In 2017, after several years of intense work, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), in extensive collaboration with librarians and community stakeholders across the country, published new standards for school librarians in a huge, comprehensive volume. AASL sponsored focus groups, surveys, and various consultants working in tandem to produce this forward thinking document. As a practicing librarian, I found these standards and goals an important statement about our profession, a powerful reminder of who we are and how we proudly revisit and reaffirm our norms.
If you perform a Google search with terms such as “traits of a profession,” lots of vague, but important, terms appear: honesty, reliability, dependability, service-oriented and the like. While most librarians have these traits in abundance, a more traditional definition of profession guides and identifies us. A profession is defined as self-governed by its participants, which we are through our professional associations. A profession requires an extended education proscribed by its members (check — accredited programs for library programs); has a code of ethics created and followed by its members (check – see ALA’s code of ethics); a theoretical body of knowledge that undergirds skills and standards (check – see the heretofore mentioned book as one example); and provides a specific service (check – such as AASL’s comprehensive position statements.) These documents, and the individuals who created them, remind me that as librarians we don’t just call ourselves professionals, but that we are professionals.
Beyond organizational pride, how can these standards help us in our everyday job performance? Many of you do not have the complete standards, but there is a lot of information to begin your study available on the AASL website (National School Library Standards) where there’s a wealth of material. There’s an article for administrators, and targeted questions for librarians, administrators, parents/guardians, and educators. The heart of the new standards is learners, a sensible progression from early quantitative standards or those that concentrated on programs and collaboration. Again, on the AASL website, a Framework for Learners, outlining the four domains of think, create, share, and grow, cross referenced with shared foundations and commitments, is available as a free download. Another downloadable chart reminding us that as librarians we are a part of larger professions, provides crosswalks between the National Standards and those from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE.) Look carefully at these documents and back to the above second paragraph and you’ll see the essence of a profession at work.
These overview materials available on the AASL website show librarians the bare bones of what the standards are and how they are laid out. Much valuable information, such as implementation examples and ways of evaluating programs, are missing on the website, but are available in clear detailed sections in the larger work. In addition, well defined personas, or profiles of various audience members such as principals, campus librarians, and district library directors, provide clear narratives for readers to personalize these standards and draw connections between the detail in the book and their own situations. National School Library Standards are by no means rigid laws to be followed, but rather ideas that allow school librarians to operate within the larger umbrellas of governing bodies, such as districts and individual campuses, all the while retaining the professionalism we honor .
The standards define us as school librarians. How can they help you? What do you want to do with them? Which standard do you think you want to give your fullest attention? Let us know. Please email your comments and questions to me at email@example.com with the subject line “standards”. I’ll combine your responses for a future column, and each of you who responds will be eligible for a drawing of the complete book from AASL.
On a personal note, I am so proud to be a member of this profession, a profession that grows and changes as does society and the demands upon it. These standards represent but one area of professionalism, but they are vital for the definition of librarianship and as guideposts for those of us who proudly call ourselves librarians.
AASL’s Position Statements. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements. Accessed August 20, 2018.
American Association of School Librarians. National School Library Standards. Chicago: The American Library Association, 2017.
Code of Ethics of the American Library Association, 1995. http://www.ala.org/united/sites/ala.org.united/files/content/trustees/orgtools/policies/ALA-code-of-ethics.pdf. Accessed August 20, 2018.
National School Library Standards, 2017. https://standards.aasl.org/. Accessed August 20, 2018.