Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Access and Use of Library Resources in Library Power

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Access and Use of Library Resources in Library Power

Article excerpt

The Library Power initiative employed flexible access to the library media center and improved library media center space to increase the use of the library's resources in instruction. These changes through Library Power are associated with increased use of the library resources by teachers and improved interactions with library materials for students.

Use of school library resources can take many forms and can occur in a variety of places. Resources are used by students to provide individually chosen reading, to answer questions on assignments, to pursue individual interests, to support assigned papers, as well as by teachers to prepare and support lessons. In addition, use of library resources occurs in classrooms and workrooms as well as in the school's library. The surveys and case studies of the Library Power evaluation sought to capture some of this complexity by asking librarians to make counts of library use, by asking teachers to describe their students' use of the library, and by case study researchers observing students and staff in libraries and classrooms. This article reports how access to libraries in Library Power schools was provided, the changes in facilities and equipment that were made, the amounts and kinds of use that occurred, how practices and facilities were related to use, and how teacher involvement in Library Power activities related to use of the library by students.

Allowing Use of the Library at Times Best Suited to Instructional Purposes

Information Power-Building Partnerships for Learning (American Association of School Librarians & Association for Educational Communications and Technology [AASL & AECT], 1998) clearly states how students should gain access to school library collections,

In a student-centered school library media program, learning needs to take precedence over class schedules, school hours, student categorizations, and other logistical concerns. To meet learning needs, the program's resources and services must be available so that information problems can be resolved when they arise. (p. 89)

A key premise of Library Power is that library facilities and resources can support instruction best if they are available at the time most suited to a lesson or when spontaneous interests arise. Therefore, one of the requirements for a school to participate in Library Power was to make a commitment to use the flexible schedule. This meant that individual, group, or class access to the library would not be limited to rigidly scheduled times of the day or week, but would be possible when needed, for a range of instructional activities. Flexible scheduling also implies that the library would support multiple activities in the library at the same time, such as allowing small groups, classes, and individual students to work in the library concurrently.

A basic evaluation question for Library Power schools is whether students and teachers are getting sufficient access to the facilities and the materials to support instructional efforts. Library Power schools were asked to move to a flexible schedule if they were on a traditional schedule of, for example, once-a-week LMC visits. Such a change in the program can cause a major disruption in a school's working philosophy, and the transition is not always easy; in fact, the flexible schedule might be controversial and could become a major political problem for the administrator and the library media specialist. Therefore, a further important question is whether the practice of flexible scheduling continues when the requirement from the initiative is no longer present.

In a series of annual surveys, librarians in Library Power schools were asked how access to the library was scheduled according to the following categories (see Table 1):

all classes are regularly scheduled into the LMC; some classes are regularly scheduled, other classes flexibly;

the LMC is completely flexibly scheduled (classes, small groups, and individuals are scheduled for varying time periods appropriate to need). …

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