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Facing the reform challenge: teacher-librarians as change agents

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Title:Facing the reform challenge: teacher-librarians as change agents
Authors:Harada, Violet H.
Hughes-Hassell, Sandra
Date Issued:2008
Citation:Harada, V. H., & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2008). Facing the reform challenge: Teacher-librarians as change agents. Teacher Librarian, 35(2), 8-13. Prepublication version.

School reform initiatives have always been complex, messy, and amorphous. They encompass topics ranging from school-based management to uses of technology in the classroom. Fueled by federal and state mandates targeting high expectations for all students to succeed, reform initiatives hold school systems accountable for an increasingly diverse student population. It’s no wonder that educators consider themselves at the “epicenter of a continuing tempest” (Kinsler & Gamble 2001, 3).

The history of school librarianship reveals that teacher-librarians have participated in evolving concepts of reform in education (Urbanik 1989) beginning with the Progressive movement of the early and mid-1900s, and continuing through the science and math emphasis of the post-Sputnik era, the pendulum swing back to basics in the 1980s, and the current focus on standards-based education. The school library’s participation in these movements, however, has been largely “as a reactive agent to educational change” (Carroll 1981, 22). In spite of the fact that the evidence of the relationship between high-performing schools and successful library programs has grown over the last several decades (e.g., Lance & Loertscher 2005, Lonsdale 2003, Todd & Kuhlthau 2005), general reform literature has not recognized the role of school libraries in relation to student achievement. For this reason, leaders in the field of school librarianship have urged teacher-librarians to become facilitators and leaders of education reform rather than reactors to it.

In this article, we challenge the school library community with several hard questions: How do teacher-librarians act as skilled change agents? How do they deal with educational change proactively and productively? How do they work with classroom teachers, administrators, parents, and community members to implement reform initiatives that make a difference in the lives of students? We provide responses to these questions by culling information and insights from a number of sources, notably from School Reform and the School Library Media Specialist (Hughes-Hassell & Harada 2007), the most recent title in the Principles and Practices series published by Libraries Unlimited. We begin with a description of change agentry and follow this with examples of how teacher-librarians might be proactive agents in five key reform areas: (1) building rigor in what students learn, (2) incorporating information communication technologies in the curriculum, (3) promoting evidence-based practice, (4) engaging families in literacy development, and (5) addressing the is
sue of diversity in our school populations.

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