Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
In April 2012, school librarians in South Carolina took a snapshot of one day in the life of their school library. They collected data, anecdotes, testimonials, and photographs to illustrate how they and their library’s services enrich the lives of their students. This initiative is a response to challenges being faced with reduced library staffing hours. They will submit data through an online questionnaire, which will be collated by the South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) for their member librarians to use as an advocacy tool with their communities and legislators. A SnapShotDay wiki has been set up detailing the data to be collected and providing information to assist with planning.
What would a day in the life of your library look like? What could be informative and fun ways to share what difference you and your library’s services make to student learning? Check out the following suggestions by SCASL:
Create a video to share with principals, staff and students. See this example using Animoto by the Anderson School District One Libraries.
Compile a bulletin board (an actual one in school and a virtual one using pinterest!) that highlights your statistics. For example, see Jennifer LaGarde’s blog, Adventures of Library Girl
Producean infographic to display your data and share on your website, newsletter, bulletin board or by email. For example, try Comic Life - see this tutorial by thedaringlibrarian.
The evidence you collect throughout the year can also be used for your performance appraisal and annual report to your Board of Trustees and school community to show the impact your library’s services have had onsupporting student literacy and inquiry learning.
By Rob Finlay
The “summer slump” or “slide” in literacy occurs when the gains made in literacy during the academic year are lost over the summer holidays. It is a particular problem for lower decile schools.
Many low-decile schools make a positive impact in student literacy over the course of a school year which is lost due to the lack of reading over long summer holidays. Clayton Park School in Manurewa tackled this issue by setting up a planned intervention which they monitored, measured and evaluated.
The approach was underpinned by a close analysis of literacy scores in successive Februaries and Novembers to establish a baseline, taking into account variance in months from expected age reading scores. For the study, the students were placed into three cohorts: “at-risk Māori”, “at-risk Pasifika” and “high-performing students”.
Deliberate interventions followed to improve teacher effectiveness. Existing Home-School Partnership meetings were used to keep parents informed. At the last meeting of the year the school set up summer reading contracts, goals and expectations with families as well as giving the parents strategies for helping children with their reading
The reading scores, both during the year and at the end of the summer holidays, were reviewed, and the strategy modified accordingly in an annual iterative process beginning in 2005.
The number of students who complete their contracts has grown over the six years the programme has been running has increased from 6 percent to 23 percent. For those students who complete the contracts, the results have been very gratifying, with an average gain of 5.7months in reading age over the summer break. Furthermore, as compared to students who fail to complete the contracts, these students have also experienced a year-on-year gain even greater than the national average annual reading gain. Conversely those who don’t complete their contracts slide backwards in their reading levels and do not experience a “catch-up” effect when they return to school.
The authors: Paul Wright, Principal at Clayton Park School and Dr Cathy Wright, researcher at Auckland University, conclude that the sustained practice of summer reading as part of a wider strategy leads to improved literacy gains.
For the full article :
Wright, Paul & Wright, Cathy. “An initiative to counter the “summer reading drop”: an iterative process”. Set 2, 2011, p 38-46, NZCER.
The theme of this year's conference was Passion, People and Power. The conference invited us to think critically about ourselves as professionals, our contributions to the library sector and the place libraries have in society. The conference included many speakers from New Zealand and overseas who reiterated that one of our greatest challenges is our ability, or not, to advocate effectively. For the full keynote and other sessions transcripts go to LIANZA.
The keynote speakers outlined a range of advocacy ideas and suggested that we should be advocating in the good times, not just the bad. There seem to be some important questions to ask. How do we promote ourselves and our industry? Who should we align ourselves with and what message do we want to send? Libraries are always facing threats, obstacles or challenges; the question is: how do we respond? Do we continue to just respond? At what stage do we become proactive? Advocate during the good times, advocacy as par for the course – Imbed it into our behaviour.
Research is another area that is crucial to developing a strong advocacy base. Molly Raphael, 2011 -2012 President, American Library Association mentioned several research papers that are particularly compelling. These include The Importance of School Libraries compiled by Keith Curry Lance, Ph.D. Director; Library Research Service; Colorado State Library. Looking at research ensures we are always seeking evidence around best practice.
