Licensed School Librarians and ESPs
The primary roles of the Library media specialist are as teacher and collaborator with other teachers to incorporate information literacy skills across grade levels and curriculum areas. The library media specialist also serves as the manager of the library’s physical and digital resources and delivery platforms and orders materials to support all curricula for all grade levels. The librarian plays an integral role in fostering students’ love of reading and provides resources to support this goal.
Licensed school librarians teach students information literacy skills, collaborate with teachers on lessons, provide students with individual research instruction, and curate a collection with an eye toward books and databases that support the entire school curriculum. Licensed librarians regularly follow the selection and weeding policies for the district. They are experts in project-based learning, trained to address the information literacy standards in the Digital Literacy and Computer Science Framework, and they provide appropriate resources to meet the needs of all students.
The primary role of the library ESP is to assist the librarian with circulation and book shelving. With training, the library aide may also add patrons and search the library catalog for appropriate materials. At all times and for all tasks, the librarian oversees the jobs performed by a library aide.
ESPs maintain a friendly, clean atmosphere, and help students find books on shelves, check out books, answer phone calls, print overdue notices, inventory books, display books and give out library passes.
According to the Massachusetts School Library Study, the DESE “recently revised its educational frameworks in ways that indicate the importance of the skills and resources that are provided by a strong school library program. These standards focus on the need for strong print literacy skills for all students, beginning in the early grades, as well as building technological capacity for all students. Information literacy skills — the ability to find, assess and think critically about information — are now explicitly included in the new Digital Literacy and Computer Science Frameworks.”
More than 60 studies in 22 states show that the levels of library funding, staffing levels, collection size and range and the instructional role of a school librarian all have a direct impact on student achievement.
What Resources Schools Lose When Licensed School Librarians Are Cut
When schools cut costs by eliminating librarian positions, they not only lose a partner for collaboration in research and learning — they lose their connection to valuable resources as well. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, via the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) and the Massachusetts Library System (MLS), provides schools that retain licensed school library teachers with resources such as databases, e-books, grants, professional development and more.
“On-site, paid librarian-in-charge who meets Massachusetts education and certification requirements in effect for that type of library (For public schools, each secondary school* library member must be staffed by a full-time certified school library teacher or media specialist, and each non-secondary school library member must be staffed by either a full or part time library teacher or certified media specialist. A certified librarian who travels between non-secondary schools can serve no more than five schools (one day a week per school). For each non-public school and each charter school, a Master of Library Science degree shall be considered equivalent to school library teacher or media specialist certification for the purposes of meeting this requirement).”
This makes sense, as someone without these requirements would not have the knowledge and skills to deliver the resources offered by the state. Students whose schools employ certified School Library Teachers have access to the following:
- Databases that include Gale U.S. History in Context, Gale World History in Context, Gale Science in Context, Britannica Encyclopedia Online (all levels, K-12), and many more. A licensed librarian, in addition to making these resources easily accessible on a school’s website, also teaches students and faculty how to identify and evaluate the information in the databases and how to conduct effective searches.
- EBooks (discounted) for downloading on phones and tablets.
- Digital Commonwealth: A state organization dedicated to preserving institutional archives. Many school librarians have, through the Digital Commonwealth, digitized yearbooks.
- MBLC Grants ranging from $7,500 to $30,000 for projects related to improving accessibility, STEM Learning, Civics, Financial Literacy, health literacy, innovative ideas and more.
According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), there are 1,847 schools (of all levels) in Massachusetts. However, MLS has only 906 schools enrolled in its programs, less than half of all MA schools. Isn’t it time to provide equity across the state for ALL our students and give them the access and skills to Massachusetts’ quality resources by requiring that schools employ certified school librarians?