School libraries try to do more with less

This fall, school libraries across the country will be working to implement new standards for learning in the 21st century–but many will be doing so with fewer resources at their disposal.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has released a set of “Standards for the 21st Century Learner.” The new standards update the organization’s 1998 Information Literacy Standards to reflect changes in the learning environment over the last decade.

The new standards come as budget cuts are threatening the job security of many library media specialists and are making it hard for school libraries to implement new programs.

“Because the No Child Left Behind Act does not address the direct correlation between school library media specialists and academic achievement, school library budgets that are not protected on the state level are being cut … to meet local budget constraints,” said AASL President Ann Martin.

That could pose a challenge as school media centers work to roll out the AASL’s new standards this school year.

The standards call for students to use an inquiry-based process, accept responsibility for what and how they are learning, and evaluate their learning.

AASL drafted the new standards with help from a task force made up of college educators, state education officials, and school and district media specialists.

“Our research concluded that the term ‘information skills’ was not going to work, because it was too narrowly focused: Our students must be competent in multiple literacies,” said Martin. “These learning standards are visionary and will encourage students’ intellectual and personal growth through four strands: skills, dispositions, responsibilities, and self-assessment.”

According to AASL, the key skills students need for understanding, learning, thinking about, and mastering subjects are developmental. They include learning an inquiry-based process for seeking knowledge, organizing knowledge so that it’s useful, evaluating resources for their validity and accuracy, and understanding material presented in a wide variety of multimedia formats.

The dispositions students need to succeed indicate the beliefs and attitudes that must guide their thinking and intellectual behavior. For example, students must display initiative in asking questions beyond the collection of superficial facts, and they must use self-direction and demonstrate adaptability.

Student responsibilities include respecting copyright, seeking different viewpoints, and contributing to an exchange of ideas.

Finally, self-assessment requires students to reflect on their own learning. Students must monitor their own information-seeking processes, use interaction with and feedback from teachers, and develop directions for future investigations.

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