School Library

Keeping Public School Libraries Relevant

Public school libraries have always served an admirable purpose in education. In an indirect way, K-12 libraries have given students support in learning endeavors and been a go-to spot for information. With that being said, as the first Internet-generation rises through the public school ranks, libraries need big changes to remain relevant. It is not enough to simply “be there;” school libraries need to reach out to students and pull them in with helpful resources that combine traditional and contemporary theories in literacy.

Many school libraries are already making strides to capture and maintain the interest of students, while others seem to always be trailing just a few steps behind. Programs like the YOUmedia initiative housed at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library incorporate student-led publishing, music as a form of literacy and encouragement in academic pursuits to keep K-12 kids interested in what the library can do for them. Though YOUmedia does not take place in a public school, the open access to urban students and push towards literacy through technology are applicable to school settings.

For public school libraries to keep up with student need, and grab the ever-divided attention of these youth, a blend of traditional and contemporary philosophy …



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Dr. Lynch is an award winning writer, activist and the Dean of the School of Education, Psychology, & Interdisciplinary Studies and an Associate Professor of Education at Virginia Union University. He spent seven years as a K-12 teacher – an experience that gave him an intimate view of the challenges facing genuine education reform. With that experience behind him, he has focused the second stage of his career on researching topics related to education reform, the achievement gap, and teacher education. What Dr. Lynch has found is that improving teacher education is an essential component in closing the achievement gap. Dr. Lynch's articles and op eds appear regularly in the Huffington Post, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, and Education Week. He's also written numerous peer-reviewed articles, which have appeared in academic journals such as AASA Journal of Scholarship & Practice, International Journal of Progressive Education, Academic Leadership Journal, and others. In addition, he has authored and edited a number of books on school reform and school leadership. Please visit his website at www.drmattlynch.com for more information.
9 Comments on this post.

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  • HeidiBelt
    17 April 2014 at 10:22 pm -

    The biggest issue facing k-12 libraries today is not the fear of the Internet and the ability to glean information on smart phones. The biggest issue is the lack of money libraries have to embrace this new technology. It’s been my experience, as a former librarian, that schools will only fund as much as they have to. I, in fact, had a school administrator tell me once that very thing. In order to keep K-12 libraries a combination of the traditional and contemporary values discussed in this article, school districts must give libraries the same priority they give their sports teams.

  • BananaMan54
    20 April 2014 at 12:45 am -

    Embracing tech is great, and combining traditional with contemporary philosophy in a practical manner is a lofty goal. However, to be more than a supplementary resource students use for social, recreational, and occasional academic activities, k-12 libraries must be relevant and actively utilized by k-12 TEACHERS as a part of required academics in the k-12 setting. Students are a secondary audience. K-12 teachers must be aware of and embrace the resources in the k-12 library, and incorporate the k-12 library into their classroom. Only then will the k-12 library to be truly relevant, and thereby recognized and funded adequately by administration.

    • johanna
      21 April 2014 at 2:51 am -

      Part of the school librarian’s job is to teach the teachers what products and services the library has that the teacher can use in his classroom. Yes, teachers need to use the library and have their students use it, but the library needs to make sure they have the resources teachers need. If they don’t have adminstrative support to “adequately” fund the library, then how can the library have all the appropriate tools they need to “adequately” help teachers teach?

  • hollysuel
    21 April 2014 at 4:19 am -

    When was the last time you really went to a library? Do you, as educators, have good memories of libraries? With the onset of the internet, I no longer go to the library to get information–I just google it… my main memory of high school libraries (albeit 25 years ago) was reading the magazines and talking to friends during lunch. I also vaguely remember having to stay there after school because I was found to have too many tardys. Anyway, I agree with some of the other posters in that libraries need to make it relevant in order for students to see its worth.

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  • edmom5
    21 September 2014 at 9:18 am -

    Public school libraries ARE relevant — it is the population that is changing to devalue the great resources that are already there. We need to keep this in mind when ushering in all the new “technology.”

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