Of Organization & Access
Candidates in school librarian preparation programs model, facilitate, and advocate for equitable access to and the ethical use of resources in a variety of formats. Candidates demonstrate their ability to develop, curate, organize, and manage a collection of resources to assert their commitment to the diverse needs and interests of the global society. Candidates make effective use of data and other forms of evidence to evaluate and inform decisions about library policies, resources, and services.American Association of School Librarians. (2019). ALA/AASL/CAEP school librarian preparation standards. ALA.
The word "organization" relates to arrangement, planning, and structuring, and implies that efficiency and order are inherent in a place or system. "Access" is defined as an entrance, a way in. In the school library, both organization and access (or accessibility) impact the quality of students' learning experiences. Welcoming, functional, and pleasing arrangement of the physical space, careful planning of instruction, and effective structuring and implementation of library programs all provide learners with a way into to a wide and beautifully diverse world of knowledge.
For standards and needs to be met, a school librarian must establish criteria and seek out appropriate (and, in time, favored) tools to make the best possible choices regarding books, eBooks, databases, materials, aesthetics, furniture--indeed, anything and everything that has the potential to find its way into the library. This can mean familiarizing oneself with curriculum and the student population and creating a checklist of requirements for purchases, wherein items are assessed on their merits, possibility of effectiveness, alignment with the curriculum, students’ skill level, relation to special needs requests, teachers’ preferences, their ability to fill in gaps in the library collection, and more. An alternative is to start instead with a particular lesson, unit, or standard/portion of the curriculum and determine needs based upon it.
An example of the latter is suggested by It Was Greek to Me, a collaborative lesson plan that might be adapted and used for different grade levels and features: comparisons between Ancient Greece and modern-day America, including those related to the arts, literature, government, and more; a wide variety of resources, including Pearltrees (a curation tool), both print and nonprint books, and technological tools like Google Slides, Adobe Spark, and Canva; and the opportunity for students to work in groups to respond creatively to lesson(s). All of the materials were thoroughly reviewed prior to implementation to determine their suitability.
It is crucial that school librarians constantly evaluate and re-evaluate not only their instruction, but the collection upon which instruction is often based. Doing so entails frequently engaging in activities and tasks such as simply getting one’s hands on the books (via shelving, inventory, etc.), weeding, diversity audits, reading and plundering professional journals for reviews and recommendations, and--to paraphrase Jim McKay from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”--spanning the globe (well, virtually, at least) to bring students the constant variety of books, materials, and resources.
Technical services comprise the nuts and bolts that figuratively hold the library together. Though the Wizard of Oz commanded Dorothy and her companions to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” attention must be paid to what goes on in the background and “behind the scenes” in the library, such as acquisitions and collection development.
Of course, technical services can involve anything from cataloging to classification to preservation, plus a great deal more besides, as my technical services manual describes in depth.
In seeking to improve the collection and, by association, the community, during my first and third years in our library I engaged in thorough audits of our resources. By doing so, I was able to discover that the collection was outdated (the nonfiction especially and disturbingly so) and featured gaps in subject matter and perspectives (e.g., certain historical periods, particular ethnic viewpoints and/or protagonists, etc.). In addition, I sought out students’ input regarding what kinds of books they enjoyed and wished the library held. As a result, I was able to get a clearer, more accurate picture of what I needed to do to make our collection more current, more representative, and more in keeping with patrons’ preferences.