The American Association of School Librarians’ mission is to empower leaders to transform teaching and learning. This statement resonates loudly with us—because it doesn’t say that its mission is to empower librarians, it indicates the position of leader. And it doesn’t focus on books and literacy; it instead names the acts of teaching and learning. This deliberate language of our professional organization points to our very philosophy: librarianship is leadership.
The nature of the school librarian’s position poises us for endless possibilities in school leadership.
We know every student
The school librarian is the only academic teacher who sees every student every year in every subject. We have the potential to know where each child struggles and where they are successful. When a classroom teacher shows us a new class list, we can give the teacher background information on how a particular student learns and what strategies have worked for him or her. As students move from grade level to grade level, we are able to communicate information to teachers about the progress of each child.
We know skills
Because of our cross-curricular vantage point, we have the ability to help implement literacy and research skills across the curriculum. When we communicate which skills have been covered and what language was used to subject-specific teachers, continuity and consistency benefits our students as they attempt mastery. When the librarian works with all teachers in all disciplines, skills become embedded in explicit instruction rather than one-shot deals.
We know curriculum and standards
Librarians need to be as comfortable with the Common Core Standards, the Next Gen Science Standards, and the C3 Social Studies Standards as their teaching counterparts. When we are familiar with the standards (& all modern standards have strong roots in inquiry and research), we can sit in department meetings and take part in faculty conversations that are about building curriculum. A strong standards-based curriculum will utilize a standards-based library.
Literacy Best Practices
Of course, librarians know books. Developing a love for reading is an integral part of our job and is essential for student learning. But librarians can also work to help teachers determine which texts will work best in their classrooms as they strive to align their curriculum to meet Common Core literacy across the curriculum standards. Guiding students through research, assisting with reading and writing strategies, and taking part in literacy committees ensure that the librarian is knee deep as an important teacher-leader.
Hub of learning
As many schools shift to personalized learning models, we are reminded time and again that student choice is an important piece to intrinsic motivation. Best practices show that when students are given choice in inquiry-based learning, they are more likely to become heavily invested in their academics. But as students are given authentic choices, it means they are not so reliant on classroom-provided materials. The library is poised to become the hub of the educational environment. Every student should be engaged with library-centered learning as they investigate their world, and librarians need to be ready to assist in all academics. We may not be experts at everything, but we are an expert at finding everything!
When we examine the potential of the school librarian as a leader, a certain urgency emerges. We need to do our job well in order for students to achieve full potential. When we know students, skills, curriculum, standards, and best learning practices, we become critical instructional leaders, unifying our schools to better serve our students, proving that indeed, librarianship is leadership.