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The Evolution of School Libraries

Apr 02, 2017 09:03PM ● By Becky Coburn

April 9-15 is National Library Week

By Laurel Burnes, MDUSD Teacher Librarian

Do you remember your school librarian? I do. I remember my elementary, middle and high school librarians. Miss Natushko in particular stands out in my mind. She was my high school librarian. She was a seasoned teacher who possessed a no-nonsense, “Don’t mess with me” attitude. Let’s just say she could be slightly intimidating to a young, follow-the-rules type of girl like myself. Of course, I realized even then that she had to be strict in order to maintain the calm that was the library. Likewise, I eventually recognized that as tough as Miss Natushko was on the outside, she was just as nurturing on the inside. She made sure each of her students knew how much she cared about them, their education, and their school. That is what librarians do. They oversee their libraries and they watch over their kids.

Times have certainly changed since many of us were in school. The digital age is upon us. iPads, smart phones, chrome books, and laptops are now the norm. The majority of people, including tech savvy kids, are able to gather information via the Internet as answers appear instantaneously on their devices. This begs the question, Are school libraries and librarians really necessary in this electronic world? Without a doubt, the answer is yes. There is nothing archaic about libraries or librarians. Contrary to popular belief, books are not obsolete. They simply share the stage with other media, and it remains the job of a professional teacher librarian to guide students as they search the black hole of information that is available today.

I must be completely honest in regard to my belief that school libraries and the professionals who staff them are vital to the success of the modern student. I have had the privilege of working as a teacher librarian for twenty years, and I have seen firsthand the valuable role our library media centers play in our schools, from elementary through high school and beyond. I would argue that librarians have actually become more essential due to the sheer volume of information available to our children in this online era. 

Equal access to print and non-print materials that support the curriculum is critical for student achievement. The school library media center provides every student that access. Schools with credentialed teacher librarians have significantly higher test scores as it is the teacher librarian who imparts crucial 21st century skills related to digital citizenship, informational literacy and digital literacy. Students need to know how to access, evaluate, and integrate information. They must understand the ethical, safe, and legal expectations that come with using information and technology in the real world. All of this is taught within school library media centers.

Author Neil Gaiman accurately described what happens in the library when he said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” We are fortunate to live in an area that values the positive impact libraries have on students and our community. Please contact your local school district to learn more about how you can support fully staffed libraries.