Science-Related Topics in School Library Media Periodicals: An Analysis of Electronic Citation Content from 1998-2004

Article excerpt

Improving student achievement in science is a major thrust of current educational policy in the United States. Can US school library media specialists use articles in recommended school library media publications to approach science-related topics in collection development, collaboration, professional learning, and curriculum integration and be effective partners in achieving this educational imperative? Many school library media specialists use professional periodicals to stay current with new resources and learn role-enhancing strategies, but science topics represented a small number of the total citations of these publications. This study used citations in two major subscription periodical databases and analyzed them for selected aspects of frequency. Few citations described articles about collaboration with science teachers and curriculum involvement. Although professional reading can improve service, the findings of this study indicate that the small number of science-related citations were to articles that tended not to promote deeper involvement with science education.

Introduction and Literature Review

Engaging in professional reading by both browsing current periodicals and searching databases is a habit of mind employed by many librarians to stay current with trends and innovations in their field and to gather information about challenges they may face. Results of a survey by Weaver (2002) demonstrated that librarians rely heavily on professional reading for new sources of information about improving their practice; they used only conference attendance more frequently to gain new professional insight. Survey respondents listed browsing new periodicals as well as locating citations to published articles as means of making use of the magazines and journals of library and information services. When this broad spectrum of librarians was asked to list their preferred professional publications, three school library media periodicals ranked among the most popular. Powell, Baker, and Mika (2002), in their study of a survey of research-reading habits, reported that librarians looked on professional reading as an important task, but that they were often frustrated by theoretical rather than practical research in their field. Survey participants mentioned their desire to seek articles that contained immediately useful information presented in a straightforward, jargon-free manner.

Similarly, school library media specialists use professional literature to stay abreast of strategies and resources that support their roles in information literacy, school collaboration, leadership, and technology. According to the dominant framework for school library media practice in the United States, Information Power (American Association of School Librarians & Association for Educational Communications and Technology [AASL & AECT], 1998), the school library media specialist as a teacher should promote modes of authentic learning among students and educators so that they may acquire knowledge and skills that will enhance their contributions to school and society. As an instructional partner, the school library media specialist should become fluent in the learning community's curriculum goals, as well as seek connections between information literacy and content-related objectives. As an information specialist, the school library media specialist should be knowledgeable about both the structure and presentation of information and about the learning resources that deliver that information and should assist learners to seek and use information proactively, responsibly, and profitably. And as a program administrator, the school library media specialist should ensure adequate access to materials and services for all stakeholders. School librarians develop capacities for these roles through preservice education, professional development, and in-field reading; unfortunately, these development opportunities are not always available in all the curriculum areas school library media specialists must support. …