Thursday, February 6, 2014

Librarians - Do We Really Need Them in a 21st Century School?

I was inspired to write this post after reading a range of thought provoking comments in the TeachersPayTeachers forum.  I found myself reflecting on my time as a teacher-librarian and wondering if I would return to a teacher-librarian role in the future and more importantly, if such a role would exist in schools in the future.

 I have heard many teachers question the value and relevance of librarians now that we have the digital world at our fingertips.  The role of the school library and teacher-librarians is constantly evolving and it often falls to the teacher-librarian to keep it relevant in our schools.   It was precisely this challenge that inspired my passion for technology.   realized on my first day as a Kinder-Grade 6 teacher-librarian (switching from a classroom teaching role) that I was charged with the duty to build the love of books, develop curiosity, nurture blossoming imaginations, teach critical thinking skills, encourage creativity, inspire students to be lifelong readers, whilst also help students navigate the online world safely and effectively and so much more.  I was puzzled as to how I would do that in a 45 minute lesson
and when do I possibly return books and buy new ones??   In my first year as a teacher-librarian I was overwhelmed by this responsibility and the vast job description, so I turned to my comfort zone – technology.  I quickly realized that by using technology in the library, I had a better chance at being in 10 places at once.

In my first few years I had many failed library lessons and a handful of remarkable learning moments for myself and the students.  I’ll spare you from the details of my failed lessons ;)  but will share my first success.  It  was with a 2nd Grade class 7 years ago.  I had eight boys and two girls who did not want to borrow because they ‘hated reading’.  Over a ten week period we contributed to a collaborative Book Review Blog with a 2nd grade class in outback Australia in a school of 14 students.  They had limited books in their library and were eager to hear about books from other kids their own age.  The technological challenges were vast for both schools but we persisted through the computer glitches, failed connections and dial up internet.  At the end of the 10 weeks I was worried we had wasted everyone’s time and not achieved a single thing with the students (except for teaching patience and problem solving with technology). But on the final lesson of the term I had 100% of students eagerly borrowing a bundle of books.  Most importantly, my ten reluctant readers borrowed books without me encouraging, nagging or begging them to be excited about books.  They borrowed books that their ‘new buddies’ in remote outback Australia had read and blogged about. The kids loved it!

This was a moment when I realised the power of technology in the library, schools and children’s lives today.  Over the subsequent  years I included: QR-coded videos about books to support students who didn't know what book to borrow; QR-Coded videos guiding students through the non-fiction section;  a range of apps and youtube resources to support critical thinking, collaboration and organisation  when researching;  and most amazingly the introduction of a 24/7 library.  Students were able to share ideas, ask questions and research when they were ready, not when they were told they had to.  After a number of years immersed in the excitement of a busy elementary school library, I can categorically say that technology is worth the chaos and disruption that it brings.  It is exposing students to and preparing students for the world they live in.  Technology in the library – YES I’m convinced!  Do we need librarians in schools now that we have the internet at our fingertips? YES YES YES.  I believe the role of a teacher librarian in a school is more important today than it has ever been before.

:) Sarah Anne


  1. Sarah Ann, I was intrigued to hear how Librarians are helping to shape student learning in many new ways. We learn so much from taking risks to try using new technologies. Bravo, that children in Australia's Outback are the richer for it.


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