Librarians as Learning Specialists: Meeting the Learning Imperative for the 21st Century

Librarians as Learning Specialists: Meeting the Learning Imperative for the 21st Century

Librarians as Learning Specialists: Meeting the Learning Imperative for the 21st Century

Librarians as Learning Specialists: Meeting the Learning Imperative for the 21st Century


To answer these questions, the authors engaged colleagues in countless face-to-face and virtual discussions. This book reflects what they discovered, revealing how learning specialists, particularly school library media specialists, can serve as leaders in creating learning activities or situations or objectives that connect to student needs. The authors begin with the importance of the school's mission as the defining frame for reform practices in schools. They then describe the growing group of those considered as learning specialists in schools and how they have the potential to make a unique contribution to the fulfillment of the mission. That is followed by a discussion of learning that makes a difference to students and how it must take into account the range of student abilities and needs. Finally, the authors focus on the skills learning specialists must demonstrate to facilitate deeper and more meaningful learning, namely, the practice of effective instructional design and devise assessment measures to assess learning results.


Everyone who works in schools has an efficient set of indicators for quickly sizing up a place. We look for telltale signs and listen for revealing sounds to determine whether the school is purposeful and healthy. For me, the library or media center has always been such a revealing barometer of the institution. You can always tell how focused, happy, and intellectually lively a school is by studying the media center. Do the kids love to be there? Or do they only hurry in and out to get a book? Is there quiet space as well as lively space, since genuine study requires both? Or is the room a caricature of libraries and librarians of our youth, where “shhhhh” is the most common form of “teaching”? Do students eagerly work together to research an essential question and prepare a group project, or do they mostly just check e-mail and Facebook pages, and then quickly leave? Do teachers just dump kids for a period in the library or are they working with the librarian, as a team, to support mutual programmatic goals?

The library-media center is more than just a space or resource, then. It is a window into how well the entire staff understands learning and honors best practice. If the staff understands how people learn, then the media center is a hub of core activity. If the school is committed to longterm mission-related goals, teachers and learning specialists constantly work together.

Allison Zmuda and Violet Harada have written an important book. They have cast the role of school librarians as learning specialists as appropriately central, not marginal. They describe the ideal—not in the sense of “hopelessly idealistic” but in the sense of “powerful and clear model to aim for.” the learning specialist has a key role to play in schools, and this book explains how this can happen.

This book gets beyond the typical hand-wringing laments and naïve idealism of most books on education. To invoke a word that has become a bit worn—but which could not be more apt here—this book will empower learning specialists to move from the margins to the mainstream in their schools. It will show them (and their superiors) how they are uniquely suited to take a leadership role in moving schooling into the 21st century and shed its obsolete 19th-century habits.

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