Andrew Booth is Reader in Evidence Based Information Practice at the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield. He spoke about evidence based library and information practice. Stating that we need to be sure of the decisions we are making and use evidence, research and stats to support our decisions. Use the 5 A’s of Evidence Based Library Information Practice:
Karen Coyle has over 30 years library experience and currently is investigating the possibilities offered by the semantic web and linked data technology. Are library catalogues holding us back? Restricting our clients and ultimately boring? Linked data may be the answer. In this brave world information links to information, even the link is information. You don’t just look up an author or a title, but an entire web page of information. See Open Library Here you get a range of information – imagine the possibilities. At The Virtual International Authority File you can search across a range of National Libraries that are linked by authority files, making the information available on the web. The update at conference is that the Library of Congress is to replace Marc with the Symantec web! Check out Karen’s blog at Coyle’s Information and here.
Jenica Rogers is the Director of Libraries at the State University of New York at Potsdam. This was the last keynote session of the conference. The theme was Reality based librarianship for passionate librarians. Jenica was challenging, inspiring and realistic in her view of librarians and libraries. Jenica believes that there is an issue in fostering leadership within libraries and more needs to be done to identify and mentor current and future leaders. Jenica also stated that budget cuts, stereotypical views of librarians and libraries is par for the course and “we should just get over it”. We should spend time moving forward, not concerned with where we are now.
Jenica spoke about being passionate, how in the pursuit of goals and objectives one big question determines if it is all worth it “is this a hill you are willing to die on?” If you ask yourself that question, then you will gain clarity on the things that count, and the things you can maybe let go of.
Some engaging workshops included Sally Pewhairangi – Finding Heroes The ideas factory: what is the biggest challenge you will face next year? This was a very practical, thought provoking session where we worked as individuals and teams to decide upon our greatest challenge. Interestingly many of the same issues concerned the groups. These included funding, professional development, staff training and development, customer outreach and growing our client base. Each group analysed a range of issues and came up with responses that prioritised their level of importance. The information gathered can be viewed and discussed at NZ Libraries in 2025: Ideas.
The LIANZA workshop was on Building a stronger profession – is the library and information service profession dying or a profession which remains relevant and is worth strengthening? In this session 4 groups each examined a question set by LIANZA hoping for member feedback. 1. How do we keep the best and brightest in the profession – how do we get them? 2. We are in silos and fragmented – how to unite? 3. How do we articulate our value 4. Our skills have changed, how does LIANZA help this? A fun, stimulating and practical idea may be to ask your colleagues, staff or users these questions. They may form the basis for an introspective look at our own services, and skills. The questions could be altered to accommodate a variety of environments.
Why do we need school libraries and how do libraries support students’ learning?
What will school libraries look like in the future? What roles will they play and what do library teams need in order to succeed?
These and many other vital questions were considered through an online discussion forum commissioned by the School Libraries and Information Literacy unit of the NSW Department of Education and Training.
The moderated blog discussion promoted background reading for participants through the 2009 Scan article: School libraries building capacity for student learning in 21C and the discussions took place during June – August 2009.
In this report of the School libraries 21C online discussion the posts relating to each topic area have been collated and analysed, and enable the reader to construct an insightful picture of diverse thoughts about school libraries.
Key themes include equity of access, the school library as learning commons and the importance of “a focus on learning action, rather than information provision.” (p. 8). As in the New York Libraries study leadership and modelling innovative learning were identified as key strategies for the library team.
The report noted a low response to providing examples of outcomes based evidence and highlighted the pivotal role of evidence-based practice and strategic interventions to ensure a high profile for the school library.
The responses are also summarised here:
School Libraries 21C: the conversation begins.
Watch this space for discussion about the report’s recommendations
School librarians convincingly shape students’ attitudes towards reading and libraries and teachers often view their school librarians as leaders in the fields of literacy and new technologies.
