During multiple rounds of cutting school budgets over the last several years many schools had to make the unfortunate decision to cut their school libraries and/or to divide one librarians time between several buildings. The historic increase in the education budget passed by the legislature will allow schools to bring back programs previously reduced or eliminated. So, now may be the time to consider investing in your school library. Some facts:
- Today’s School Libraries are dynamic learning centers that support the goals of administrators to ensure that students are prepared to succeed in college or career.
- Multiple studies show that school libraries staffed by certified school librarians increase student achievement and graduation rates, especially the achievement of at-risk students. New research shows that school libraries/librarians had the largest impact in closing the achievement gap in literacy levels due to poverty.
- The allowable expenses of federal funds include school libraries/librarians (any activity authorized by ESEA of 1965) as clarified in this memorandum from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). This includes Title I, Title IIA, Title IV which can be spent on personnel, resources, and professional development including training for teachers to become certified in library media.
Certified school librarians, also called Library Media Specialists in Michigan, are the staff at the heart of school libraries. They are teachers who hold Michigan Teaching certificates with the Library Media (ND) endorsement. It is important for the profession to only use the title of Librarian and/or Media Specialist for those who have certification. If your district would like to reinstate school libraries but cannot find certified staff, Wayne State University has an online program where teachers can earn their Library Media (ND) certification with 15 credit hours.
Certified school librarians are uniquely qualified to carry out the five roles of a school librarian: teacher, literacy and reading expert, information specialist, program administrator, and leader.
- Teacher - Delivers instruction on reading, accessing resources, information/media literacy, digital citizenship, and technology tools. Collaborates and co-teaches with teachers of all subject areas to integrate inquiry learning and technology into instruction.
- Literacy and Reading Expert - Has training in youth and YA literature and collection development to select and promote materials in multiple formats including electronic resources to support learning, personal growth, and enjoyment.
- Information specialist - Selects, curates, promotes and uses physical, digital, and virtual collections of resources ethically and equitably to support the needs of the diverse learning community.
- Program administrator - Plans, develops, implements, and evaluates the school library programs, resources, and services in support of the mission of their schools according to the ethics and principles of library science, education, management, and administration.
- Leader - Leads a strong reading culture within their schools and advocates for their students’ access to diverse resources and positive learning environments. Provides professional development for teachers. Connects with administrators, teachers, parents, and the community including their community library to provide integrated resources and services to all students and the entire school community.
The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has published guidelines on staffing school libraries. The Visual Guideline to Staffing Choices in School Libraries document shows the areas of expertise and training of certified school librarians versus other staff using a green, yellow, and red light system. Note: paraprofessional staff working in a school library should never use the professional titles of school librarian or media specialist as outlined in the MDE guidelines.
The MDE Effective School Library Toolkit for Administrators explains the what, why, and how of school libraries including a sample job description for media specialists. The Library of Michigan has a Model School Library Program where each year a new library is selected. Interested administrators and staff can arrange to visit these libraries to see an exemplary program in practice. If you would like additional information or to speak with an excellent librarian who can help you consider steps toward bringing back your school’s library, Kathy Lester, from the Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME) is an excellent resource.
Written by Wendy Zdeb, MASSP Executive Director