Hello, friends, and welcome to another installment of the Library School Diaries! I am so sad that library school keeps me basically incapable of keeping up with you all on blog posts, Twitter, Instagram, and all other places of social fun. I have been diligently plugging away at my second semester of studies for Master of Library and Information Science with a specialization in the School Library Certification Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Just like last semester, I’m taking five classes again. It’s a huge course load, and I also have two part-time jobs, so things have been super busy for me! But without further ado, let’s take a look at what I’ve been learning in my second semester.
I’m in the school library program (I hope to be a high school librarian one day!), and as someone without a previous education background, this means I am also working toward my Pennsylvania teaching certificate in Library Science, K-12. In order to graduate as a school librarian, I must complete the 57-credit SLCP (school library certification program) and pass the Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Fundamental Subjects: Content Knowledge, and Library Media Specialist Praxis tests. Yes, it’s a lot of work and a labor of love to become a school librarian.
I thought it would be fun to take you through a class by class breakdown of what I cover in library school. Before I begin, a basic understanding of how online classes work: generally you’ll have a weekly assignment for each class that requires a discussion post based on that week’s readings and video lectures. Discussion posts are put on forum threads where all of your classmates can read and respond to your work. In most classes, commenting on your classmates posts is required (usually at least two comments are required). You can’t be “shy” to show your work online!
LIS 2005: Organization and Retrieving Information
This is one of the main classes of the program that nearly everyone, no matter their specialization, must take. It’s one of those classes that can be hard to define, because you get into the nitty gritty of discussing what information actually is and how do you organize it? Luckily, many many people have been at this task for hundreds of years and we already have systems in place that help us catalog information and make it searchable/findable. So the class basically discusses how we organize information: things like the logic behind subject headings and different classification systems like Dewey and Library of Congress. The purpose of this organization, of course, is to make it findable.
There are many different classification schemes (LC and Dewey are just very common) and part of the trick is understanding which is best for your library. Generally, Library of Congress is used for larger collections because it is very expansive and super detailed in the amount and breadth of subject headings available and the extensiveness of its call numbers. Take a look at the LC call numbers below
You can see there are at least 4 levels to the call number. There are 21 main classes and each is assigned a letter. “D” means the work is classed under World History. DA is Great Britain and DG is Italy. The numbers on the second line further define the subject of the book. The third line consisting of a letter and number is the Cutter Number. The Cutter Number indicates the author or title of the book. The final line is the year of publication. LC call numbers can go even further by adding editions on the line below. Now compare this with a Dewey call number
There are just two lines, one for the decimal number and one for the author. 300 is the general classification for the social sciences. 360 is the subdivision for social problems & social services. 362 is the further subdividision for social welfare problems & services. KRA is the first three letters of the authors last name. It’s relatively simple in comparison to LC. Smaller public libraries and school libraries often use Dewey, while larger libraries and academic libraries use Library of Congress. Some high school libraries also use LC with the intention of preparing students for the LC call numbers they will encounter in college.
As a school librarian, you’re often flying solo in the library so I will be the one cataloging all of the new items we add. In public, academic, and other libraries there are often entire job posts dedicated to cataloging. The subject headings and classification numbers are predefined, but it’s still up to the cataloger to decide which classifications will be applied by determining the “aboutness” of a work. It’s a big responsibility!
EDUC 2100: Education and Society
In order to earn my PA instructional certificate in K-12 Library Science, I must complete 18 credits in education courses. This course provides a broad overview of the history of education in the United States, as well as the various social, political, and cultural movements that have informed and influenced the public education system from the founding to the present. It’s a very interesting course, and one that is founded on the principal of social justice and examining education through that lens. You might wonder how much reading of books is involved in library school, and the truth is not that much actually! But, go figure, my education class is very reading intensive. We’ve read three books so far for this class and I have two more to go. Maybe this doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is! Especially when you have four other classes. We’ve read The End of Education by Neil Postman, Literacies of Power: What Americans Are Not Allowed to Know by Donaldo Macedo, and Seeking Common Ground: Public Schools in a Diverse Society by David Tyack.
