Training library staff for today and tomorrow

Training library staff for today and tomorrow

(District of Columbia) A handful of school districts spread across the country will pilot a new micro-credentialing program next year aimed at  upgrading librarian teaching skills to reflect today’s digital education demands.

The credential, developed by the D.C.-based national policy and student advocacy organization, Future Ready Schools, will focus on helping librarians already placed in schools better connect students to the online  resources they need, and ensure students are using resources in a way that will help them excel academically.

“In today's digital world, the school library has evolved from a place to merely check out books to one that offers opportunities for collaboration, project-based learning, and online access,” Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, which leads Future Ready Schools, said in a statement. “Similarly, librarians are now playing central roles in school leadership and working daily with students, teachers, and administrators.”

Micro-credentialing is similar to professional development, except instead of following credit-hour requirements, those participating must demonstrate evidence of progress in specific instructional skills in order to earn the credential.

Advocates of micro-credentialing say that it is more targeted, and it is based on practical application more than current continuing-education classes–a feature that is especially helpful for schools that cannot afford to fill classrooms when educators are participating in lengthy professional development coursework.

To that extent, micro-credentialing could be even more helpful for the districts severely lacking trained librarians after years of budget cuts lead to numerous layoffs of staff deemed non-critical.

In Pennsylvania this past school year, only eight certified, full-time school librarians staffed the Philadelphia School District’s 220 schools, according to district data. More than two-thirds of the Houston Independent School District’s 284 campuses lack a librarian; three out of every four campuses in the Chicago Public Schools system also don’t have a librarian; and neither do at least half of the public schools in Boston.

Statewide, California ranks last nationally with a ratio of one credentialed librarian for every 8,091 students, according to state data released last year. New York has a ratio of 1,089 to one; Texas is at 1,119 to one; and Illinois is at 1,442 to one.

The new micro-credential is a piece of the Future Ready Librarians Framework, which has worked with librarians and administrators to help school libraries become hubs for personalized student learning. Librarians who seek the micro-credential will be asked to reflect on their approach and vision for student learning, and offer documentation on how their instruction assists students in collaborative problem solving and media literacy, among other topics that stress personalizing learning through digital transformation.

“This innovative credential is designed to help librarians reflect on and validate what they do to promote students as creators,” said Mark Ray, chief digital officer for Vancouver Public Schools in Washington – one of the schools that will pilot the micro-credential.

“As a teacher, a Future Ready Librarian helps students become creators and fosters a culture that promotes design thinking, innovation, and collaborative problem solving,” Ray said. “They build and sustain learning environments that ensure students have space, tools, and resources to support these goals.”

According to Ray, student creations can include coding, multimedia, digital storytelling, video production and publishing.

Other districts that will participate in the pilot program include:

  • Vista Unified School District in California
  • Baltimore County Public Schools in Maryland
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools in Tennessee
  • Indian Prairie School District 204 in Illinois