While school librarians advocate for library services year-round, April is a special month during the academic year. It’s School Library Month! April 2022 marks the 37th observance of this celebration. On top of that, April 3-9, 2022, is National Library Week and April 4th is National School Librarian Day (Hopkins, 2022). Take this time to celebrate your awesome selves and your fabulous programs!
History of School Library Month
School Library Month began in April 1985. The original name was “School Library Media Month.” This title would be changed in 2010 to its current title of “School Library Month.” The first theme for celebrating the school library was “Where Learning Never Ends: The School Library Media Center.” On the west steps of the U.S. Capitol, New York Senator Daniel P. Moynihan delivered the keynote, telling school librarians, “I want to thank you for what you do. I hope you know how important your work is. You change lives for the better. You touch people while they can still be touched” (School Library, n.d.).
Why are School Libraries and Librarians Important?
While the stereotypical role of the school librarian entails conducting read-alouds and expecting students to quietly check out materials, the reality of this job involves so much more. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) gives a sample job description for school librarians. (The complete document can be found here: https://standards.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/SL-Job-Description_3-30-2020.pdf.) Expectations include duties such as “championing for equity, access, and intellectual freedom for users,” “fostering exploration, discovery, creation, and innovation in a growth mindset,” and “teaching all members of the learning community (this includes other educators) to engage with and use information in a global society.”
School librarians are valuable members of the education team of a school (or distinct). They are often one of the few educators to see and form relationships with all students. Many of them work with classroom teachers in collaborative teaching. School librarians can act as liaisons between grades levels and subjects simply because they work with classroom teachers across their schools! Many school librarians conduct professional development for other educators, particularly on topics having to do with technology, critical-thinking skills, and finding relevant resources.
School libraries, themselves, also help fulfill a need. They are often a hub within a school building; a place to explore personal interests and meet academic needs. The resource options for students are also typically far more diverse than those found in classroom libraries. In addition, physical libraries provide a much-needed “get-away” for many learners.
Numerous studies have been completed on the importance of strong school library programs and academic achievement. As found in an Ohio study, teachers are three times more likely to rate their literacy instruction as excellent when they collaborate with school librarians (Why, n.d.). In fact, reading and writing scores tend to be higher in schools with a certified librarian, and those numbers just keep increasing when library support staff is also available! Additionally, minority students see the greatest increases in reading and writing skills when a strong school library program is present (Lance & Kachel, 2018). In Minnesota, where students in grades third, fifth, and eighth scored above average on reading tests, 66.8% were schools where the library media specialist worked full-time (School Libraries, 2006).
Texas Association of School Librarians created talking points about the importance of effective school library programs. One of these themes includes the library being a type of lab for students to learn, create, build, and problem-solve. All of these are skills that their future employers and higher education seek! Another argument highlights that certified librarians lead, teach, and support district goals, and are often the teachers to other district educators. A third point outlines that school librarians have access to extensive literacy materials (in print and digitally) and know how to connect diverse students to what information they need to be successful (Texas, n.d.).
Activities for School Library Month
There are a variety of possibilities for celebrating School Library Month. A handful are mentioned here.
“Top 10 Ways to Celebrate School Library Month” (2019) mentions options such as creating student-picked book displays, conducting book tastings, challenging learners to create library posters, and hosting a makerspace night.
Dress-up days also tend to be big hits, in my experience, anyway!
The North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) offers suggestions for online activities for high school patrons to celebrate School Library Month. Some examples include taking a virtual field trip, creating TikTok reels about the school library, and analyzing photos and primary sources (NCSLMA, 2020).
Other options include hosting guest speakers, such as authors or local public servants, printing and displaying AASL graphics (https://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/slm), or using social media platforms to share information about school libraries.
Hopkins, E. (2022, March 23). School library month: Make your librarian feel valued this April. TCEA. https://blog.tcea.org/school-library-month-2022/.
Lance, K.C., & Kachel, D. E. (2018, March 26). Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan. https://kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/.
NCSLMA virtual activities for school library month (2020, April). https://www.smore.com/164gb-school-library-month.
School libraries work! (2006). Scholastic Research & Results. https://www.scholastic.com/ems/slp/102605/images/slw2_oct05.pdf.
School library month history. (n.d.). American Association of School Libraries. https://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/slm/history.
Ross, T. (2019, April 10). Top 10 ways to celebrate school library month. EBSCO. https://www.ebsco.com/blogs/ebscopost/top-10-ways-celebrate-school-library-month.
Texas Association of School Librarians. (n.d.). Talking points on the benefits of effective school library programs. https://standup4students.org/talking-points-on-the-benefits-of-effective-school-library-programs/.