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Library Classes – Flexible or Fixed?

By 8th August 2020News
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Should library classes have a fixed schedule or a flexible schedule?

What’s the Problem?

 (Image by Vijesh Panchal from Pixabay )

After I had gained some knowledge and understanding from IB Standards andStandards and Practices in school

libraries, with each passing year from my first job as an IB School Librarian, I was eager to put my knowledge into practice.

 I’ve always asked a question to myself how I am contributing effectively in a fixed schedule because of limited face time with the students, i.e. just 40 mins in a week resulting? This often led to dissatisfaction with my role in the school. I felt I wasn’t doing enough.

I was looking forward to creating a setup that allows me to collaborate with teachers and students to bring an authentic learning experience for the students. 

Thanks to my curiosity and desire to learn, I contacted various school librarians to grasp a quick understanding of the functioning of their libraries. The response was not very distinct from one another. Situations were more or less the same but the only difference I could figure out was the strength of the number of students the librarians were catering to, in the respective schools. I was providing to a larger group.

I wanted to explain to the school community that the library program should be an ‘Extension’ of the classroom where real learning can be provided to the students if teachers and librarians were partners. Stubeck rightly said, in  “Enabling inquiry learning in fixed -schedule libraries”, American association of school libraries, “The fixed schedule inhibited teaching to AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner (2007) since the schedule is not conducive to time on task, a critical component to the successful inquiry that promotes critical reading and critical thinking.” 

Should I have Flexible Schedule for Library Classes?

The flexible schedule according to ALA is one in which “the library media specialist and the teacher plan together for instruction or use of resources based on student learning needs in each curriculum unit and schedule on that basis”. According to McGregor, “Fixed Schedule facilitates a program on an ad hoc basis and “constantly varies”.

I was quite convinced with the idea of promoting a flexible schedule in my school that will facilitate the appropriate use of library resources which automatically culminate into authentic learning experiences for the whole community, encourage collaboration, and brings a platform for inquiry-based learning which was my real-time desire. 

According to McGregor, a fixed library schedule as “The current model is just a space provider for teachers for planning meetings and accomplished something of greater value-curriculum planning. The library is a ‘drop-off spot’ for teaching library skills and reading books”. 

Flexible Schedule Mindset

Being a library teacher for many years, taught me the research skills effective use of media literacy skills. I gathered the required information from multiple sources, connected with librarians of other countries through MY IB posting on how to implement flexible schedules in the school library. The belief in a flexible schedule made me think that my skills, knowledge, and impact would be more significant for the student body and collaboration with teachers, supporting student learning would be beneficial.

Can Libraries be an extension of classrooms?

The conversation begins with the idea to notify my supervisors. IB libraries are growing to accommodate the needs of the community. In an article by Andrew Smirny, Hopes and Fear, it says, the library is a hub for new learning, knowledge transfer, use of technology in academic research, interest-driven, opportunities, passion following, connecting, socializing, sharing knowledge with students, cross-skilling or skill development, reading, collaboration, discussion and so on.

How to aim for a flexible library schedule?

I was determined and was trying hard to convince the school community on the best practices of the library being the central place in the school. On one hand, some members were supportive of a flexible schedule. While, some members of the group had a belief that with flexible schedules, the librarian would not contribute enough to the school, and some were of the opinion that the freedom to collaborate, connect with teachers, and students learning would be more significant. I created a document that enlisted my role and shared it to explain the role of a librarian at school.

I believe, Librarians with flexible schedules can offer integration of technology tools to students and work on digital and media literacy apart from other core requirements. As Stripling points out that “inquiry is not a collection of process skills and strategies; it is a relationship between thinking skills and content. Learners are, therefore, engaged in scientific inquiry, historical inquiry, social inquiry, literary inquiry, aesthetic inquiry, and other types of inquiry.” 

Ala Organization “If students are conducting all these kinds of inquiry throughout their day, it can be assumed that at any level, students learning through inquiry need ready access to information; waiting for a week until the class’s scheduled library period is inappropriate and counterproductive.” 

Finally, the leaders of the school community, and I met. We had an open and robust discussion, where I shared my thoughts, ideas, and plans. And, we arrived at a great solution to a Special Mixed Schedule (the space between fixed and flexible) for the school Library. It works well. 

Conclusion

“Emphasise the flexible scheduling elements that will give the students and teachers an avenue to help students grow. James, in the article in Knowledge Quest, asks us to embrace the space between Fixed and Flexible schedule. And then, keep pushing those boundaries and continue crusading.” 

Lastly, with the bright shine in my eyes, I can say: Now I am a campaigner of bringing this change because ‘We shouldn’t be frightened of change, we should embrace It!’ 

Ambika Kapur, Librarian.


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