These findings are from the third stage of a two-year research study on the impact of New York State’s school libraries. The research reinforces the findings of similar studies and highlights the significant contribution that school libraries make to student achievement and motivation. This study also accentuates the pivotal role of well-staffed and dynamic school libraries.
A representative sample of 47 schools comprised phase two of the study while phase three focused on extensive interviews with principals, school librarians, teachers, students and parents from ten schools and built a clear picture of library use and the users’ perceptions of their library. Two school libraries were then selected for an in depth study. Both were described as ‘exemplary.’
The librarians at both schools worked throughout the school day and were fully involved in school activities and curriculum teams. The research investigated different facets of the librarian’s interaction with students and teachers. Of particular significance are the findings about the librarian’s impact on learning and motivation. Developing a passion for reading, supporting students’ learning and information literacy and facilitating a high level of student involvement in selecting books and making decisions about the library were all key influences.
The librarians described a high level of collaboration with teachers. Planning with teachers and teaching in the library reinforced the teachers’ perception of the librarian as a leader in literacy and use of ICT, and as a highly valued staff member.
Finally, the students’ and whole school community’s sense of being welcome in the school library facilitated positive attitudes towards library use. In the words of one secondary school student: “She invites you in. She does. ‘Come on in!’ It’s almost like being over at someone’s house.”
How do these findings compare with your own experience of the impact of school libraries on school communities?
Read the full report.
Read more about research focused on the key role of school libraries.
by Lisa O
Planning for the year ahead through reflection on past practice.
As you start back at school, you will be setting goals for the year ahead.
To help with your planning, take some time this week to reflect on last year’s achievements. Make a list of what your students learned as a direct result of programmes/activities in the library or via the library. How do you know what they learned? Have you created ways of measuring your impact?
If not, take time this year to ensure you incorporate measurement and evidence gathering in all your programmes for the year. Time spent planning measuring, collecting and analysing the data is time well spent. This is not only evidence to inform your future practice, but also the tool for your advocacy work. Encourage your students to reflect on their learning throughout the year and create a place for them to write their reflections (digital or analogue).
Students’ reflections and your data collection over time, will serve you well, not only in your planning to be the most effective you can be, but also in your advocacy work with teachers, administration and the wider community. As you think about what evidence you will collect and incorporate into your practice over time, consider your school’s overall goals. If raising literacy rates is a key goal for your school, then you will want to ensure that you are measuring the ways that the library is contributing to the successful attainment of that goal.
The work we do in school libraries is important! Make sure that it counts by gathering and using the evidence of your practice. Your time is precious, make the most of it. Prioritise the tasks that most evidently contribute to student learning and literacy. As Ross Todd famously said: “Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me what you do and I’ll tell you what your priorities are”.
As you reflect on the many and varied tasks you perform each day/week/month in the library, consider which of these has a measurable impact on student achievement. Consider the proportion of your time spent on the different tasks. Is most of your time spent on those tasks that directly impact on achievement? If not, then perhaps this year is the year to make some changes. Maybe there are some tasks taking up a lot of your time, maybe they are enjoyable or comfortable, but if they are having a negligible positive effect on learning it might be time to leave them behind. Tasks we did in the past may be less important today. Once we had to spend time cataloguing, now we can quickly and easily get our MARC records from a variety of sources. Once we clipped and indexed articles from magazines and newspapers, now we create electronic pathfinders to digital source material.
The landscape of school libraries and learning is shifting continuously. Our role as always, is to help students and teachers navigate in that landscape. Keeping current with new developments and tools, we are better positioned serve our students in achieving their learning and literacy goals. Evaluate your programmes and your tasks against these goals regularly. Ensure that there is a strong correlation between time spent and impact on learning and achievement. Be sure that your hard work is achieving the results you want.
School libraries are tremendously important. They are a key element in student achievement.
There are great things happening in school libraries in New Zealand. Invest in the future of school libraries by spending your time on the work that matters most, documenting the evidence of your results and using that evidence to inform your future practice and to advocate for your library.
See Evidence & Learning Outcomes for more information
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