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TCEA: Do your libraries need a change?

School libraries should be centers of digital instruction and learning

school-librariesSeeking to ensure school librarians’ roles reflect the changing nature of education, one Texas school district changed its librarians’ positions to better support digital learning.

Library and IT specialists in the Willis Independent School District knew they needed to transform school librarians into vital educational leaders who instruct and engage students with innovative resources and opportunities, and who are actively involved in helping students learn about and evaluate digital resources and information.

During a session at TCEA 2014, Willis ISD Director of Technology Deborah Menefee said the district wanted to support modern library practices that would engage students with opportunities to use digital learning, research, and collaboration tools.

District administrators also wanted to ensure that students had a strong grasp of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Technology Applications, a set of digital technology skills and standards for K-12 students.

(Next page: How the district changed its libraries)

Using research showing that school librarians are linked to improved standardized reading test scores and other benefits, Menefee recommended to her district superintendent that school librarians teach information literacy skills to teachers and develop more collaborative relationships with those teachers.

“Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?” she said.

Menefee developed a school library model that emphasized school librarians as information learning specialists and curriculum partner-leaders. Information resources, technology infrastructure, reading resources, reading engagement, information literacy, and technological literacy all combined to expand and enhance students’ digital knowledge and skills.

The district created a new title for school librarians: Information Learning Specialists (ILSs).

In a plan that outlined how librarians would transition to the new ILS positions, Menefee and a team decided to partner each ILS with an iCoach–a technology innovation coach who works with teachers to integrate technology into classrooms at different skill levels and for different content needs. The iCoach provides training, technology tool support, and team teaching opportunities.

A library assistant took over daily library operations, under the direction of the ILS, freeing the ILS to work more with teachers and to focus on project-based learning, information technology, and reading initiatives.

Specifically, each position has specific responsibilities, and all three support instruction.

Each ILS is responsible for:

  • Digital citizenship instruction
  • Research and information instruction
  • Managing collections and resources
  • Inellectual property and copyright instruction
  • Literacy initiatives


  • Support digital tool implementation
  • Are digital native advocates
  • Evaluate technology resources
  • Offer support and training for instructional technology
  • Evaluate curriculum software

iCoaches and ILSs both:

  • Model technology integration
  • Practice and teach digital communication and collaboration
  • Are campus leaders
  • Act as digital resource consultants

Library assistants:

  • Provide AV or media resource support
  • Manage circulation
  • Manage class visitors

Library asisstants and ILSs both:

  • Maintain and promote a literary web presence
  • Manage research databases
  • Run book fairs

Students work on long-term projects and learn technology and library skills from the ILS during those projects. Those projects are thematic, targeted to different grade and skill levels, and reinforce the Technology TEKS and library standards.

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Laura Ascione

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