“You don’t have to care about books to love school libraries. You don’t have to give a ding-dang about funny stories, true stories, or the world beyond your home to think they matter. You don’t even have to love that school libraries are both a refuge and a gateway to discovery. All you need to care about are the kids they serve. School libraries are as important as the children who need them.” Mo Willems
As writers, school librarians are one of your greatest champions. They put great books in the hands of students. They help teachers find phenomenal resources to enrich their teaching. They are one of your key audiences. So, when their livelihoods are threatened, in many ways, so is yours.
Now, a point of order. I need to say that I am a wonderfully happy school librarian. I work in a community that has supported our program since its inception. However, I feel so strongly that school libraries are at the heart of positive school change that I seek to advocate for library programs that are not as well supported or funded. This article is an attempt to bring the changing role of the school librarian to the forefront.
Across the nation, school library programs are being cut due to ever shrinking budgets. About 25 percent of America’s school libraries do not have a state-certified librarian on staff. With instant access to information through the internet, why are school libraries, and more specifically school librarians, important?
To start, we have to re-think about how we ‘see’ libraries. “To think about school libraries only as repository of books is to think of churches as storage units for stained glass.” -Jeff Norton
If anything, a certified and passionate school librarian is even MORE important in the 21st Century. Today, librarians seek to help students learn to navigate the ever-expanding universe of resources.
According to the AASL Infographic below, Teachers note that 83% of the information that is available online is overwhelming to students. 60% of teachers report that digital technologies actually make it harder to find and use credible sources of information. 71% state that digital technologies discourage students from using a wide range of resources.
School library programs that are professionally-staffed and well-supported provide students and teachers with many resources and advantages that can make a real difference in learning, including:
● a robust collection of print and nonprint (digital, audio, video) materials that are designed specifically to support the curriculum -- so that students who need support, enrichment or a different learning style can be supported
● a rich collection of reading materials to ensure that students have lots of choices to entice them to read and become life-long readers
● an instructional partner for teachers who can help to plan research projects and student learning experiences with an eye toward authentic use of technology, excellent materials aligned to student interests and abilities, and a knowledge of how to design student work that is not apt to be "cut and paste," but instead provides rich learning experiences for students
● a school leader with knowledge of the curriculum and materials, and a knowledge of the faculty and students ... in this role, the school librarian can be an excellent addition to school committee work, to helping to create a common academic culture in the building, to making connections among students and classrooms, and to providing professional development to teachers -- especially around technology and its use in education
A certified librarian also helps students meet the 21st Century head on by teaching students about how to effectively navigate the wide variety of digital media. Here are several key skill areas that are taught in the school library:
● Online searching: Google is easy, but not always the best tool.
● Website evaluation: How do you decide if a site is credible?
● Plagiarism and copyright: Cutting and pasting is also easy. Learning how to properly synthesize information and give credit for your sources is essential.
● Digital citizenship: Our digital footprints are constantly growing. Learning to manage these in an ever-expanding world is critical. Learning to be safe and responsible while online
As you can see, school librarians have a big job. Not only are they leading students, parents and teachers in learning, they are also working to advocate for their jobs. School librarians have never been more important.
You as an author have some very unique skills. Find a local library and volunteer. Librarians love having guest readers; especially those who bring their own stories! Spend time helping put books away; you’ll learn what’s really being read by the kids. Talk with librarians about what books they wish they 'had.' That might be the book you need to write! Work with librarians to form lunchtime or after school book clubs. It will give you practice listening to your target audience, while helping students learn to talk and think about books. What could be better than that!
 "ALAAmericanLibraryAssociation." 2012. 2 Dec. 2014 <http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/wo/woissues/washfunding/SchoolLibraryStats.pdf>
 "Why School Librarians Matter | Swampscott, MA Patch." 2014. 2 Dec. 2014 <http://patch.com/massachusetts/swampscott/why-school-librarians-matter>