The School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University, and Wake County (NC) Public Schools have received a three-year Continuing Education Project grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop a comprehensive research-based professional development curriculum that includes a suite of blended professional development experiences for school librarians, classroom teachers, and school literacy coaches that focuses on cultural competence, culturally relevant pedagogy and equity literacy. The 2015 IMLS Focus Report on Learning in Libraries puts forth a call for design-based, collaborative projects focused on transferring knowledge from research to practice. Project READY will answer that call by developing an innovative and scalable professional development curriculum following an iterative process that both informs, and is informed by, school library practice and practitioners.
The emphasis on teaching and collaboration in the most recent set of AASL national professional standards for school librarians means that they are now expected to take a direct role in the instruction of students to an unprecedented degree.1 Yet, for school librarians in the United States – the majority of whom are middle aged, White, English-speaking females2 – the recent and rapid demographic changes in their student populations have left many of them “struggling to connect with a completely new set of learners, with cultural backgrounds distinctly different from each other and from their teachers.”3 New research has found that while school librarians recognize the need for cultural knowledge and awareness in developing effective instruction for these youth, they also feel they lack the knowledge and experience necessary to enact such instruction.4 As a result, many youth of color “feel like outsiders in library spaces,”5 compounding the extensively documented challenges and inequities these youth face in school in general – inequities that to be redressed require changes in instructional practices in classrooms and libraries. Research shows that professional development can help educators “to continually reassess what schooling means in the context of a pluralist society; the relationships between teachers and learners; and attitudes and beliefs about language, culture, and race.”6
The project has six major goals:
Use a Design-Based Research approach to pilot and refine the project curriculum.
Provide ongoing support to librarians and their collaborators as they employ tools and techniques learned in the PD to effect change within their schools, making a lasting difference in the lives of underserved and marginalized populations.
Disseminate the curriculum and PD components widely to schools and libraries serving diverse youth across the country. These goals align with the goals and objectives of the 2012-2016 IMLS Strategic Plan Creating a Nation of Learners.
To our knowledge, there is currently no existing continuing education or professional development curriculum on the topics of cultural competence, culturally relevant pedagogy, or equity literacy for school librarians. Our development of research-based, freely accessible materials (which can be used to facilitate either online or in-person PD) will fill this gap.
Want to know even more? Read our full grant application.
- American Association of School Librarians (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.
- American Library Association (2012). Diversity Counts 2012 Tables. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/diversity/diversitycounts/diversitycountstabl es2012.pdf
- Mestre, L. S. (2010). Culturally responsive instruction for teacher-librarians. Teacher Librarian, 36(3), 8-12, p. 9.
- Hughes-Hassell, S. and Stivers, J. (2015). Examining youth services librarians’ perceptions of cultural knowledge as an integral part of their professional practice. School Libraries Worldwide, 21(1), 121136.
- Kumasi, K. (2012). Roses in the concrete: A critical race perspective on urban youth and school libraries. Knowledge Quest, 40(4): 32-37, p. 36.
- Clair, N., & Adger, C. T. (1999). Professional development for teachers in culturally diverse schools (ERIC Digest, ED435185). Washington, DC: Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, p. 2.