by Dorcas Hand
This post completes my effort (5 previous blogs since July 30) to expand your understanding of the AASL School Librarian Role in Pandemic Learning Conditions. I began several weeks ago, well before the start of school - and here we are in a school year that relies on Distance Learning. HISD campuses with librarians (only about 25% of schools) are able to take advantage of all the knowledge, training and skills those librarians bring to all five core areas that should be included in a campus librarian’s job description. Campuses that have chosen to reassign their librarians to classrooms are only using their skill as teachers. Teachers are definitely essential, but librarians using all their skills impact more than the 20-30 students in their classroom at one time whether virtually or in person; they impact all the students and teachers on their campus.
Today we focus on Program Administration, the far right column. School librarians plan and administer a broad program that includes review and purchase of specific books (including ebooks and e-audiobooks) and other digital tools appropriate to the needs of students on a specific campus. They consider age, range of abilities, special challenges, special interests and/or focus areas for the individual campus curriculum. Librarians also do their best to ensure that all the teachers on that campus are aware of the resources most useful in their classes, in addition to direct teaching in collaboration with as many of those classroom teachers and curricula as possible. With a goal of encouraging both a love of learning generally and a love of reading specifically, librarians plan displays and events intended to encourage all students to love learning and reading. In distance learning, such events and displays are challenging, but I read of creative efforts to involve students in book selection and reading contests. Librarians also work with campus administration to forward campus goals in literacy and professional development.
Librarians often reach beyond campus boundaries for additional options in support of student enthusiasm and academic success. The public library is one resource, and encouraging students to have a public library card is a great way to expand a campus collection. Libraries are themselves an ecosystem where the school student is also a patron of the public library, and may also reach to the community college or local university for more advanced resources, even a genealogy library in support of a tricky high school history topic.
During Distance Learning, librarians are key to ensuring that students and families are aware of how to access the district and TexQuest subscriptions to digital tools and resources. Librarians are also charged with ensuring that all students are trained in cybersafety and security methods that are appropriate to their age and access needs. With students at home under parental supervision, this cybersafety awareness is even more important than when students are accessing academic assignments and supporting resources under the benefit of campus firewalls and secure protocols. Cybersafety training also addresses cyberbullying and other potential peer threats that everyone must guard against.
Campuses without librarians miss out on so much. And too often, the campuses without librarians include students most in need of the literacy and learning supports that a campus library offers families without books in the home, among other commonly cited home advantages of educational success.
Questions of the Week
Previous SNL Houston Speaks Out posts expanding on the AASL infographic, School Librarian role in Pandemic Learning Conditions:
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.