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TOPIC: “Best Practices”

Good morning!

My name is Jane Sharka, as you know, and I am a school library media specialist at
Naperville Central High School, in Naperville, Illinois.

I’d like to thank you all for coming today and for having me come all this way to share a
little bit about what I do and a little bit about school libraries in general in the United

Before I begin my own remarks, I would like to share a statement addressed to you from my
principal, Mr. Jim Caudill.

We have known each other for more than fifteen years as he has been my immediate
supervisor and boss for many of those years, first as assistant principal, and now as


   I am very fortunate to work in a school which has this philosophy! For many of my
    colleagues across the United States, this is NOT the situation they face.

   In many communities – in Illinois where I live as well as in other states – librarian
    positions in the schools have been eliminated. In others, the library staff is reduced

   For many, the need for other basics like textbooks, desks, and basic supplies has taken
    precedent over the need for library books and resources.

   According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 1999-2000 school
    year, 92% of all public schools had a school library; these schools contained 97% of all
    public school students. However, only 86% of public schools had a librarian. Eleven
    percent of those schools had no one running their library.

   Also according to the NCES, 100% of public schools in the US have computers with
    Internet connectivity.

   It would seem that most of the school districts in America believe access to the Internet
    is more important than their libraries or their books!

   While this might be true in some places, I am grateful it is NOT true in my school district!

   As Jim said in his letter to you, “Naperville Central believes the library is the hub of our
    school. The library and school curriculum should be closely integrated as our librarians
    are excellent resource personnel for the teachers.”

   This is just one of the roles we librarians play – resource for our teachers.

   School libraries and their librarians in the US have become significant contributors to the
    academic success of our students.

   Since 1999, fourteen studies have been conducted – each in a different state – measuring
    the effectiveness of the libraries and librarians as they impact student achievement.

   This past February the last study was released, entitled “Powerful Libraries Make
    Powerful Learners”. It was celebrated all over Illinois, as we were the last state in which
    the study was conducted.

   The results reflect what many of us in the field consider “best practices”:

       o More library staff & flexible scheduling mean higher test scores for students across
         the board.
       o High schools with computers connected to library catalogs and databases average
         6.2% higher on college admissions tests.
       o Students who visit the library with their teacher improve their reading and writing
         scores as much as 14%.
       o Students with access to large, current collections show significantly higher reading
         and writing and achievement test scores.

    To further clarify, “More Library Staff” means that, in addition to the trained librarian,
    schools with support staff make it possible for librarians to have TIME to work WITH
    teachers and students, instead of using their time with the day-to-day practicalities of
    operating a library.

   “It is through collaboration with classroom teaches that school librarians affect the
    academic achievement of students. It is when visiting school libraries that students
    benefit from their usage. For both of these sets of activities to occur, both types of
    library staff are needed.”

   Access to computers with Internet connectivity is become absolutely necessary to the
    educational process today. Making sure students and staff have access to computers
    which are connected to the school’s library catalog and its database subscriptions
    guarantees improvement. But, again, this is qualified by the fact there are librarians
    available to help instruct and guide the use of these tools. Most students and teachers

    really don’t know how to be “effective users of ideas and information”.

   Among librarians today you will hear familiar terms often:


   Librarians, especially in Illinois, are actively engaged in celebrating the results of the
    “Illinois Study”. At the same time, they are taking classes, attending workshops and
    conferences which expand their knowledge and understanding of the contents of that

   Illinois is also host to the Illinois Math and Science Academy. This unique school serves a
    selected population of students with way above average abilities in mathematics and
    science. The school is funded directly by our state legislature and has additional federal
    grants underwriting special programs being developed there.

   One of the programs is called the 21st Century Digital Information Fluency project. To
    quote the project architects, “DIF is the ability to find, evaluate and ethically use digital
    information efficiently and effectively.” Having this program going on in our own
    backyard has been a tremendous blessing to many Illinois librarians.

   One of the project’s components is the offering of classes – of varying levels and length –
    for teachers and librarians to develop these abilities for themselves. It is expected that
    alumni of these classes will share their knowledge with their students, collaborate with
    each other in educational partnerships to benefit student learning, and to encourage
    colleagues to do the same.

   Another component of the project is the development of online training and tools which
    librarians and teachers can use with their students. Many of us librarians are using these
    tools to help teach our students the skills they need for tomorrow’s world.

   INFORMATION POWER is the title of our national guidelines for school library media
    programs. Originally published in 1988, and revised in 1999, these guidelines have
    helped develop a common set of goals, expectations, vocabulary, and tools for
    evaluating our library programs across the entire country.

   In the 1988 edition, the roles which librarians need to play in today’s world were clearly
    articulated. The standards were librarian centered and focused on what we as librarians
    could and should be doing. As library media specialists we are:
        o information specialists

       o teachers
       o instructional consultants

   In the   role of the information specialist, we are to provide:
        o    access to the library media center
        o    adequate resources for meeting the needs of students and staff
        o    assistance in locating information
        o    guide users in the selection of appropriate resources
        o    flexible policies for the use of resources
        o    retrieval systems for gaining access to information – regardless of location or

   In the   role of the teacher, we are to:
        o    instruct students
        o    be an integral part of the school curriculum
        o    work in cooperation with other teachers to provide instruction and reinforcement

   In the role of instructional consultant, we are to:
        o employ a wide range of resources and teaching methodologies to meet the
           intellectual and developmental needs of our students.
        o participate in the curriculum development process of our schools
        o partner with teachers to develop instructional activities to foster development of
           appropriate information gathering skills.
        o use technology and help others use it too.

   In the 1999 edition of Information Power, the focus is now on the student. These current
    guidelines focus on a vision of students as members of the greater learning community.
    Underlying the guidelines are three roles – intersecting circles if you will – for the
    librarian. These roles include:
        o Collaboration
        o Leadership
        o Technology

   It might also be described as Learning and Teaching, Information Access, and Program

   At the center of it all is student learning … “nurturing authentic student learning within
    and beyond the curriculum”.

   To help you SEE more clearly what all this looks like, I would like to share some of my
    experiences in these areas. There are even a few pictures to help illustrate!


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