Ami Cortes Castillo
- As a principal, what do you believe the school librarian’s role in teaching and learning is?
I believe the school librarian’s role in teaching and learning is to support the reading program for all students. That’s to support teachers’ professional development by helping them access materials from the library and throughout the library system. It’s to help students learn how to use the library and how to access materials, how to access information in the library such as working on the computer in a research project, or learning how to look things up, learning how to find books that they enjoy. Basically, I feel like the librarian’s role is kind of the heart of the school, because the main objective for our campus is for children to become literate, and the library is the place where literacy is grown and developed.
- As a principal, what do you believe the role of the school librarian is in promoting literacy and reading?
I feel like the librarian has to be the champion for literacy and reading, keeping it at the forefront of everybody’s mind by doing fun and exciting activities around reading and literacy, working with the families to know how fun reading can be, and how important literacy is. So her role is, I would say, a champion of promoting reading and literacy. And that can be done in a variety of ways, from amazing visuals in the library, exciting displays that draw people into the library to see what’s going on, and then get them hooked in to wanting to explore reading. And also could be teaching parents about why literacy is important for their child and their family. Lots of different things, but the main title would be the champion!
- How do you expect school librarians to help students to build life-long learning skills?
As I said, just helping children know that the library is there as an information hub for them. To be able to come and learn about something new, to be able to look something up on the computer, to be able to access information. So the librarian is the person who navigates that for everybody. Again, for teachers, bringing in good professional development materials and promoting that. Lots of ways to do that, but those are some of the main things.
- What tips do you have for school librarians in regards to communicating with principals?
Well, for me, just keep bugging me! Just because principals get busy. If you’re thinking about it in a systemic way, like a system, then it would be great for the librarian to have a standing meeting with the principal at least once a month, but in a perfect world twice a month. Just to check in, see how things are going, check on circulation, share ideas. So putting that on the principal’s calendar since they do get busy, and they get pulled in a million different directions. But if you have a meeting on your calendar, often times they are more likely to be able to stick to that. Also, just check in – invite the principal to come and see what you are doing. Email is great. And of course sharing what is going on in the library through a website, or Facebook and things like that.
- How do you hope to see the school librarian collaborating with teachers?
It’s very important for the librarian to have good relationships with the teachers, because again, they are the heart and the champion of literacy on the campus, and so they want to be the person the teachers go to for materials and ideas for reading. Also, the librarian should be collaborating in terms of planning and knowing what teachers are teaching, so that they can help them gather materials, or even just promote the themes or ideas in the library along with the teachers and what they are doing in their classrooms. It could be an idea also that a school librarian could ask to come to team meetings to get a back and forth about what do you need from me, this is what I need from you, to build their relationship with the school teams. Collaboration with teachers is key. Emails, communication, face-to-face, even surveys to ask what do you need, what are upcoming activities, etc.
I was able to sit down and speak with Ms. Cortes Castillo in her office. It was evident from her responses to the questions that she values the school library and the role of the librarian. That was nice to hear. In fact, she realizes that the librarian plays a big role at a school – wearing many hats and working with everyone from students, to staff, administrators and parents. I know that there are schools where the librarian is not as valued, and she or he is seen as someone who simply reads stories and checks out books.
I agree that literacy really is the main goal for our students. It is the basis for all subjects and learning at school. I was glad to hear Ms. Cortes Castillo mention that she feels it is important for the librarian to get the students, families and teachers excited about reading. Also, she understands the importance of students learning how to research and find information in the library.
It is important for librarians to remember that principals are busy, and are needed in countless situations all the time. In fact, when we were talking about exactly this, we were interrupted with a question about a student. I think all librarians and principals could benefit from the suggestion of scheduling a regular meeting.
In my opinion, the relationships that the librarian has with everyone involved in the school are the key to being successful in the many roles he or she has to play. That will ensure that he or she does indeed provide students, staff, and families with everything that the library has to offer, and keeps everyone excited about and focused on literacy.