Common Core allows librarians to shine

September 24th, 2012

A recent article in Education Week highlights the important role that many school librarians are playing in helping students and teachers transition to using the Common Core State Standards. Catherine Gewertz reports:

“When it comes to the common core, librarians can be a school’s secret weapon,” said Ms. [Kristen] Hearne, [a librarian at Wren Middle School in Piedmont, SC] who blogs as “The Librarian in the Middle.”

Like most school librarians, Ms. Hearne has been trained both as a teacher and a librarian, a combination she thinks is perfectly suited to helping students and teachers as the Common Core State Standards presses them into inquiry-based modes of learning and teaching. She helps them find a range of reading materials in printed or online form and collaborates to develop challenging cross-disciplinary projects. And like colleagues around the country, Ms. Hearne also plays important instructional roles often unrecognized by the public: as co-instructor alongside classroom teachers, and as professional-development provider for those teachers.

“The common standards are the best opportunity we’ve had to take an instructional-leadership role in the schools and really to support every classroom teacher substantively,” said Barbara Stripling, the president-elect of the American Library Association, and a professor of practice in library science at Syracuse University.


Adopted by all but four states, the standards have prompted coordinating discussions among the library-association divisions that represent librarians in public schools, city libraries, and higher education, said Susan Ballard, the president of the American Association of School Librarians, one of those divisions. All librarians are affected by the new expectations, she said: those who help at K-12 schools, at city libraries during the after-school and weekend hours, and those on college campuses, who have had to support students unequipped for college-level research and inquiry.

“[The common standards] drove us to look at ourselves as an ecosystem, all working together,” Ms. Ballard said. “Students have a false sense of security that they can find anything online, but that’s mostly quick facts. They don’t know how to ask good, researchable questions, assess information critically. So much of the core is based in inquiry, and that is what librarians do on a daily basis. It speaks our language.”

Learn more about how librarians are helping their schools transition to the Common Core State Standards here.

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