I recently had the wonderful privilege of going to local high school classes and getting a taste of information literacy instruction. One set of presentations focused on nonfiction and offered tactics for finding a book that the student could actually be interested in. The other class focused on the online and physical resources available at the public libraries, and sought to put a library card into every student’s hand. The presentations were terrifying and exciting, and I came back from each energized and happy to be a librarian.
When I began pursuing my MLS, I specifically picked a general degree knowing that by not choosing to go down the library media specialist track (meant for those intending to work in school libraries), I would be effectively locking myself out of that area of librarianship. I am not regretting my decisions, because I honestly don’t think I can provide as much help as I do as a library media specialist. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the value of school libraries.
I am, in fact, a supporter of school libraries and strongly believe that a healthy collaboration between school, public and academic libraries is required if we expect to prepare our youth to live and learn in such an information-saturated world. Indeed Library Journal’s Lisa Peet recently wrote about this very idea:
“No one institution can serve the needs of all students. School library budgets are declining, public libraries are struggling to keep their funding and work with a diverse and changing population, and academic libraries are focused on meeting the needs of students and faculty.”
- The value of public libraries got their day in the media thanks to the amazing and difficult work of the Ferguson Public Library, whose staff vowed to stay open despite the violence gathering in their city’s streets. In Philadelphia, the plight of school libraries also recently received attention. All libraries are essential, I just wish it didn’t take crises for the public to realize our worth and to support our mission.
- When it comes to the type of collaboration I envision for the success of libraries, there are already working examples that prove their value. For example, the ambitious partnership that created the Limitless Libraries in Nashville, Tennessee.
- When it comes to information literacy sessions like the ones I got to present, we can no longer just focus on the research paper as the endgame. Instead, Amanda at Designer Librarian comments that we should use these sessions to build literacy bridges that support smart interactions with information both in the classroom and in the real world. By connecting out-of-school and in-school experiences, we help students better absorb and apply these concepts.
- I’m not the first to suggest that the different types of libraries should be more collaborative. Indeed, in 2006 the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation was created with that goal in mind. That site has a lot of information, and is worth exploring for those professionals out there who are interested in the topic.
This isn’t a link but I thought I would offer a quote that I’ve read recently that discusses education in a way that falls in line with my own personal beliefs:
“In the philosophy of teaching, a big distinction is made between training and education. Training teaches a person how to carry out a specific task more efficiently and reliably. Education, on the other hand, opens and enriches the person’s mind. To train a person, you need know nothing about who they really are, or what they love, or why. Education reaches out to embrace the whole person.” How to Worry Less about Money by John Armstrong
I think librarianship the way I like to see it practiced falls closer to his idea of educating the whole individual. I hope my patrons go away with the skills to find information for themselves, but I prefer to teach first by listening, so that I can better understand the needs of the person I’m trying to help.