We Need Librarians More Than Ever Before

It was about five years ago when a boy walked up to me and asked, “Hey Mr. Spencer, can you talk to the district and see if they’ll open up the library over the summer?”

“I don’t think they can,” I answered. “But the city library is just down the street.”

“I can’t go there. I lost a book when we moved apartments and now I have late fees and a library book I have to pay for.”

“When was that?”

“In the third grade,” he answered.

“What about a bookstore?”

“Those are for grownups,” he said.

“Kids are allowed in.”

He shook his head. “They all say ‘adult’ in big letters.” I later checked on Google Maps. He was right. Our community had no actual bookstores. It struck me, in this moment, that our school library had been a lifeline for him. This boy had fallen in love with reading years ago because of the climate and culture a librarian had created.

But the truth is librarians do so much more than we realize.

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Why Librarians Are Vital to our Students

I often hear people ask, “If we have the internet, why do we still need librarians?”

This is something I’ve heard since the days of dial-up and continue to hear right now. It misses the vital role that librarians play in our students’ lives. It’s true that the information landscape has changed. It is easier than ever to create a work and publish it to the world and with a tap of a button, we access information from anywhere at any time.

But actually, that’s why librarians are more vital than ever. Here are some of the things librarians do:

  1. Guide Students through Media Literacy: In an age of instant information, librarians help students learn to ask better questions, find valid sources, and deconstruct the information. Take a quick glance at Facebook and you’ll see people falling for fake news and failing to understand media bias. We are in desperate need of media literacy and librarians are the ones best poised to make this a reality.
  2. Model the Curation Process: Librarians teach students the art and science of content curation, where they learn to connect ideas from multiple sources and apply a unique lens to the information. Content curation has become a critical skill in an age of instant information and librarians are often the ones with the most practice in this area.
  3. Inspire Passionate Readers: They ignite a passion for learning, whether a student is geeking out on an informational text or getting lost in a fantastical world of fiction.
  4. Develop Divergent Thinking: Librarians inspire students to think divergently and experiment with innovative ideas. The best libraries are spaces with a free exchange of ideas.
  5. Cultivate Creativity: Using design thinking, librarians can help students engage in research and development as they create empathy-driven design products. A.J. and I both added two sections to design thinking (in the LAUNCH Cycle) that included inquiry and research. Since then, we’ve seen countless librarians empowering students to own this process. Along the way, they learn systems thinking and project management, which are both critical skills in just about every industry.

Every week, my son and my daughter get excited about library time. To them, it’s like a candy store where they can find a new novel, make a new product, or chase their curiosity.

In a world of constant noise and shallow distraction, libraries are a refuge where children grow in wisdom. Librarians inspire creativity, critical thinking, empathy, and systems thinking. In other words, they help our children become the kind of people we want them to be.

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

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6 responses

  1. Growing up, I absolutely loved going to the library. It gave me the chance to explore all types of books, and I liked knowing what my classmates were reading as well. We would often check out books we knew others had read so we could talk about them once we finished. I also loved our school librarian. She always had a ton of suggestions for us to read and loved reading to young students. Thinking back, my experience wouldn’t have been the same without her. I went to a very small school, and I had the same school library and librarian from kindergarten through my senior year. Even now in college, I love going to the library, whether it is to look for a good book or to do my homework in a quiet environment. In an age of technology and so much noise, people and especially children need to have a place where they can escape from all of this noise and just read.

    1. What a great story. It’s a reminder of the power of librarians and the spaces they develop.

  2. As I worry about funding for my job being cut, this was a needed boost. I truly believe the proliferation of information means school librarians are needed more than ever. I love helping kids connect with great books, but I’m passionate about helping them become savvy information consumers. Thanks for helping spread the word about the role of the modern school librarian!

    1. Thanks for the kind words!

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