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LEADING IN AND BEYOND THE LIBRARY: School Libraries, Librarians Critical for Transition to Digital Learning, Says New Alliance Report

“In today’s digital world, the school library has evolved from a place to merely check out books to one that offers opportunities for collaboration, project-based learning, and online access,” said Gov. Bob Wise.

A new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education explains the key role that school librarians and libraries should play in state- and districtwide efforts to transition to digital learning, or the effective use of technology to improve teaching and learning. The report, Leading In and Beyond the Library, calls for district and school leaders, policymakers, and boards of education to support, encourage, and fund the evolving role of librarians and libraries as facilitators of content creation, personalized learning, and professional development.

As the common area for digital resources and new technology, libraries are often the first place in the school to transition to twenty-first-century learning environments with high-speed internet connections, digital subscriptions, video capabilities, and even e-books, the report notes. Librarians are content specialists by training and are often the first educators in the school to master new technologies, creating opportunities for in-school professional development for teachers, team teaching, and opportunities to collaborate on lesson plans. Schools utilizing libraries this way become great equalizers for learning opportunities, offering students with limited or no internet access a place to research, learn at their own place, collaborate, and create content, often outside of school hours.

“In today’s digital world, the school library has evolved from a place to merely check out books to one that offers opportunities for collaboration, project-based learning, and online access,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Similarly, librarians, formerly left to work independently in their own corners of schools, are now playing central roles in school leadership and working on a daily basis with students, teachers, and administrators. With skilled librarians leading the charge, school libraries can evolve from quiet reading zones to active hubs for student innovation and promotion of digital literacy.”

Libraries and librarians are also in a unique position to aid schools in implementing college- and career-ready standards, including the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by forty-six states and the District of Columbia. For example, students struggling to master deeper learning competencies included in the higher standards can receive one-on-one instruction in libraries with the help of digital technology and trained and skilled librarians.

The report highlights three districts where libraries and librarians play a key role in the transition to digital learning environments: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia; Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina; and Avon Community School Corporation in Indiana. All three districts emphasize the role of librarians as school leaders and include them in strategic planning around implementing and purchasing new technology. Each of the districts also participates in the Alliance’s Project 24 initiative, which encourages districts to plan for the digital transition and embrace digital learning.

Leading In and Beyond the Library includes recommendations for how district and school leaders, policymakers, and school librarians can ensure that the knowledge and skills of school librarians and the opportunities available in the library are maximized during the digital learning transition. Among the recommendations are how district and school leaders can transform the role of the school librarian to incorporate professional development and coaching on new technologies for teachers; how policymakers and boards of education can consider how funding librarians also enhances teacher, student, and administrative development; and how librarians should take initiative in reimaging the school library as a hub of digital learning for students and teachers alike.

“To prepare students for the demands of college and to compete in the modern economy, schools and districts would be wise to tap into the critical knowledge that librarians have about emerging technology and trends,” said Wise.

Read the full report online at

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