IL 2257: Teaching English Language Learners
Another education class, this one tackles specific strategies and methods for teaching ELLs (English Language Learners). I have to admit this one is hard for me! I don’t have a previous background in education so I’m still learning how to educate native English speakers let alone English learners! But it is a very interesting class and an important one. There’s a huge, huge difference between conversational English and academic English. And even then there are differences in how the different disciplines convey academic ideas. It is the responsibility of those who teach ELLs to ensure that their teaching is equally as effective for ELLs as it is for native English speakers. Teachers must be knowledgeable of the specific proficiency level of every ELL in their classrooms and plan their lessons accordingly.
LIS 2325: Curriculum Resources & Services for the School Library
This is the class in which I learn all about the teaching roles of the school librarian. Most states have adopted the Common Core standards, and PA is one of them. School librarians have our own standards to teach alongside and in combination with the state standards. What sorts of things do school librarians teach? We ensure that students have the 21st century literacy skills they will need for success in life. That is, information, media, visual, digital, and technological literacy. It also depends on the grade level! Elementary librarians cover basic library skills like understanding the organization of the library and begin learning how to locate items independently. As you move into middle school, the librarian takes on the role of helping students understand and perform research. In high school libraries, we do a lot of college preparatory work. And much and more besides! We support content teachers by co-teaching lessons (you can see my lesson plan for a co-taught English lesson for 11th graders here) and ensuring that the library has the curriculum appropriate materials to support their lessons. We have to be knowledgable on the subjects in each area of the curriculum. School librarians also present on professional development skills for other educators on in-service days.
LIS 2323: Resources for Young Adults
I can’t imagine that any of you would be at all interested in the goings on of this class! Kidding, of course. This class is obviously wonderful. We cover all of the resources and knowledge the successful school or public librarian needs in order to serve Young Adults. The instructor created an entire fake town called Trent with its own schools, public library, and cast of characters. The Trent Model is incredibly detailed with an entire history of the town included, and bios on each of the administrators and pertinent teachers, librarians at each school, students, parents, and other members of the community. We use the information in the Trent Model to complete the assignments, which in this class are called Learning Experiences. The LE’s are all extremely practical and designed to give us experience in what we’ll face out on the job.
Assignments for this class so far have included creating on author glog (you can see mine on Maggie Stiefvater here; yes, we got to pick our authors from an approved list!), and two role playing sessions! In one session we all participated as either school librarians, public librarians, or teachers in a simulated meeting where the school and public libraries discuss collaboration. The two were coming together to discuss ways in which, by connecting and supporting each other, the school and public library systems can best support our young adults. In the other role play, we took on many of the same roles but this time added parents and students for a town hall style meeting on young adults use of social media. And we just completed an assignment on creating a core YA collection on a specific topic (my group chose sexuality).
This is my other class that actually is reading heavy! Here are the thirteen books I had to read for the just the first class!
These were chosen by the instructor’s assessment of what are considered the “essential” or most popular YA books by decade starting in the 1940s (that’s Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly on top) through to today. The rest of the semester the reading load hasn’t been as heavy, but it’s still 2-3 books a week. Of course, reading lots of YA is no big chore. The highlight for me, so far, of a new to me book is Brown Girl Dreaming. We also read Graceling during the week we covered Fantasy! I am also really looking forward to finally reading Wonder later on in the semester. You might be saying, “Hey, that’s middle grade!” Libraries consider “young adults” to be everyone from 12-19 years of age so some middle grade, as well as some adult titles, are also covered in this course. It mostly looks at YA, though.
I have a library school shelf on Goodreads for the curious. 64 books so far!
It might be exhausting, but library school continues to be such a rewarding experience. I’m learning so much and am getting more and more excited to graduate and be a “real librarian.” I have two semesters left before graduating! In the summer I will be taking a class on multicultural resources and services, a class on the teaching roles and an education class on including students with disabilities in secondary classrooms. If you have any questions about library school, or are wondering about (school) librarianship as a field, do feel free to ask! I’ll be back again in the summer with my third installment.