Recognizing the Power of School Libraries and Librarians
By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
A strong school library program has a powerful effect on literacy and learning for all students. In a March 2018 Phi Delta Kappan article called Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us, Keith Curry Lance and Debra E. Kachel cite research that supports this:
Since 1992, a growing body of research known as the school library impact studies has consistently shown positive correlations between high-quality library programs and student achievement (Gretes, 2013; Scholastic, 2016). Data from more than 34 statewide studies (including Ohio) suggest that students tend to earn better standardized test scores in schools that have strong library programs.
The work and impact of school libraries directly align to support Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future. School librarians especially support the four learning domains because school libraries serve as a connector among all four domains.
In the domain of Foundational Knowledge and Skills, school libraries clearly have a strong focus on literacy and technology. From teaching students about media and digital literacy to a lifelong love of learning, literacy in all forms is the key to a strong school library program.
In a conversation I had with Deb Logan, the president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA), she talked about why school libraries matter and how they promote student achievement. She commented that school libraries provide choices and support students as they find their voices. They help students consider using a source or not. School librarians teach critical thinking skills for evaluating media sources. A school librarian changes a school library from a repository of information to a place to create new information sources and students from consumers of information to creators of resources.
I am a former school librarian, and I keep my license current. I am proud to serve as the Department liaison to OELMA. OELMA just had its annual conference and, across the board, the sessions supported all four areas of Each Child, Our Future. For example, the session called Lending Hope in Times of Trauma supported social-emotional learning. The program described the session like this: School librarians have unique opportunities to lend hope and foster resiliency and wellness and create an environment of safe refuge for students in their school libraries.
Sessions focused on everything from literacy and technology to design thinking. They covered makerspaces and STEM — the librarians in Ohio are truly Future Ready and able to serve as reliable instructional partners and resources for students and staff in your schools.
In addition to the professional learning at the conference, OELMA honored some superhero Ohio school librarians who received recognition with an Ohio Educational Library Media Association Notable Award grant or scholarship. The awardees included:
- Kristine Konik, Westerville City Schools - Leadership in Action Award;
- Shelley Bertsch, Rossford Schools - Floyd Dickman Programming Grant;
- Amy Price, Princeton City Schools - Intellectual Freedom Award;
- Brandi Young, South-Western City Schools and Angela Wojtecki, Nordonia Hills Schools - Information Technology Innovation Awards;
- Betsy Gugle, Columbus School for Girls - Outstanding Administrator Award;
- Dr. Christina Dorr, Hilliard City Schools - OELMA Outstanding School Librarian Award;
- Meagan Fowler, St. Joseph Academy - Library Leadership Ohio Scholarship.
OELMA provides up to two scholarships for licensed school librarians who are OELMA members to participate in Library Leadership Ohio. Library Leadership Ohio, a collaboration between the State Library of Ohio and OhioNET, is an institute designed to develop future leaders for Ohio libraries.
In addition to honoring educators, OELMA honors four K-12 students who value reading for pleasure and share their joy of reading with others with the Read on, Ohio! award.
Congratulations to the following:
- Isaac Simkanin - Rootstown Elementary School;
- Hannah Sadler - Hilliard Weaver Middle School;
- Caitlin Klein - Maplewood High School;
- Emoni Harmon - Rossford High School.
You can find more about all of OELMA’s awards, grants and scholarships on its website.
In addition to the conference, another source of inspiration for school librarians is Future Ready. The Ohio school library community embraces the #FutureReadyOH movement. See their commitment to be part of this here. High-quality school libraries are so important that Future Ready librarians across the nation designed a specific framework to help them align their work. The learner-centered focus on literacy drives the seven gears and the momentum for librarians to lead from the library. For districts, supporting a strong library program allows you to create an intersection where all four learning domains can unite…school libraries truly are the heart of it all!
Stephanie Donofe Meeks is director of integrated technology at the Ohio Department of Education, where she supports technology integration innovations and blended learning initiatives for districts and schools across the state. You can learn more about Stephanie by clicking here.