Three Heads Are Better Than One: Librarians, Reading Specialists, and Classroom Teachers in the Learning Commons

Document Type


Publication Date



Gone are the days when the school librarian was the austere custodian of the books. Twenty-first-century standards progressively call for librarians to step in as instructional leaders, connecting educators and students to materials, methods, and technology across the curriculum. In an age of increased accountability through never-ending standardized testing, as well as the implementation of Common Core standards, classroom teachers need all the support they can get. To add fuel to the fire, numerous states have reduced their budgets, leaving reading specialists and literacy coaches short in terms of time and materials. Students who once received differentiated instruction or reading intervention are overlooked or underserved. Where can teachers and reading specialists receive support to help close the achievement gap? Librarians to the rescue! Currently, school librarians are discovering yet another dynamic leadership and role: coteacher with classroom teachers and reading specialists in the library learning commons. This article explores strategies for librarians to implement differentiated instruction in collaboration with classroom teachers and reading specialists using a coteaching model. Keywords: school librarians, literacy coaches, reading specialists ********** Librarians have long worn many hats that improve the learning of students in the school. These include instructional leader, technology specialist, promoter of reading initiatives, and guardian of books. Once again, librarians find themselves called upon to sport yet another: coteacher with classroom teachers and reading specialists. With a focus on preparing students to be college and career ready, the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) ask students to grapple with complex grade-level texts and write research papers. Even at the kindergarten level, students engage in rigorous learning that asks them to participate in shared research and writing projects (National Governor's Association, 2010). In this article we suggest that this rigorous learning requires teachers to join forces with others in the building to ensure student success. Thus the librarian, reading specialist, and classroom teacher form coteaching teams that address difficult concepts in such a way that the library becomes a learning commons (Loertscher, 2014). In this learning commons space, learners experience scaffolded support with print and differentiated instruction (DI) (Tomlinson, 1999) to address the achievement potential of students as they engage firsthand with the learning tasks set forth by the CCSS. In the learning commons, the library functions as a dynamic arena where librarians, reading specialists, and classroom teachers bring individual talents to the instructional process in a coteaching team. The idea of the learning commons still allows for print books to play a vital part in instruction; however, digital technologies also play a large role. Due to the rigor of the CCSS, this idea of a learning commons comes just in time. For the past ten to fifteen years, administrators have continuously called upon librarians to take a larger role in the literacy arena (Robins & Antrim, 2012). Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs (AASL, 2009a) contends that librarians are uniquely positioned to affect reading outcomes of students. In many school districts, administrators have asked librarians to provide collaborative support to classroom teachers to identify materials and methods to support struggling readers. While in other districts, administrators have asked librarians to lead response to intervention groups. While these efforts to suggest and provide materials hold potential, they fall short due to the fact that one individual has limited impact in comparison with what teams of librarians, reading specialists, and classroom teachers might achieve in a learning commons. LIBRARIANS' ROLE IN COLLABORATIVE TEAMS IN THE LEARNING COMMONS If the expectation for librarians extends beyond the support already provided to include coteaching while also attending to duties in the library, what should librarians do? Build upon what they already know! Librarians regularly assist with the analysis of assessment data to determine students' and teachers' needs, the integration of technology, the provision of resources, and the implementation of instruction in the physical library space. For decades, librarians' instruction consisted of isolated units of study. These discrete units stand in stark contrast to Turner's (1993) suggestions that librarians join forces with teachers to plan instruction that extends and enriches classroom curriculum. The American Association of School Librarians (2009) calls for librarians to collaborate with instructors to create relevant instruction that motivates students to be lifelong learners. While collaboration is not a new idea, what is new are the dynamics that make up the coteaching team and ways to facilitate the alliance. Librarians support coteaching teams by serving as a connective agent with a physical and virtual venue: the learning commons. During the coteaching team's planning phase, librarians supply a common virtual space within the learning commons that expedites planning. The virtual learning commons alleviates planning concerns of distant geographic spaces and incompatible release times. …

This document is currently not available here.