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How to Teach Library Skills

Updated on December 22, 2015
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Rosie was an elementary school teacher for 13 years, teaching grades 3-5. She is now a Library Media Specialist in an elementary school.


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Being a Librarian in the 21st Century

In a K-12 setting, librarians are responsible for teaching students how to access information and to skillfully question those seeking information during what librarians refer to as a reference interview. Similarly, public librarians are responsible for doing the same for patrons. In both environments, librarians need to determine whether the information can be found through a ready reference or needs further research, leading to instruction. A ready reference is a term used by information specialists that refers to easy-to-access reference tools.

Unlike public librarians, school librarians are also tasked with working collaboratively with teachers and administrators, to provide students with meaningful learning experiences and the know-how to independently acquire information. School librarians are also responsible for managing equipment which these days may include anything from televisions to I-pads, or even Smart Boards. In addition, librarians often train teachers and staff on the use of new equipment and software in the school setting.


Intellectual Freedom

Intellectual freedom is an expectation of library patrons and of students as well. Librarians need to respect individual interests and be impartial when providing service, giving the same time and attention regardless of what information is being sought, or who is seeking it. It is the right of every human being to seek the information they choose without being judged or scrutinized and it is the job of the librarian to help with this endeavor. If there were suspicion of behavior that could harm the patron or others, this would need to be addressed with counselors and administration within a school setting.

Ethical and Behavioral Guidelines

Ethical guidelines come into play in many ways in the K-12 environment. It cannot be assumed during a reference interview, what students or patrons are looking for. An effective reference interview is essential to a successful outcome. I believe a librarian’s competence is a high priority. Competence is essential for successful reference interactions and it is an expectation that should be met. Privacy and confidentiality are important to practice with each encounter as well.

A librarian should assist the student or patron by also teaching them how to access the information being sought and by allowing them to be a part of the process. The librarian should also make the patron feel comfortable by treating them with respect and courtesy. In addition, patrons should feel they have been well-attended to, meaning patience in listening and determination in finding what they are seeking has been achieved.

The Many Roles of a School Librarian

Today's school librarians have many roles. The role of teacher is to be practiced continuously, during each reference interview and interaction opportunity with students, staff, and administration. The role of instructional partner is to be nurtured and evolving throughout the school year, with ample opportunities for teachers and librarian to work collaboratively. Using pathfinders as a tool for research, teaching information literacy ongoing, and providing opportunities to practice search skills and citation should be given. As an information specialist, acquiring new and current knowledge is a must, and being competent with reference tools is essential. Instructional leadership is a role that must be acquired through the transfer of knowledge, one-on-one, in staff training, and during collaboration.

The role of program administrator is one that requires effective management of materials, equipment, funds, volunteers and assistants. In addition, communicating with parents, teachers, and administrators, through emails, print, and via website are critical as well.


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    • profile image

      Muhammed 3 years ago

      One of my fondest mmoreies about elementary school was our weekly trips to the library. As we sat, knees crossed, in a circle around the soft spoken, white haired Mrs. Kagan, she would take us on a mind-out-of-body adventure and return us safely back to reality seen in a new light.

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      Sukey 3 years ago

      It's a plaeusre to find someone who can identify the issues so clearly

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 5 years ago from Virginia

      I think that is one of the reasons I'm passionate about becoming a librarian. I've been teaching for 12 years and like my lessons to be hands-on and love to get children excited about learning, especially about literature - that is my passion. I also have a diverse teaching background, having taught in 3 school districts that were completely different, and having taught special education collaboratively as well as center-based gifted students, everything in between. Thanks for your comment.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      An interesting overview of a school librarian career. My first experience of a library was a school library, where the lady librarian wasn't helpful. She was only interested in maintaining perfect silence in "her" library. I still loved books too much to let that put me off!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Good concise article and pertinent in society today.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      This is very interesting. Intellectual freedom in the library is a concept that I never thought about before. Like nurses, librarians don't judge or impose their will. Excellent and very informative. Thanks Rosie Writes. Voted Up and interesting!

    • Written Up profile image

      Written Up 5 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

      pretty interesting hub!