How to Utilize the School Librarian to Enhance Literary Instruction

Jenny Starkman
Jenny Starkman

When I was in college taking my educational methods courses, we had a guest speaker talk to us about the real world of teaching. She told us there was a golden rule she always told new educators to follow: Respect and befriend the two most valuable people in a school community — the school secretary and the maintenance staff/janitor. Decades later, not only do I still subscribe to this golden rule, I would add another valuable staff member to that rule – the school librarian. The school librarian goes by many names, such as media specialist, and wears many hats.

Collaboration with the Librarian

One of those hats is fulfilling the role of an instructional partner with collaboration. Simply working with a librarian is not going to provide the same results as true collaboration with her. Student achievement can best be addressed by the professional relationship between the teacher and school librarian, especially for literacy instruction. Together, lessons can be created to deepen learning and further the knowledge and lesson. Creating a risk-taking environment isn’t just for our students, but for our teachers as well. Librarians understand and embrace this, working with the teachers to try new, adventurous ideas and resources.

The Librarian as Informational Specialist/Resource Director

When a teacher collaborates with a librarian, it is not just print material that is suggested as resources. The librarian also wears the hat of an information specialist and resource director. She is your go-to for whatever “it” is you need. Often, she is advocating for her program and trying to get the staff enticed to work with her. She can show you how to find it and where to find it. Once there, she is your resource for using it effectively and appropriately, as well as an instructor for the students. Information on websites, databases, different ways to deliver information, presentation software, and more are tools in the librarian’s toolbox and always at the ready. She or he has knowledge of award lists, controversies in literature, up and coming authors, what’s new in publishing, and where you can go to learn more.

The Librarian is a School Leader

Not only is it great to work individually with the librarian. She or he also can be a valuable member of the school’s professional learning community (PLC). She brings to the meetings a different lens as she works with all staff and all students. She sees the curriculum across the grade levels, and can anticipate the needs of her building and staff. She or he holds a unique position with such a different lens of viewing, and also has the community in mind as she attends or leads the PLC meetings. It’s a wonderful relationship she builds within her building and beyond.

The school librarian is someone you should respect and get to know. Whether you just “Pick his or her brain” for a new read-aloud, collaborate on a sophomore free choice literary list, or sit beside him or her to grow as professionals, it is a relationship that will help you grow professionally and enhance even the youngest of our learners.

Go “check out” your librarian today and make that introduction. Share your needs, create that relationship, and get ready to have a life-long learning partner. You won’t be sorry you did!

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