As I took a step back to think about what would be most important to Nebraska school librarians at this time of year, I eventually landed on the topic of equity. Equity is at the forefront of the work of the Nebraska State Department of Education (https://www.education.ne.gov/ndeday/). Take a look at the Nebraska Department of Education’s definition of educational equity:
Educational equity means all students have meaningful access to the educational resources they need at the right moment, at the right level, and with the right intensity...Educational equity allows students to discover and explore their passions and make meaningful connections within the context of their postsecondary interests. (https://www.education.ne.gov/ndeday/)
Isn’t this what we do as librarians? I bet you’ll run out of fingers counting all the ways you create equity through instruction and library programming. We are all about equity and we always have been, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow and get better at it.
With that said, let’s think about how we as librarians can create equitable opportunities for our students.
Equitable access to resources at the right moment, at the right level, and with the right Intensity
Of course, diverse collections come to mind when we think about equity in the library. We want our libraries to be full of books and resources representing the diversity of experiences in our world. As you start a book order list for the coming school year, make a commitment to take a look at diverse book lists from sources such as We Need Diverse Books and the Lincoln Public School’s MOSAIC. In fact, on the We Need Diverse Books website you’ll find a list of sites you can explore to discover even more diverse books.
We all know that access to books alone will not improve students’ experiences. We need to pair our diverse collections with qualified school librarians who can recommend titles to our students. What can you do this year to promote diverse literature? It can be as easy as creating displays and book talking diverse titles. Perhaps you could select a diverse book and start a One Book One School program.
Allowing students to discover and explore their passions and make meaningful connections within the context of postsecondary interests
When you teach a student to code or engage them in a makerspace activity, you are allowing them to explore their passions and make connections within the context of postsecondary interests. The young student building elaborate structures with K’nex may be exploring an interest that could lead to a career in architecture or engineering. A student who spends his time in the library using your virtual reality set, may be preparing to work in the movie or video game industry. Let’s make sure we tie our makerspaces to real world applications and promote them that way with our administrators.
Three important questions
What else can we do? I think we can ask ourselves some really important questions, research the answers to these questions, and make programming changes that further promote equity. Let’s start with just a few really good questions:
I know we as librarians are champions of equity, and I am so grateful that our spaces are welcoming to all. Let’s keep doing this great work and find even more ways to advance the NDE’s equity goals.
By Joy Harvey
Tonight I was driving home from school and realized this school year is my tenth year as a school librarian. I started thinking about those first few months on the job, ten years ago. How would I know all the kids? Where were the light switches? (The light switch issue seems to be a recurring theme in my career). How many things did I not know that I needed to know? How would I wrap my brain around this massive task which I suddenly had no idea how to do? One student at a time, one light switch at a time, and one task at a time. Eventually, I moved to a place of gratitude. Grateful for all the faces I could put names to, and for those who showed me where things were, and held me up as I learned my profession. As my third year in Papillion La Vista South High School started, I am excited for familiar faces, smiles, and high fives as we open our amazing library to the students.
A few things come to mind as I reflect on my journey. I give great advice, but seldom take my own. Take care of you. As school librarians, we problem solve, share our energy, and take on many tasks in support of our students and learning. Over time, it’s easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed. Find ways to renew your energy and love for what we do. This summer I started each morning with yoga, usually with a cat or dog as a companion. Curl up with an anticipated title and read the whole thing. Stop and grab a favorite coffee or treat, just because. It’s the little things that make a big difference, and they will keep you going.
Do not travel this journey alone. A network of professionals who speak your language and walk in your shoes is key. One of the most meaningful conversations I had as new school librarian was with another librarian during my practicum. I learned so much from watching another professional. I also learned that the things I worried about were shared by someone else. If you are new to the library profession, seek out a mentor to guide and support you. One of the action items for NSLA is to support our membership with a mentor network. Contact us if you would like to be paired with a mentor as you transition into a new position or profession. We have a few different opportunities available to fit your individual needs.
Connect with other librarians and take care of yourself by participating in professional learning. For the first time, NSLA will be holding a Fall Spectacular on Saturday, October 5th at Papillion La Vista South High School. It will be a day packed with great learning, amazing presenters, and wonderful people. Registration is open! We know from membership feedback, conference attendance is difficult to negotiate so we’ve put together a great Saturday of fun and networking.
Finally, advocating for what you are passionate about is another great way to re-new your enthusiasm. Currently, two bills have been introduced as federal legislation regarding K-12 education. The two bills, HR.3667 (Morelle) and S.2070 (Merkley) were introduced in July. Both would create federal grants to keep school libraries open during the summer in conjunction with free lunch programs. What a great way to keep students engaged with the library while receiving a healthy meal during the summer months. Keep an eye on these two bills. Also, Nebraska Rule 10 is under revision. Keep an eye out for updates!
Best wishes for a super school year, and reach out to us for support! We are here for you!
By Cynthia Stogdill
Happy Summer Librarians! As we get ready to begin the school year I wanted to share some ideas I use to tie in research to our sections of the library. As we meet each week it’s also important to build a connection with students and build relationships.
1st Grade - Each week we learn a letter in sign language. I use that letter to choose my books to read to the students while also teaching Fiction and Non-Fiction choices. Using the Non-Fiction book, we then do some research about the topic. We use maps and websites to find our more information. Sometimes the students have a template to fill out or other times they do an art project related to the topic. Some of the websites we love to use are: National Geographic for kids, Pebblego, and San Diego Zoo Kids. These websites have terrific facts and videos to go with our topics. At the end of all the letters we then learn a few songs in sign language to help the students see how sign language helps people communicate if they can’t hear or talk.
2nd - 5th Grade - The Golden Sower book choices give many opportunities to find out facts share information about the authors and the topics of the stories. This last year with “The Water Princess” and the “Boston Marathon” we were able to research about villages that don’t have fresh water and how women couldn’t participate in running races. Students then either do some writing, create posters, word collages, slide shows, or an art project to share what they learned.
3rd Grade - As we learned about the different genres and sections of the Dewey Decimal System, the students researched states and practiced taking notes from a website. We research planets, animal groups, and body systems also when I teach those Non-Fiction sections. Pinterest has great graphic organizers for students to fill in as they use books or the internet to find out more.
4th Grade - Our favorite research unit was about the weather. We tied it into the Non-Fiction section reading about different kinds of storms that affect our country. Students were able to use books and the internet to make a poster about their storm. They also had to include safety tips.
5th Grade - We use our Google accounts each week, so we have had fun doing many projects this year! Our favorite right now is finding out about inventions and inventors. They are researching an important invention they use in their home or at school that they couldn’t live without. The students are being very creative as they prepare their Google Slide and it gives them the opportunity to share their creation with whoever they want.
During all these activities it’s important to build relationships with the students. Students need to feel welcome in the library anytime. I have students coming in already at 7:30 to find books or just to visit. Students come in during their lunch recess to volunteer to help or see what I’m teaching the other grades. Then after school is a great time to send students off with books for the night or weekend. Even though we get busy and have lots to do, it’s important to take time to listen and give students the message that the library is a safe place they can come when they need to talk, get a hug, or find more books!
Have a great school year! Thanks for all you do to help our students love books, collaborate with others, and problem solve for our future!
By Laurie Schlautman
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.