Effective Practices : School Library
Pedagogical Operations Section 8
1. Does your school have a library for students? If yes, describe the grades it serves, and its physical characteristics. (Size, square footage allocated to tables and other reading/study areas versus stacks, etc.)
2. Does your school also have a library for teachers? If so, please describe its size and general contents.
3. How is your library staffed, and what hours is it open for student use?
4. In what ways does your library promote reading for literacy and personal enjoyment? How does it address diverse student learning abilities, styles and needs?
5. What role does technology play in your school library? Is the card catalog automated and available for student use? Are there computers available for student use for internet access and typing of homework assignments for older students?
6. How does your school library ensure that its contents are supportive of the curriculum?
7. Describe the key elements of your school’s philosophy with regard to its library.
8. What about your school library is working particularly well?
9. If there were something you could change about your school library, what would it be and why?
Does your school have a library for students? If yes, describe the grades it serves, and its physical characteristics. (Size, square footage allocated to tables and other reading/study areas versus stacks, etc.)
All the schools in the study have libraries for student use. The layout and emphasis of each library reflects the biography of the school. One school has two libraries, one for grades 1 through 8 and a second one for the high school which is currently located in a separate location from the lower school. A second school has a combined high school/lower school library, but due to space restrictions the primary emphasis of the library is for grades 1 through 8. A third school has no high school and its books are for children in pre-K through grade 8.
Library size varies as well, from 250 square feet to 800 square feet. It is interesting to note that even the largest of these facilities was deemed to have inadequate space by the school.
The smallest libraries do not provide study space for students, but those with more space offer tables and chairs for up to 12 students, and provide a desk for the librarian. The larger libraries are staffed by a paid librarian who works anywhere from half to full time in that capacity. One of the schools noted that the librarian is also the school “nurse”, providing a caring presence for students who need to rest or who are waiting to be picked up due to illness.
Does your school also have a library for teachers? If so, please describe its size and general contents.
All of the schools offered a separate resource library for teachers. These libraries offer both resource materials and anthroposophic books by Steiner and others. The teacher libraries usually feature 20 linear feet of floor to ceiling bookcases. Typically these spaces offer tables and chairs where teachers can spread out and work.
How is your library staffed, and what hours is it open for student use?
Smaller school libraries are staffed by parent volunteers. An effort is made in these cases to keep the library open each afternoon after school for an hour or two, and twice a week during the school day.
Larger libraries are staffed by librarians working half to full time. These schools also enjoy a support committee of dedicated parents and one or two teachers. The parents work with the librarian to keep the library open and to return books to the stacks, while the teachers provide pedagogical guidance for the purchase of books.
One school with a full time librarian noted that the librarian also teaches several classes. Her class load includes 3rd and 4th grade reading, 5th grade literature, 6th grade library and study skills, and an 8th grade English language arts skills class. The 3rd grade reading class is always held in the library, while most of the other classes are held in the students’ regular classroom. This library is always open by 7:30 in the morning for use before school. It opens again for morning recess and lunch recess. The school has a rule (at the teachers’ request) that students may only come in to the library one time a day as they need to have adequate exercise and time spent playing outdoors. Students may come in during the day with the teacher’s permission. There is tutoring in the library after school so only older students and younger students accompanied by a parent are allowed in the library after school. The library is open unless the librarian is teaching a class. Students may come in with their teacher if the librarian is teaching in another classroom.
In what ways does your library promote reading for literacy and personal enjoyment? How does it address diverse student learning abilities, styles and needs?
The strongest libraries have a librarian who is knowledgeable of current literature and communicates well with students and teachers. She is aware of what blocks are being taught in each grade, and displays appropriate material in the library to support the blocks that are in progress. The librarian attends faculty meetings to learn about various student issues and learning styles, and works to bring in a wide range of material that might help students with different learning needs. These libraries will offer books with simple vocabulary that approach a subject deeply, and also include books for good young readers with a rich vocabulary yet simple concepts.
In schools where the librarian also teaches language arts classes to younger students a natural rapport is already in place. The students come to the librarian for recommendations, and new books are prominently displayed. Books in the library will include lots of hands-on books, building books, crafting books, and so on. There are lots of curriculum related books - animals, biographies, folk and fairy tales - everything to keep the students interested and coming back to the library for new material.
What role does technology play in your school library? Is the card catalog automated and available for student use? Are there computers available for student use for internet access and typing of homework assignments for older students?
Most of the schools report that their card catalog is now automated, although several also offer a manual version so that students can have an experience of physically sorting through the cards to find a book.
Schools with high schools typically offer computers or wireless environments to support the needs of their high school students. These schools also offer a print server so that students may print documents easily. Those schools which do not have a computerized environment either serve only a lower school population or cite a lack of space as the reason for this choice.
How does your school library ensure that its contents are supportive of the curriculum?
The best librarians know the Waldorf curriculum and have good relationships with teachers so that they can effectively build libraries which are supportive of the teaching.
Describe the key elements of your school’s philosophy with regard to its library.
In the earlier grades we want the students to love to be around books. We keep colored pencils and small index cards so they can draw and make bookmarks for each other. They love to make things for each other and know that being in the space where books are is a place to feel happy and safe. There are rugs and pillows on the floor and a great atmosphere. Older children read to younger children and tell them what books they loved when they were younger.
We let the students go through the shelves and take out anything they are interested in. There is huge turnover in books and a lot of re-shelving to do as a result, but we never want to discourage library use.
We always provide lots of easy readers for young children.
The use of the library is a growth process. Students move from easy readers to chapter books to novels. This requires a lot of reading and careful selection by the librarian as the books students enjoy reading today are different from what they were years ago.
We don’t have junk - our books are wholesome, although we don’t insist that they have a message for the reader.
The library is often a place where students share their issues with each other and with the librarian. She serves as a de facto counselor for students who want to share their problems with a concerned adult. Students feel safe here. If someone has ever been sick this is where they are taken care of, and students associate the library with being a place of comfort and safety.
The time in the library is never used as a punishment. It is a reward for good behavior, not a punishment for students who are acting out.
The school wants the library to be useful and accessible, and conducive to promoting literacy.
What about your school library is working particularly well?
The librarian is wonderful and she works continually to build relationships with faculty members and students.
The librarian has built a very strong library committee that supports her work.
The positive feelings that the children have about the library are wonderful.
Parents also have positive feelings and are very supportive of the library.
The newly automated database is much more supportive of the students and really facilitates their searches.
The parent volunteers work with the teachers to open the library during the school day when the teachers need it.
The teacher resource library is a wonderful thing and grant money has been well used to ensure that the teacher resources are exceptional.
If there were something you could change about your school library, what would it be and why?
The librarian needs to be a full time position. We also look forward to the time when our master plan is realized and we have the space and technology to better serve the needs of our older students.
We could use twice as much space.
The card catalog is not up to date and is mostly in the librarian’s head. There have not been funds or time for this.
I wish the library were staffed with a paid librarian (at least part time) so it would be open more hours and that there would be an ongoing awareness around the library.