A study is just a study. A library is more than a classroom with books. Conclusions from studies can be misrepresented. Careful consideration is required more than ever in our short cycle news world. SLJ reviews a recent study indicating positive influence of school libraries on achievement . Important? Yes. We just like to emphasize, as we teach our students, that critical thinking is required too. There are many variables in an education environment.
Extracting conclusions needs careful statistical controls. Im not doubting this research project but I’m cautious. A library with a staffed librarian, even if ‘certified’ doesn’t mean there is a school program that is engaging and participatory. Nor is a good program only serve student achievement. Strong library programs service many needs-people, facility, resources that help the educational culture that may not directly be addressed in just one achievement test. The lifelong love of reading and inquiry for instance. What about special needs? When we spend hours selecting, acquiring and solving a delivery system for an ebook and audiobook for a learning assisted student, does that devalue our efforts? That service would not show up on any standardized scorecard.
Recently in our library, after three years of insufferable patience with a very reluctant Grade 10 reader, we suddenly hear,
“Can I renew this book? – it’s first book in my life and I want to finish it.”
No test measures this criteria of success. When there is a teacher-librarian who is overbooked by technical demands, 2 blocks of DL or textbook circulation crisis, she cannot give that needy kind of student the time he/she deserves? Some librarians get stretched too thin or their role gets hijacked or transformed. Teaching is complex. Making simple claims is dangerous.
Teacher-librarians, ironically perhaps, have issues because they have non-enrolling teaching duties . Most TL’s ( who are often master instructors and do teach daily ) have very complex, often conflicted duties. They are so often misunderstood. They can be loved and hated by employers or by colleagues regardless of their efforts or competency. They need to justify their existence to various people almost every day and they tolerate these hardships because of passion. They know that students benefit in ways that reach far beyond any single measure like achievement. Teacher-librarians aspire to the care and learning needs of students, and the teachers and support staff around them, every day; moreover, working as professional leaders to nurture a culture of scholarship and civility far more divine than just standardized core skills. Some intelligent people think libraries aren’t needed because we now have the internet! Foolish madness! As a librarian, I was using the internet with kids in 1990. Today, I have less books and we are busier than ever before. Why do I then assist 100 students each morning(AT 8:00am!) ? We should seek to build a safe, inquisitive and intelligent social experience that deepens our humanity in this obsessive technological age- not minimize it.
Great that someone is assessing support services, including school libraries in education but please be careful.
If studies indicating achievement drops?
- Does that mean libraries are unnecessary?
- Does a vital learning commons need rising achievement scores do stay valid?
Library programs are more than just information literacy (whatever that is) or literature or commons. Don’t put all your books in one checkout basket. Just like some foolishly claim ‘flipping’ classes wil fix schools, just measuring libraries value by achievement is hazardous. -Al Smith, Kelowna