The role of the school library and the school librarian has expanded over the past 25 years. This article describes the status of the school library and the school librarian. It examines the role and responsibilities of school librarians; cites professional resources available to them; discusses significant issues; and presents a glossary of relevant terms.
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The School Library
The main purpose of public school libraries is to provide resources and services that support the school curriculum. However, the role of school libraries has been greatly expanded over the past 25 years. Today, public school libraries from kindergarten through high school often attempt to provide an environment that promotes outside activities and life skills. In addition to educational materials, a library may offer print, non-print, and online resources for recreational activities, including popular books, graphic novels, movies, music, and games. In addition, middle and high school libraries may contain college and career information.
As an indication of its expanded role, the school library is often labeled something other than a "library." Here are the most common terms used to indicate the school library:
• Learning Resource Center
• Library-Media Center
• Media Center
• Resource Center
• School Library
(For purposes of this article, we will use the term "school library.")
The School Librarian
As school libraries have evolved, so has the role of school librarians. Not surprisingly then, a school librarian may have a title other than "librarian." Here are the most common titles for school librarians:
• Library-Media Specialist
• Library Teacher
• Media Specialist
• School Librarian
(For purposes of this article, we will use the term "school librarian.")
Regardless of his or her title, a person who follows a career in public school librarianship will find that the job incorporates an interesting assortment of responsibilities that usually include the following:
• Collection Development
• Collection Maintenance
• Reference Work
• Electronic Communications
Most states require school librarians to have teacher certification (Bishop, 2007). Generally, the qualifications for a school librarian include the completion of at least a Bachelor's degree, approximately 30 credits of undergraduate or graduate education courses, and either the completion of a student teaching or a school library practicum. In addition, to be qualified as a professional school librarian, most states require that a candidate hold one of the following graduate degrees:
• M.L.S. (Master of Library Science)
• M.Ed. (Master of Education in Library Media Studies)
(For school librarian certification requirements by state, consult the American Association of School Librarians http://www.ala.org)
The geographic and grade coverage that falls under a particular school librarian's auspices vary considerably among school districts or even within school districts. Here are just some of the possible staffing situations for a school district that maintains libraries for grades kindergarten through grade 12:
• A full-time, professional school librarian for kindergarten through grade 5, for each school.
• A full-time, professional school librarian for each middle school.
• A full-time, professional school librarian for the high school.
• One full-time, professional school librarian that oversees all school libraries in one school district with the help of part-time professional librarians, paraprofessionals, or volunteers.
• One or more part-time, professional school librarians who cover specific grades without help.
• One or more part-time, professional school librarians with the help of paraprofessionals or volunteers.
• No professional school librarian; the school library is staffed entirely by paraprofessionals or volunteers.
This section examines the job responsibilities of school librarians in more detail and explores some of the professional associations, journals, and additional resources that are available to school librarians.
Job Responsibilities of School Librarians
Job responsibilities of school librarians vary by school and school district. Of course, the role of any individual school librarian will also depend upon whether he or she works alone or has paraprofessionals or volunteers to help with workload. In any case, a school librarian will generally be required to either assume or oversee five areas of responsibility:
• Collection development.
• Collection maintenance.
• Reference work.
• The Teaching of library and information literacy skills.
• The Handling of miscellaneous responsibilities.
The first job responsibility of school librarians is collection development. Collection development entails building a collection of print and non-print materials that primarily supports the school curriculum.
The task of collection development involves the following processes:
• Budgeting for library materials.
• Choosing the materials.
• Ordering the materials.
• Paying for the materials.
To ensure that the collection supports the curriculum, the school librarian works with school faculty members for suggestions and feedback regarding purchases and may also consult other school librarians and professional journals.
A secondary goal of collection development is to collect materials that
enhance recreational or life-enhancing skills and activities. To achieve this goal, the school librarian may still consult school faculty members, other school librarians, and professional journals, but will also seek suggestions from students.
The second job responsibility of school librarians is collection maintenance. Maintaining the school library collection ensures that the materials are in good physical condition and easy to locate.
Maintaining the collection involves the following processes:
• Repairing or replacing items as they deteriorate physically.
• Cataloguing the items for purposes of arranging by subject and media format.
• The most common school library cataloguing conventions are the Dewey Decimal System (common in public libraries) and the Library of Congress Classification System (common in colleges and universities). By cataloguing an item, the school librarian is labeling it so that it can be easily retrieved and easily returned.
• Regularly performing an inventory of the collection to make sure that materials are located where the catalogue indicates they are located.
• Tracking down materials that are either missing or overdue from borrowers.
• Removing outdated items from the collection.
The third responsibility of school librarians is reference work. Reference work involves helping patrons - students,...
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