South Carolina is definitely in the minority when it comes to school library media specialists. We are one of the rare states that still requires a certified library media specialist in every school serving grades 1 through 12. So what? What difference does it make to have a school library? What difference does it make for our students that every faculty has a certified library media speciaist? Beyond the state mandate, what is the ultimate reason or purpose for having a school library media specialist in every school?
South Carolina has professional standards for school library media specialists. These standards address and explain what the role of the library media specialist is. So what? I wonder how often South Carolina library media specialists refer to these professional standards and attempt to explain their role and responsibilities to their stakeholders. What difference have these standards made in the careers of the state’s school library media specialists and in the school library profession in South Carolina?
South Carolina has school library program recommendations and standards. So what? Has Achieving Exemplary School Libraries (available online at http://martha.alewine.googlepages.com) made a difference in our state’s library programs? Objective 1 in these program standards says that at least 50 percent of the classroom teachers actively collaborate with the library media center professional staff to plan and deliver instruction that integrates information literacy [including media literacy] and technology literacy with the content and to jointly evaluate student learning. So what? What difference do school library media specialists make in student learning and student achievement? Can we prove it? How?
Objective 4 of Achieving Exemplary School Libraries states: “The library media program supports the school-wide reading initiatives and emphasis by encouraging reading throughout the school, offering a variety of reading materials, and participating in various state and national reading programs (e.g., S.C. Book Award Program, Children’s Book Week, Teen Read Week, National Library Week).” So what? What difference do school library media specialsits make in students learning to read for recreation and enjoyment? What difference do media specialists make in students learning to love reading and developing an appreciation for good literature? What difference do SC media specialists make in their school when it comes to the creation and implementation of school-wide reading programs that are not dependent on any computerized reading program?
We have standards for a school library core collection ((available online at http://martha.alewine.googlepages.com)? So what? I have talked a great deal lately about curriculum-collection maps and conducted many district staff development sessions for library media specialists on what these maps look like and what needs to happen to create these maps. A curriculum map to show what is being taught in the individual schools and when. A collection map to show (a) how the school library collection can or cannot support what is being taught and (b) how the collection is aligned with the school’s curriculum. So what?We are fast approaching the final days of this school year. As media specialists prepare their libraries for the summer break, I hope they will think about these two little, yet very important, words–so what. I hope media specialists will spend the next few months contemplating the question and its relationship to everything they do. If they cannot answer so what?, then perhaps more work is needed to finish the task at hand, whatever that may be.
I am a library information professional working for South Carolina school libraries. So what?