Straight from the core, or heart of the library media center is the constant back and forth movement of personal connections. The teacher-librarian is responsible for maintaining harmony of those connections, to where the primary mission is to reach every student, faculty, administrative and community member. Those young citizens from a household that is poverty-stricken are being denied the opportunity to forge connections from the library experience. Financial hardships in Philadelphia are causing libraries to cease to exist. Not only is physical space eliminated but the elimination of cognitive relationships is more detrimental to the development of students than any other educational program.
Lea Elementary School is a Pre K-8th grade building in West Philadelphia, a section of the city where 92 percent of its students qualify for a free lunch. The west side is known for its high rates of violent crime. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, West Philadelphia rated 7th worst out of all the neighborhoods in the entire city of incidents of violent crime so far in 2016 (51 cases). Positivity is sorely needed in this community. The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) has partnered over the last 50 years with schools in West Philly to build relationships through funding and educational guidance. Since the Lea library closed in 2012, the partnership called WePAC (West Philadelphia Children’s Alliance) has filled the library on a temporary basis with volunteers to provide the students in Pre K-3 with a library activity twice a week. Unfortunately, those in 4th-8th are not receiving instruction in library skills. Those in 7th and 8th are not gaining any information retrieval method skills (research). Lea Elementary-UPenn Partnership.
There are numerous studies attributing student success to a fully functioning library center. For example, Gavigan and Lance discovered that in South Carolina, there were convincing factors that translated into student success as a result of the proactive library program. A presence of a certified librarian and staff, increased expenditures, a substantial print collection of diverse material, a high level of librarian-faculty collaboration, wide access to computers and other instruments of technology, and full, flexible schedules with a revolving door of activity, all increase student success on state assessment exams, compared to those schools who lack in those areas.
Christopher Harris writes in School Library Journal that partnerships for the good of cultural competency must include literature and discussion forums on the subject of cultural competency. “Consider urban schools where teacher shortages are solved by using uncertified, untrained teachers” (Harris, 2014). Teachers who come into an unfamiliar territory of poverty are hit with a cultural shock and are unable to adapt. The librarian needs to step up and lead that assistance to aid in that teacher adapting to the surroundings.
What UPenn is providing is an opportunity for communal relationships. Students at UPenn are sharing the love of reading with those who have been denied access. Library professionals in schools MUST manufacture the connection. Use the community and reach out, in order to foster relationships. The link at the bottom is a short clip with Dr. Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza) from Rutgers University. She is the Director of the Masters of Information Science program. She was a K-12 librarian for 40 years. She instills on the importance of teacher-librarians building relationships as professionals, by harnessing in on taking literacy and technology, for objectives centered around meaningful learning experiences.
Gavigan, K., & Lance, K.C. (2016). SC study shows link between school librarians and higher test scores. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2016/03/literacy/sc-study-shows-link-between-school-librarians-and-higher-test-scores/#_
Harris, C. (2014). Diversify Your Worldview. School Library Journal, 60(2), 14