School Libraries: Why do teachers need school librarians?
I was amazed that one of my recent blog posts about why teachers need school librarians received over 33,000 views. I have been trying to work out why so many people read it and shared it. My message was to teachers but I am sure that the majority who read it were school library staff. Across the country, school librarians are diminishing and sadly schools do not seem to realise what they are actually losing – but how have we got here?
Is it because school librarians are happy to sit behind a desk and issue books? Don’t be daft! Why would anyone who knows how difficult it is to get children, teenagers and teachers to read risk sitting there and hoping that by some miracle everyone will start using the school library and love reading?
Is it because school librarians are resistant to change? Not a chance! If you follow any school librarian on social media you will see the innovative ideas being shared. From interactive research lessons, breakout challenges, online reading groups, book awards and makerspaces, to online tools and international collaboration – school librarians are trying it all.
Is it because school libraries don’t have what teachers need within the modern curriculum? This makes me laugh, because the modern curriculum encompasses everything you need from a school library and librarian, as it is all about skills. Critical evaluation, independent learning, communication, digital literacy, teamwork and real world learning – in other words information literacy. So why are teachers not hammering down the door of the school library asking to collaborate?
No information literacy?
Is it because teachers are experts in information literacy? I would love to say yes, that every teacher knows how to find good quality information, knows how to use keyword searches and knows how to access academic online resources, understands the importance of copyright and teaching about plagiarism but that would not be true. I know this because there are times when I talk to teachers and they are shocked that I think they should be teaching these things.
For example, a teacher telling me that they do not know how find resources unless they do a Google search. Another saying they do not know how to find copyright free sound effects or music so they download illegally. Someone else saying that making children include references spoils the enjoyment of research.
One of my favourites recently was that referencing and plagiarism are things that can be learnt by our students once they get to university.
If this is the attitude of some of our teachers, then how do we as school library staff ensure that this changes? Our teachers work really hard, they do not need someone telling them what they should be doing – but are we shying away from difficult conversations and missing opportunities?
I don’t want to make students reference because it is just something else for them to do, I want them to reference, to ensure that they understand how to spot “fake news”, and to be able to critically evaluate a source. If teachers have no way of checking what sources their students are using, how can they have conversations about credible sources and giving credit?
In another conversation about referencing, it was suggested that teachers need to lead by example and so they should reference all their presentations. This was met with abject horror from the teachers: “who has time to do this?”, they asked.
In turn, I asked them: “who regularly shares students’ work online?”
I think it’s pretty clear why teachers need to be reminded that they need school librarians!