Five key roles for 21st-century school librarians

As the lone librarian and technology integration specialist for an entire district, regularly meeting her K-8 students on a fixed schedule, Miller does not teach alone. She models collaboration by forming instructional partnerships with educators around the world. Two Libraries, One Voice, a joint blog documenting Miller’s co-teaching experience with John Schumacher, Brook Forest Elementary School’s librarian 338 miles away in Illinois, illustrates how technology transcends geography in the new millennium.

Among the highlights of her partnerships with educators in Michigan, New Hampshire, and Philadelphia, Miller featured ongoing, multi-pronged collaborations that are open to any educator wishing to include his or her students, such as Somewhat Virtual Book Club and World Read Aloud Day. If George Siemens’ statement, “The network is the learning,” is true, then Miller and her colleagues built a formidable learning platform for their students—and many, many others.

Common Core

Invariably, there comes a time when either Valenza or Miller deliver a presentation where an audience member raises a hand to say, “Yes, but…” After the “but” comes a reference to state testing, instructional mandates, curricular requirements, and so on. In this session, Valenza and Miller collectively preempted that interruption by addressing what educators in 45 states are now facing—the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

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According to Lauren Davis, senior editor at Eye on Education, there are five things every educator should do to meet the CCSS. Her list includes focusing on process, publishing for real audiences, and engaging in discourse. Valenza and Miller explained that curation, citizenship & compassion, creation, and connection embed experiences into instruction that make the CCSS gel for learners. They make learning authentic and relevant. They are the Common Core.

Miller illustrated this point by showcasing Van Meter’s curriculum, which is a crosswalk between the Iowa, CCSS, International Society for Technology in Education, and American Association of School Librarians standards. Van Meter teachers, including Miller, post their learning targets for each lesson. Their students are curating, behaving, creating, and connecting with a purpose—to meet learning standards. They are just doing it creatively, and in both schools, it is the teacher librarian who facilitates innovative, yet robust, standards-based instruction across disciplines.

Michelle Luhtala is the library department chair at New Canaan High School in Connecticut. She facilitates a professional learning community for more than 3,500 school librarians at She serves on the American Association of School Librarians’ Board of Directors and serves on two Connecticut Digital Library advisory boards. Luhtala is a contributing author to Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers and is frequently published in professional literature for school librarians. She blogs at

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