In the Literacy Trenches: Spotlight on School Libraries
School librarians play a critical role in student achievement. Twenty years of research demonstrates that students enrolled in schools with librarians have better standardized reading scores – regardless of student poverty level or overall staffing losses.
Carl Harvey had a big idea to drive points like this home – get 25,000 signatures in 30 days on a White House Petition to ensure that every child in America has access to a school library program. By the time the petition closed on February 4, 2012, there were nearly 29,000 signatures. Harvey, a school librarian in Indiana, and former President of the American Association of School Libraries (2011-2012), sought to raise awareness of the vital role school libraries and librarians play in student literacy and for the allocation of Federal funds to support school library programs.
The petition garnered a lengthy response by Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy. In his remarks, Rodriquez noted that President Obama requested $186.9 million in his 2013 budget for the Effective Teaching and Learning in Literacy competitive grant program, funding which would help fund the development of evidence-based, preschool-through-grade 12 literacy plans. He also reiterated Obama’s support of school libraries stating, “School libraries play a significant role in constructing and enriching that foundation. School libraries do much more than house books and store data: a school library can broaden the horizon of learning for students and link them with communities and experiences far beyond their own classroom and community.”
Obama had already delivered nearly $100 billion to education with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2010, and he wanted to expand and reform U.S. schools with a 2.5% increase over the 2012 education budget of $60.8 billion (for a complete rundown on 2013 Education budget request click here.) The term “library” did not appear anywhere in the budget language, but nestled somewhere near the middle of the document was a line item for “Technology and Media Services” program – $29.6 million, the same from 2012, and $1 million more over 2011. Funds would go toward awards for research and development promoting the use of technology, including addressing accessibility issues for students with visual impairments and other print disabilities.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) saw an opportunity to support health information literacy with K-12 educational outreach initiatives that encourage interest in health science careers and raise awareness of NLM resources that support health and science curriculums. A few examples of resources include Tox Mystery, an interactive site in English and Spanish for children ages 7-11 to explore potential chemical hazards; and GeneEd, a single repository for genetics research, study guides, lesson plans, experiments and activities for grades 10-12. There are also numerous online exhibits with lesson plans and activities ready to roll out in the classroom (see Resources for more information).
The National Networks of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region’s (NN/LM MCR) coordinators connect with school library staff, teachers, and even school nurses at local, state and regional conferences and meetings. Coordinators also conduct training sessions to raise awareness of the NLM resources.
The MCR encourages all public library Network members to partner and collaborate with school libraries. There are many ways your library could work with schools in your community:
- Collaborate on a joint book club – for kids and parents
- Offer on-site programming over the school lunch hour
- Work with teachers and school librarians to set up “assignment alerts” so students and parents have time to get appropriate resources
- Have a field trip to your library and introduce students and teachers to all the great resources at your library
For more great ideas and a wealth of information on partnerships, visit the Youth Services Librarianship Wiki. Has your public library partnered with a school library? Tell us about it because your project may be eligible to win our Public Library/School Library award.
- Dana Abbey, Colorado/Health Information Literacy Coordinator