carol gordon
Information Science
Material Type:
Graduate / Professional
  • Action Research
  • Iowa K-12 E-Curriculum
  • PD Librarianship
  • School Librarian Preparation
  • School Libraries
  • Strategic Planning
  • iowa-k-12-e-curriculum
  • pd-librarianship
  • school-librarian-preparation
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives
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    Becoming a Leader through Action Research: Building Open Education Practice in the School Library


    The role of the school librarian is evolving from keeper of library materials to leader in school reform. The digital age has elevated  information literacy from the mechanics of searching and finding to thinking and inquiry. To meet this challenge the library facility is reconceptualized as a learning environment and the collection as a dynamic process of curation and access. Library staff, including paraprofessionals, student peers, and parent volunteers are viewed as instructional support. Allocated budgets are supplemented by funding sources such as grants and donations. The school librarian, trained in Action Research, can realize the library as learning center as she systematically collects evidence, sets priorities, and constructs a Strategic Plan. This module brings together the processes of action research, including identifying a problem in practice, formulating a research question, collecting and analyzing data to conduct a Community Scan and School Library Needs Assessment. She will apply her findings to building a Strategic Plan that will transform the school library into a learning center, or improve its existing functions.


    Learning Objectives:

    Students will create a Strategic Action Plan for their school libraries by:

    1. Using the methods of action research to formulate a question and collect and analyze data. The Strategic Action Plan contains  a community scan, a school scan, and a needs assessment of their school library.

    2. Creating a vision and mission statement that embodies the beliefs of open education resources and practice: inclusiveness, collaboration, participation, equity of access to resources and instruction/help.

    3. Creating goals and objectives that result in building of a school library environment that advances open-education practice and resources for collection building, curriculum design and program development, an inclusive instructional team among library staff, and expanded funding concepts beyond the allocated budget.

    A Tale of Two Libraries. Where is the Evidence for Change?

    Ask students to study the details in the photos and descriptions of the libraries and their programs. Think about how the learning environments of these two libraries reflect the mindsets of the librarians. You will find a chart below and some questions that ask for you to find the evidence for your answer to Question 1 and evidence for changes you would make in these libraries. Write your answers and comments in the Table below.


    Library A
    Library A

    Library A is the traditional “warehouse” model of a school library as a repository for library reading materials. The librarian, Miss McNeil, strictly enforces the rule that limits the number of books each student can check out to two. The children come to the library once a week for 30 minutes. There is no time for information literacy instruction. In fact, for contractual reason teachers do not accompany their classes to the library because it is their preparation time to work on their lessons. This kind of “fixed schedule” makes it impossible for the children to learn information and inquiry skills. Miss McNeil also strictly enforces silence in the library and the children use this time to read the books they want to check out. Miss McNeil does not have an aide or assistant, but she does have a parent volunteer every day for at least three hours. The parents check out and shelve books. 

    Emma, who is in 3rd grade, reads with her mom almost every night, so she is looking for the second Harry Potter to bring home for their nightly reading. Miss McNeil, however, has dutifully “leveled” and color-coded all her books so that the children can easily be monitored and encouraged to read books written on their grade level. Needless to say Emma was not successful in checking out her Harry Potter book. “This book is much too difficult for you,” chided Miss McNeil as Emma returned the book to its place on the shelf.

    There was a time, many years ago, when Miss McNeil read aloud to the children in the library. She took her role in developing literacy in young children very seriously in those days and often displayed puppets and stuffed animals and other artifacts from her favorite books. She likes to model questioning the author, or predicting events in the story to capture the children’s attention. However, the principal was not too happy to see the professional librarian reading to children. “Can’t you get a volunteer to do that?” he said to Miss McNeil during her performance evaluation. 

    Needless to say, the school library budget is very small and the collection is very old. This library does not have a web page, nor do the children have remote access at home to electronic materials. There is a technology lab in the school for the older children and the technology staff works independently of the library. In fact, Miss McNeil doesn’t even know the names of the technology teacher, or the reading specialists for that matter since they never visit the library.

    Library Z
    Library Z

    Library Z is a multimedia model of a school library and children are encouraged to explore digital devices and tools. The librarian, Miss Martinez, encourages the children to collaborate on the information tasks she assigns every week. Like Miss McNeil’s library there is a fixed schedule.  There are not many rules in this library; students can check out as many books as they want, including e-books. The children come to the library once a week for 30 minutes but many also come to the library on their own when they work on their projects. Miss Martinez works with them in small groups to integrate the teaching of information and digital literacy instruction. Often the teachers come to the library to o their lesson preparation and often stay to have lunch with Miss Martinez. This gives them an opportunity to informally plan how to get around the “fixed schedule” to make it possible for children to do sustained inquiry over the course of the school year. children to learn information and inquiry skills.

    Miss Martinez’s library emits a buzz as they work together to explore the internet and library collection. They use their time to pursue their own reading interests as well as work on their projects. Miss Martinez does not have an aide or assistant, but she does have several parent parent volunteer every day of the week. She has trained them to help students to find materials in the library or to search electronically. Some parents prefer to check out and shelve books and Miss Martinez has added a small group of fifth graders who help in the library during their lunch breaks and occasionally before or after school.  Zoe, who is in 3rd grade, also reads with her mom almost every night and Miss Martinez often recommends reading materials she knows Zoe will like. There is no leveling of books in this library, although Miss Martinez had an uphill battle convincing the administration and some teachers that when children read in a sustained and interested manner, they improve their comprehension according to the reading research. Needless to say Zoe takes about at least 6 books every week and has read almost every book on insects and birds. “Take as many books as you like, Zoe, “ quipped Miss Martinez as she stuffed Zoe’s book bag with a couple of graphic novels she thought she would like.

