What does a library look like?

In a recent post on the AASL blog, Buffy Hamilton discusses a debate that has been raging about an article in Teacher Magazine about classroom libraries versus libraries.  In thinking about the post, and the responses, I find myself over a barrel here. (see the link to the post I am referring to above). I agree with Miller that more books in more places are important for student literacy–that excitement about books carries a lot of influence with students.

I feel that we have to come to this discussion from a place of strength and assurance about our library programs, not a place of defense.    I don’t think there’s even a question that we need strong school library collections and staffing.
And as a former English teacher, I can relate with Miller’s desire to have a well-stocked classroom library.  My belief is that her students probably also continue to “check out” books whether from the library or her room, and they are reading, which is our ultimate goal.  And I also wouldn’t think to imply that as an English teacher she wouldn’t necessarily be selecting excellent titles for her students, because I myself remember scrounging for great young adult books for my students (though I also used my school library a great deal.)

Now, as a librarian, I too am troubled by the sometimes lack of connection between the classroom and libraries/librarians.  Sometimes we aren’t all working in concert with one another, and that is unfortunate.  I think perhaps we need a better understanding of how to support teachers’ needs.  But we have to remember that we keep the entire school and curriculum in mind–and that is part of our purpose.

I don’t perceive that Miller was arguing to replace one kind of funding with another, though of course that could happen.  And I don’t really love that some see her interest as competing with the interests of the library.

But I do think that in terms of the entire curriculum and entire student body, the excitement and support that a library can provide for students in terms of reading is significant and important.

Buffy asks some excellent questions that are worth serious consideration.  How do we encourage more of a “joint mission”?
How can we be in “more places” in our buildings so we take ourselves to the students?

What does a library look like?  Can’t both things be helpful to students?

(most of this post was also a comment from the AASL blog).

2 thoughts on “What does a library look like?

  1. As a former classroom teacher and current teacher librarian, I have built my classroom library from large teacher loans from the school library. I believe I need to put a large volume and variety of books in every classroom in my school. We have in the past few years seen an increase in the interest in and funding for classroom libraries. I haven’t been a teacher librarian long enough to see if this has had an impact on school library funding. I believe if done well and consistently there is in fact little need for a separate classroom library. I want to see my school library collection stocked on classroom shelves and rotated through the various classrooms according to need. When in the classroom, I found students lost interest in the classroom collection, they had seen the titles there all year long. They hadn’t read them necessarily but they did see anything new there so weren’t choosing from the collection. When I rotated books through the room from the library, the books were ‘new’. I could ‘talk’ the new books and then students would read them. I guess I feel we come at it from a pro-active stance – need books? Great, I’ve got them.

  2. Elementary librarians were taken out of the libraries many years ago in my district; reading scores dropped. No connection was made to loss of librarians and lower reading scores, Oops! Reading specialists were put in the schools and they built large classroom libraries with leveled reading books. In some schools there are space limitations so library space has been given to the reading specialists. The reading specialists don’t see any connection to what they do and what the librarian does. (There are 6 librarians over 60 libraries). Students go to the library in the 7th grade and want the leveled books in crates like they used in elementary. They don’t know how to find a book and check one out. These are the facts.
    The reading specialists are housed in the building and have a connection with the faculty and the administration. Were the librarians not paying attention – probably. Do they compete for funding, yes, as well as space and jobs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *