Finding Your Library

June 30, 2017

In 2013 Maureen Sullivan, then-president of the American Library Association, published an article on the Huffington Post discussing her concern for the ongoing funding of school libraries. She argued the necessity of such libraries, writing that, “Librarians teach essential skills of inquiry, critical thinking, digital citizenship and technology. They foster a love of reading. Their efforts to educate our children are recognized by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. They are understood to be educators whose instruction can be measured to meet standards for professional teaching excellence.”

As someone who graduated from high school relatively recently (I still can’t believe it’s been two years already), I can certainly vouch for the wide range of services that school libraries and their staff provide. My middle and high school librarians:

 

  • Introduced my peers and I to engineering via the West Point Bridge Designer

  • Taught us to research effectively using databases and encyclopedias

  • Taught us critical thinking skills

  • Taught us to differentiate reliable and unreliable sources

  • Taught us to use basic audio and video editing software

  • Helped us through difficult projects

  • Encouraged us to practice reading and writing

  • Helped us build spaces where we could express ourselves authentically

  • Supported our growing identities

 

All of these services played an integral role in shaping me into the student, writer, and person I am today. They taught me how to navigate worlds both written and digital, and I was lucky to receive them. Meanwhile, Sullivan’s article cites a 2013 report by the American Library Association that cast the funding of many such libraries into doubt. It’s 2017 now, and school libraries are still an integral part of many students’ curricula, but in a time of growing uncertainty, it’s hard to feel confident that these institutions will remain as well staffed as they ought to be. After all, Betsy DeVos is the current secretary of education, and if you come from a county like mine (I currently hail from rural Maryland) education has already been under attack for years. And the thing is, Sullivan is right. We need libraries in schools, and we need those libraries to be staffed. Librarians encourage literacy and love of learning, yes, but they also introduce students to new and challenging ideas, encourage them to think critically, and teach them to safely navigate the Internet. All of these tasks are equally critical in producing well-rounded adults. College-bound or not, students need school libraries to teach them thought-processes that will prepare them for the future, and we should all be concerned with the future of these libraries. 

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