To call yourself a librarian, you need to have that training and to be certified. If you replace a certified librarian with someone who’s just an expert in technology, you’re losing half of the role that school libraries are supposed to be serving.
You still need someone who is a champion of reading.
~Leslie Preddy, president of the American Association of School Librarians discussing Makerspaces. Kansas City Star. June 26, 2016,
School libraries are where students have access to books. Librarians assist students with reading, research, and a variety of language and reading activities. Children learning to read can find a book on any topic in the library.
We know that schools with excellent libraries have students that do better than those with insufficient or no libraries. From Phi Delta Kappan:
Data from more than 34 statewide studies suggest that students tend to earn better standardized test scores in schools that have strong library programs. Further, when administrators, teachers, and librarians themselves rated the importance and frequency of various library practices associated with student learning, their ratings correlated with student test scores, further substantiating claims of libraries’ benefits. In addition, newer studies, conducted over the last several years, show that strong school libraries are also linked to other important indicators of student success, including graduation rates and mastery of academic standards.
The mere presence of a librarian is associated with better student outcomes.
Libraries have always been places where students can work independently. But the Maker Movement appears to be about replacing school libraries and the role of librarians with digital learning.
There is a concerted effort to convert libraries to Makerspaces, Hackspaces, or Fab Labs. Why? Why can’t these places be set up in another room, or why can’t teachers include hands-on activities in their classes? Why can’t some part of the library be used for these activities without an overall library conversion to digital instruction?
We hear that the only way libraries and librarians will survive, is if they sign on to Makerspaces! Many librarians are being renamed “innovation specialists” and their role is changed to that of a facilitator for digital learning.
But if libraries are already such a known factor in student achievement, why would anyone tamper with their success?
The fear is that those who believe libraries are unnecessary, are using the space for students to make things, along with digital learning, to crowd out libraries and librarians.
According to the Kansas City Star:
The movement, taking place nationwide, is more about robotics than reading.
In fact, the word “librarian” didn’t come up in the job description for an innovation specialist at Merriam Park Elementary. “Stories” wasn’t there, either.
No mention of “books,” “literature” nor “shelves.”
“They’re replacing our retiring librarians with these innovation people…”
There might be benefit in children making things. Hands on activities have always been valued and help children better understand subjects. Teachers have always had students do class projects. But students still need access to books for reading and research. They also need qualified librarians to guide them.
We know that when schools have great libraries students do well. We have no idea whether Makerspaces alone improve a student’s understanding of subjects. Some see Makerspaces as a trend along with Common Core State Standards that will eventually end. When that happens, will there also be no more libraries?
…the Spacemakers have arrived and they’re trying to get rid of school libraries by turning them into “makerspaces.”
Instead of librarians, or even people remotely interested in reading and literacy, some schools are hiring “innovation specialists.”
Those who push Makerspaces also emphasize that students work on their own without adult interference. That students should collaborate with each other.
The American Library Association doesn’t seem worried. They promote the Maker Movement, which includes nonprofits, on their website. But we don’t know how turning school libraries into Makerspaces will turn out for students.
Many school districts around the country are reversing prior decisions to cut librarians, but it isn’t always what we might think. They claim that the school library can be at the heart of a broader digital transformation. But if librarians are being used to bring about the digital transformation, it isn’t about libraries and reading anymore. Students stand to lose a part of schooling that has helped them do well in the past.
Because of the vital role school libraries and librarians play, this makes no sense. School districts should celebrate their school libraries and the certified librarians that work there!
Parents and educators must be aware and pay close attention to changes that are being made to their school libraries and the librarian’s role.
Our school libraries and librarians are precious. School libraries work!
In a free society, children need to know they have access to books. The importance of reading is validated in a great school library. Libraries assist children in reading and comprehending the world around them. There is no reason why Makerspaces can’t be integrated into the school curriculum without destroying libraries and the librarian’s role.
Losing libraries to digital maker movements is a loss that will hurt our public schools, the children they serve, and the country, for years to come.