    Miss Martinez see her role in literacy going across the disciplines. She is working on STEM programming to bring science teachers from the high school to talk with her upper elementary grade students. She often visits the public library in town, where she has learned about STEM resources from the librarian there who received a STEM grant. Miss Martinez is planning to apply for some grants this year to supplement her allocated budget. She works closely with technology staff and has proposed integrating the library with the technology department. She also knows that there is always funding for technology from federal funding and was able to work with Verizon to get free internet access in the school. Her work with the community has brought donations and support to the school program. The principal appreciates the value the school librarian has added to his instructional program and to their new school mission to incorporate 21st century skills in across the disciplines. The principal also values the professional development work that Miss Martinez does at the point of need every day with staff. He is happy to fund her attendance at conferences because she shares what she has learned with her colleagues and keeps them up-to-date with cutting edge resources.

    The principal is supportive of Miss Martinez and has increased the library budget by 50% in the last three years, despite tight budgets across the district. He realizes that she is an asset to the school because she contributes unique skills in information, technology, and literacy.

    TASK 1: A Tale of Two Libraries

    Students study the Task 1, A Tale of Two Libraries, noting the evidence from the text and the images that describe Library A and Library 2. The details describe or give hints to kind of learning environments, information resources, staffing, instructional program, and funding for these two libraries. Based on this evidence students fill out the chart below.

    TASK 1A

    TASK 1A


     DIRECTIONS: After reading A Tale of Two Libraries [Task 1A] consider the 3 questions below and write your responses in the table below.  Study the photos and descriptions of Library A and Library Z to find the best evidence to support your responses.



    YOUR EVIDENCE              

    1. One of these libraries is in a wealthy suburban town. The other is in an impoverished city neighborhood.  Which is the suburban school library and which is the urban one?

    Suburban or Urban?

     Library A ________________


    Library B ________________

    What is your best evidence to support your responses?


    Library A




    Library B



    2. Using only adjectives, how would you describe the learning environment of the libraries. You can use evidence from what you infer about: the libraries’

    ·      physical space?

    ·      information resources?

    ·      instruction – what does it probably look              like?

    ·      staffing?

    ·      funding?


    3. Go to these websites:

     What new information do you find?

    Does this change your response to Question 1?

    If you chose Library A as the wealthy suburban school library, what assumptions did you make? USE THE EVIDENCE FROM YOUR RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS 2 AND 3 TO IDENTIFY YOUR ASSUMPTIONS IN THE SPACE BELOW.









    Interview Questions: Good or Not So Good?

    Students evaluate interview questions for Teachers, Students, and Parents and compare their anwers to the Instructor's rating, which includes the reasons why the questions are Good or Not So Good.

    Interview Questions: Good or Not So Good?

     The purpose of these interviews are for the school librarian to learn more about the school and its staff.  There are three sets of questions below for Students, Teachers, and Parents.

    After reading the questions, rate them as Good or Not Good on the space provided before each question.


    __________1.  How do you think the school librarian can help you with
                          your teaching?

    __________2.  Have do you think the school librarian can help your

    __________3.  What suggestions do you have for improving the school

    __________4. How can the library collection be improved?

    __________5. Do you think the library is funded adequately?



    1.  Good. The question avoids whether or not the teacher does use the library, which could be awkward, and focuseS on the possibilities for collaboration.

    2.  Good. Again, this gives the teacher an opportunity to think about how the school library can contribute to educating youth.

    3. Not Good. This question assumes that the teacher has enough knowledge of the school library to give a specific response. The question is too broad.  A better question is, “How can the library environment be improved to be more “kid friendly?”

    4. Not Good for the same reason as #3.

    5. Not Good for the same reason as #3. It is unlikely the teacher will know the answer. A better way to ask this question would be: “Do you think the library has enough resources to support the subject that you teach?



    __________1. How does the school library help you to be a better student?

    __________2.  What would you change about the library?

    __________3.  Why do you come to the library?

    __________4.  Do you come to the library before or after school?



    1. Good. The question gets to the heart of the library’s mission.

    2. Not Good. The question is too broad.  A better question is, How would you change the library’s environment and space?

    3. Good. This question will get a variety of answers.

    4. Not Good. The question has a short answer. It does not encourage the student to give an extended answer or elaborate. This question would be better asked in a survey rather than an interview.



    __________1.  How does your child use the school library?

    __________2.  What do you think the school library contributes to your child’s education?

    __________3.  Are you satisfied with the school library?

    __________4. Does your family use the school library website at home to access electronic resources?



    1.  Good. It personalizes the interview and shows the student you are interested in him or her and not just the library.

    2.  Good. The question keeps the focus on the parent’s child.

    3, Not Good. This is very general, not focused on anything specific. 

    4. Good. The parent is probably the only type of respondent who can answer this question.