Opening Minds

School Libraries and Teacher Librarians

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Teacher Librarians + School Libraries = Student Achievement… Research says

Numerous research studies have been conducted about the Teacher Librarian’s integral role to a successful educational program and student achievement.

Dr. Ken Haycock has been a strong advocate for school library programs for more than 40 years. In 2011 Dr. Haycock reported the findings of a study Connecting British Columbia (Canada) school libraries and student achievement: A comparison of higher and lower performing schools with similar overall funding.

Examining school library and test score data, while controlling for district-based funding to public schools, this study confirms the findings of over 40 years of research about the positive impact of qualified teacher librarians and school libraries on student achievement.

Haycock reiterates that recent studies on the relationship between school libraries, teacher librarians and student achievement have all concluded that schools with well-stocked, well-equipped school libraries, managed by qualified and motivated professional teacher-librarians working with support staff produce a) capable and avid readers; b) learners who are information literate, and c) teachers who are partnering with the teacher librarian to create high-quality learning experiences.”

In 2003 Dr. Haycock summarized 30 years of studies related to school libraries in The Crisis in Canadian School Libraries: The Case for Reform and Re-Investment, including the impact on student learning, best practice and recommendations.

Dr. Haycock provides 13 recommendations among them that Ministries of Education develop consistent and coordinated approaches to funding and management, recognizing the pivotal role of school libraries and qualified teacher-librarians.”

I’m guessing the Ministry of Education has not read either of these reports given the current trend in school libraries.

Is anybody listening?

Haycock’s 2011 study illustrates the fall out of Bill 28, The Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act, the elimination of staffing ratios for specialist teachers, including teacher librarians. Since 2002 staffing of school libraries has been at the discretion of individual school boards. School library programs have suffered. Student learning has not been enhanced by having access to a teacher librarian.

In my previous position, in 2002 as a result of Bill 28, my job changed significantly. I went from being a full time teacher librarian to 60%. This meant the library was closed while I went to teach my English or ICT class.

My story is not unique.

You will find provincially that school libraries as are not accessible throughout the whole school day. Teacher librarians wear many hats to piece together a full time job and pull focus away from developing full time school library programs.

Our students deserve better and research says

Teacher Librarians + School Libraries = Student Achievement!


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John Ralston Saul on School Libraries “… cuts to school libraries are short-sighted and destructive…”

John Ralston Saul visited Vancouver in 2004, after the devastating cuts to school library programs began in 2002.

The “nerve centre” of schools, said Saul, are libraries, and he blasted what he considers their inadequate funding.This incredibly sophisticated, well-educated society has convinced itself that it is too poor to have librarians. It doesn’t make any sense. We have eliminated, particularly in the elementary schools, more and more professional librarians with the result, of course, that libraries are not always open, that they’re not properly used.

John Ralston Saul
Canadian author, historian, philosopher
Quote from Saul given during an interview
Says B.C. Education Cuts Bleed Democracy

I met John Ralston Saul in 2009 when I was in Ottawa participating in a Teacher Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy. Saul spoke about his views on education. He said when he visits a school, his first stop is the school library. He asks whether there is a full-time teacher librarian, what the budget is, and how it is spent. Saul said he can trace the literacy skills in an area to the elements of a library program in place in the school.

I cheered!

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School Libraries with Teacher Librarians – Irreplaceable Resources

What is the Ministry of Education’s plan regarding school libraries?

In 2002, Bill 28, The Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act was enacted by the provincial government that removed staffing ratios for all non-enrolling teachers from collective agreements.

When budget cuts have arisen, Teacher Librarians have been considered expendable.

There are 286 fewer Teacher Librarians than in 2002. School library programs have suffered.

The Ministry of Education Service Plan 2014 to 2017 has a strong focus on BC libraries, public libraries, and no mention of school libraries in the service plan.

Public Libraries and School Libraries – big differences…

Librarians – Education
Public Librarians have degrees in Library Science.

Teacher Librarians have education degrees with library science specialties.
Teacher Librarians are teachers first, are the professionals in the school familiar with the scope of the entire school curriculum and pedagogy, for integration of appropriate resources.

Public Libraries serve people, aged from preschool to 90+.

School libraries focus on students, aged from 6 to 19.
Teacher Librarians support teachers, locating curriculum resources, collaborative planning, and team teaching.
Teacher Librarians promote literacy by guiding students through an appropriate progression of reading materials throughout elementary & high school.

Public library collections include a wide range of subjects and books of interest to people preschool to 90+
Note: My library collection does not include 50 Shades of Grey.

School libraries focus on curriculum subjects, locally developed courses and teacher assigned research projects.
School libraries showcase a strong collection of pleasure reading titles selected to meet the pleasure reading needs of students.
Teacher Librarians have the opportunity to see students every day enabling collections to be tailored to student tastes and interests, and to involve students in material selection – this is especially important with boys.

Public Libraries provide access to technology and offer limited instructional support.

School Libraries provide access to technology – often hosting full computer labs within their physical space.
Most school libraries host a virtual school library offering 24/7 support for students.
Teacher Librarians work collaboratively with teachers to design lessons that introduce students to new technologies, and quality digital resources such as databases, as they meet the curriculum objectives and assist in preparing students and teachers with a rapidly changing technological landscape that is the future.

In addition to the value School Libraries and Teacher Librarians provide to the educational program, they function as a safe haven for students to read, research and relax.
Furthermore, School libraries facilitate collaborative and individualized learning environments.

Public Libraries and School Libraries, Public Librarians and Teacher Librarians can work together to best serve a community – one does not replace the other!

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Roch Carrier on School Libraries…”Our Children Deserve No Less.”

If we believe that our children are our future – and I believe that we all do – then we must do what we can to ensure that our children have access to the information resources and skilled personnel in school libraries so that our children can get off to a good start in understanding and participating in society.  It is not enough that there is  room full of resources. Children need to learn how to find information, to choose and apply information.  They must have teacher librarians who are dedicated to guiding them in developing their skills, but also to developing in them the love of lifelong learning.

Canada’s children are Canada’s future. If we do not take it upon ourselves to ensure that all Canadian children and youth have equal access to well-equipped libraries and trained professionals in their schools from the time they are in kindergarten, to show them the ropes, to help them develop their analytical  and research skills, then we reap what we sow.  It is past the time to make an investment needed to ensure that our children grow up to be literate citizens and lifelong learners in the global knowledge society of the 21st Century.”

Roch Carrier, National Librarian of Canada, May 31, 2001, author of The Hockey Sweater