The School Library - a Partner in Literacy, Not Just a Place to Put the Books!
When people think of the school library and the connection to teaching literacy, they immediately think of the books. They think of the school library first and foremost as a place to put the books and the librarian as the person to check those books out and say “SHH” to noisy students.
But, in today’s schools, including my own, the role of the school librarian is as a teaching partner with classroom teachers to help teach not only what we would consider traditional models of literacy, but also the practice of transliteracy—a set of 21st century skills defined as " the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media, from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks." (www.transliteracy.com)
So, how do we as librarians change how people (especially teachers and administrators) see the library and its role in a school?
While part of my job is indeed all about the books, from purchasing to checking out books for my elementary library, I see my main job at my school is as a teaching partner. I have collaborated with teachers in my building to teach science lessons, social studies lessons, reading lessons as well as the traditional research and technology lessons. The library at my school is no longer just a place to keep the books but a place of inquiry, creation and collaboration.
In the past year I have collaborated with teachers on lessons in which I have added the concept of transliteracy to the lesson objectives.
In trying to add these literacies into traditional lessons, I have provided opportunities for my students to interact with people in places outside of our school and create projects using new technologies. In the past year I have helped students connect to authors and other classrooms in different states and countries via video conferencing (Skype). I have connected my students with others though their writing and reflections on a classroom blog. I also helped students in a fourth grade class share what they were doing by helping them create podcasts of a readers theater project they worked on.
My job as a librarian and technology specialist in my school is to enhance what the teachers are covering in their classrooms. Not all teachers are willing to collaborate and I feel that it is my job to come up with projects and lessons to convince these teachers to work with me, to enhance their definition of “literacy” to include the broader transliteracy definition.
As a school librarian, I find that there are conferences, articles and books devoted to the idea of collaborating with teachers to contribute to student success. But the problem is, I have not seen or heard of the same emphasis used to encourage classroom or subject area teachers to seek out collaborations with us.
So what does this mean? It means as a school librarian, I need to make teachers aware that I can help them lead their students to success. I can collaborate with them to enhance their lessons and help them to learn new skills themselves. With so much on teachers plates already, some classroom teachers see this as “another item on their to do list.” But in reality, by collaborating with their school librarian, it may remove some of the stress from the teachers’ plate and enhance their students learning.
As this New Year starts, I am re-dedicating myself to working with the teachers in my building that I have not worked with yet, to collaborate on a lesson or project with their students. I want to help them come up with a lesson that helps them teach the traditional literacy skills using new technologies.
We are all in this together with the ultimate goal of student success and teaching our students to be life-long learners.