Libraries in the News: The role of school libraries in learning

What does a great school library look like? In “One Common Goal: Student Learning,” Rutgers University researchers Ross Todd, Carol Gordon, and Ya-Ling Lu present vital information about effective school libraries, with compelling evidence about how they contribute to their schools’ learning agendas.

What did the study uncover? First, educators believe the library is a center for learning. While informational activities—like searching—were certainly recognized, learning, according to the researchers, “was the central mission, the central activity, and the central outcome of the school library.”

“I think calling it a library is not accurate—to me it’s become a learning center that has resources,” said one principal. “When I see students in here, they’re doing research, maybe teacher-directed, but you know, I see a lot of them come in just to find out general information, to learn something—maybe not related to school, so to me it goes far beyond what we thought a library was.”

Not only do librarians enable learning, research also shows that they shape how learning takes place by helping teachers push the boundaries and innovate. As one principal said, “We do a lot of interdisciplinary teaching…. I think that our media specialists have enabled us to make that push, to be better at taking risks, and to do things that are normally outside of the box.”

Libraries are also credited with helping to shape school culture—the shared beliefs, customs, and behaviors that define a school and that are seen as key factors in an institution’s success. One principal’s tongue-in-cheek comment summed it up: “In the center part of our school upstairs is the library and the main office is in the center downstairs, and I always say that downstairs is where we ruin school culture and upstairs is where we make it.”

Educators also value how the library is different from the classroom. Through the diversity and breadth of their resources, libraries offer choice. They provide access to technology—and digital resources—beyond the means of most classrooms, creating opportunities for the teaching of information and inquiry skills.

Through technology, the library also expands the world of learning. “I think the library is a gateway to the outside world,” said a language arts teacher, referring to Skype and other virtual experiences that connect students with their peers across the country and around the world.

Another key theme of the study is that the library brings people together. “The library is a point of connection, in terms of… colleague-to-colleague or student-to-student” interactions, said a sixth-grade math teacher. “The kids see that… everything is a part of the library. Kids are always eager to come to the library… they know that there is always help available.”

For the full report, click here: http://cissl.rutgers.edu/docs/NJASL_Phase_1.pdf

For the story by Brian Kinney in School Library Journal that this post is based upon , click here:  http://www.libraryjournal.com/slj/printissue/currentissue/891938-427/what_does_excellence_look_like.html.csp

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