and to participate in their communities as adult leaders. Building new library programs in the 25 high schools that currently have none will take time and attention, not to mention a culture shift. Calling a campus College Guidance area the library is not the same as working with all students to be sure they do graduate with the life skill of information usage in all its aspects. Parents who expect their students to be successful after graduation expect that HISD will step up to offer them the right tools to accomplish that, which includes strong library services geared to preparing students for academic work at the college level.
Huisman, R. (2015). Library As Place in Urban High Schools: Connecting College Readiness to Librarian Intervention and Community Partnerships.
This blog is primarily authored by Debbie Hall and Dorcas Hand, but guest authors are welcome. If you have an idea to share, please contact our email below. Debbie is a retired HISD librarian and Library Services Specialist. Dorcas is a retired school librarian who remains active in AASL/ALA. Both support increased equity in school library access and support for all HISD students and campuses.