May 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Show, Don’t Tell: A Common Core Tenet Applies to Our Roles

letter_t_color_originalhe Common Core State Standards (CCSS) offer librarians the opportunity to demonstrate their role in student achievement. That role has expanded from resource provider to curriculum leader; those unaware of the shift continue to default to stereotypes of librarians as employees that work the circulation desk and shelve books. Even more troubling is if school leaders aren’t thinking of librarians as pedagogues, they’re more likely to eliminate their positions when budgets shrink.

Savvy librarians seize and incorporate the tenets of Common Core learning in their practices. They inspire students to build on their knowledge of various disciplines through a wide variety of texts and to discover themselves as readers and researchers. The deep and diverse collections that librarians develop deliver both print and digital resources. As dedicated professionals, they market the independent reading of content-rich informational texts through book clubs and shared reading experiences, and accessibility via flexible hours, mobile technologies, and websites. Connected librarians show students how to download ebooks and articles, facilitating the link between the library and students’ mobile lives.

Effective librarians partner with teachers to build curriculum units with reading and writing tasks grounded in complex texts. In order to do this, they collaborate with teachers to maximize instruction. Professionals study curriculum maps and units to gain insight into how they are developed. They analyze the instructional purposes of selected resources.

Successful librarians instruct students on how to think critically about informational content. They do so by deconstructing instructional units to analyze the required content and the skills students need to master in order to apply what they’ve learned. They co-teach with colleagues to address identified gaps and to foster opportunities that encourage learning beyond the classroom. Librarians require students to explain ideas through comparisons, evaluate resource quality and relevance, and develop new understandings through the synthesis of disparate perspectives, statistics, and sources.

The Common Core demands mastery of these skills.

In today’s high-stakes-testing era of accountability, educators may not have time to read, research, and keep track of all the latest digital technologies. Proactive librarians become the go-to techies in schools. They recognize technology as a tool for students and teachers to extend their learning (maybe with a flip model), and to produce work of originality and insight.

The CCSS are grounded in information literacy and the promotion of critical thinking. Librarians can take the lead to support deluged teachers and administrators. How? By using the Common Core as an opportunity to become staff developers, collaborators, grant-writers, resource experts, community partners, and instructional leaders. As they perform these roles, librarians will provide administrators and colleagues with untold opportunities to see librarians as educators and to observe their essential role in the 21st-century learning environment.

Effective librarians must be rigorous in their work with students: they must design strong units and lesson plans, have efficient procedures and structures in place, know their students as learners, create thorough assessments, and deliver quality instruction. Librarians must also document their work as evidence of successful practice: record instruction, provide samples of student assignments and lesson plans, and design a strong digital presence.

Finally, librarians must declare themselves professionals: serve on committees of leadership and inquiry, write articles for publication, present at conferences, and become on-site literacy and instructional technology staff developers.

School librarians cannot afford to wait for everyone to understand what it is they do. Like good writers, they must be clear and direct; they need to show, and keep showing—in whatever way possible—their impact on the school community and role as the linchpin of student success.

The Common Core provides the entrée.

Leanne Ellis is a library coordinator for the New York City School Library System, NYC Department of Education, Office of Library Services.

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. All so true. It would be so wonderful if every school library professional were given the opportunity to wear all the hats and do all the important work described. The challenge for so many is working in an environment and with an administration that allows for only a fraction of this to happen.