The School Librarian and You

Kelley Rider, a South Carolina School Librarian explores the ways teachers and librarians can work together to create meaningful learning experiences for students.

By: Kelley Rider, South Carolina School Librarian

I believe that the library should be the heart of the school. It is usually the largest academic space in the building. The librarian is trained to meet the curricular and non-curricular literacy needs of students. The library has books, technology, and other materials that students and teachers can use and enjoy. However, sometimes the library doesn’t get used to its full potential because teachers and students don’t realize the wealth of resources that are available there. 

The school librarian can be a resource for teachers and students. The librarian is a teacher who is trained to teach, collaborate, find resources, and support literacy. I’d like to encourage any educator to reach out to their school librarian to collaborate and enhance student achievement. 

Ways teachers can collaborate with the school librarian to enhance learning in content area classrooms: 

Bounce ideas around with your librarian.

Once the AP biology teacher came into my school library. She looked like she needed someone to talk to, so I approached her and asked if she needed help. She had been teaching about cell membranes. She felt like the students had recently hit a wall. She needed to mix up the next lesson so she didn’t lose their attention.  We talked for a bit about what she had done in the past and what her learning objectives were for her students. Then, I gave her an idea to try a different approach. Together we came up with a plan to have the students divide the cell into four sections and each student had to draw and label the cell in their quadrant. Then the students had to collaborate, help each other, and rationalize to the group what he/she had drawn. The teacher just needed some inspiration to try a new strategy.

Procure resources from your librarian.

Many of the English teachers in my building require students to read a book of their choice independently for a unit of study. Each teacher’s requirement for this assignment looks a little different than the next. They will often ask if I can pull appropriate materials for this assignment for the students to browse through. As students are browsing, I often tell them about selections to help them make their final decisions. Additionally, the school librarian can share information about non-fiction materials for research, Discus databases, and technology available to students.

Plan lessons or units with your librarian.

A little over a year ago I was introduced to a teacher who had just been hired for the upcoming school year. She came by the school library to introduce herself and see what my library collection looked like so that she could prepare for the fall. I enthusiastically showed her around and sincerely told her that I would love to help to find resources or even teach lessons when appropriate in the next school year. 

A couple months went by, summer came, and then I got an email from her asking me to review a list of books she was interested in purchasing for her classroom library. She was worried that some of the novels would be too mature, and she wanted to get my opinion on how our community would react to themes in the books. These exchanges have led to this teacher and I having a great working relationship where she comes to me for help planning lessons and units. 

She wanted to embrace the teaching of Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher’s work which encourages teachers to allow students choice in what they read. What began with this teacher creating a more robust classroom library turned into me encouraging her to go with her gut to create a literary choice unit. The students selected a book from a teacher made list and then worked in small reading groups (lit circles) to complete assignments in class. I helped her facilitate this by helping to choose appropriate books and by teaching a couple lessons to her classes. 

The unit was such a success that she tried it again in the second semester. The instructional coach and I helped her procure books to facilitate themed lit circles. I added those new books to the library collection so that we could better track lost items.

About the Author

Kelley Rider is a third year high school librarian and former English teacher in Anderson, SC. She is Pendleton High School’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.  She serves on the Advocacy and Awards committees for the South Carolina Association of School Librarians.

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