ERIC Identifier: ED308880
Publication Date: 1989-07-00
Author: Berkowitz, Robert E. - Eisenberg, Michael B.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.
The Curriculum Roles and Responsibilities of Library Media
Specialists. ERIC Digest.
Today's school library media specialists are promoted at professional
conferences and workshops and in the literature as active, involved information
professionals. But what does this actually mean? For example, the new national
library media program guidelines, INFORMATION POWER: GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOL
LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAMS (American Association of School Librarians and
Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1988), outlines three
major action roles for the library media specialist: teacher, information
specialist, and instructional consultant. The teaching role, relating to
instruction in library and information skills, has been widely discussed (e.g.,
Walker and Montgomery, 1983; Kuhlthau 1987) and is now familiar to library media
specialists, teachers, and administrators. It is the other two roles which,
while clearly related to curriculum and instruction in schools, lack widely
accepted definitions. While these "non-teaching" functions are recognized as
central to the purpose of school library media programs and also as involving
much more than the traditional tasks of collection building and maintenance,
there is considerable variability in the definitions and descriptions of
curriculum-related roles. By bringing together the various views on
curriculum-related roles found in studies, position papers, and reviews of the
literature, this digest hopes to foster an understanding of how library media
specialists can make a significant impact on curriculum and instruction.
DEFINING THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA SPECIALIST
Within the body
of literature on the school library media specialist as curriculum consultant,
two major issues become apparent: (1) school library media specialists have
wanted to be actively involved in curriculum since the 1950's (Craver, 1986);
and (2) many teachers and administrators still have a negative attitude toward
school library media specialists as colleagues in curriculum (Barron, 1987). The
literature regularly underscores the difference between library media
specialists' potential as curriculum consultants and the actual extent of their
involvement. While the reasons for the disparity between theory and practice are
unclear, there are some possible explanations: (1) the curriculum role is
undefined; (2) resources are limited; (3) incentives for greater involvement are
lacking; and (4) teachers and administrators do not frequently use school
library media specialists as curriculum consultants. In many situations, library
media specialists are considered supplementary participants, if they are
consulted at all, when curriculum concerns are addressed by teachers,
administrators, and boards of education.
One way to overcome some of these limitations is through developing and
publicizing a common understanding of the curriculum role of the library media
specialist. This digest contributes to that end by bringing together the various
definitions offered in journal articles and monographs. Some of these writings
form the basis for INFORMATION POWER. These new guidelines provide clear
direction for establishing curriculum roles and should have a major impact
within the field as well as throughout the broader educational environment.
Additionally, recent books by Turner (1986), Loertscher (1988), and Eisenberg
and Berkowitz (1988) present unique perspectives and should help in fulfilling
the promises of INFORMATION POWER.
The previous national guidelines,
MEDIA PROGRAMS: DISTRICT AND SCHOOL (American Association of School Librarians
and Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1975), as noted
by Roggenbuck (1985) state that the media specialist's involvement in curriculum
is in initiating and participating in curriculum development and implementation.
Barron (1987) approaches instructional involvement of library media specialists
from a traditional perspective, with curriculum consultation, the ultimate
service and responsibility, described as information consultation. In writing on
the instructional design role of library media specialists, Ely (Gerlach and
Ely, 1980; Chisholm and Ely, 1976, 1979) calls for involvement within the
teaching-learning process. The potential of library media specialists in a
curriculum design role is directly related to their confidence and effectiveness
in applying the skills associated with the use of instructional media for stated
objectives. Pretlow (1987) makes the point that many school library media
specialists began as classroom teachers and therefore are qualified as
curriculum colleagues. Eisenberg (1987) notes increased interest on the part of
school library media specialists in integrated curriculum planning. All of these
sources, and others, point to the disparity between theory and practice. In
addition, they validate the role of library media specialist as curriculum
As stated, INFORMATION POWER: GUIDELINES
FOR SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAMS addresses school library media specialists as
involved members of a curriculum team. "A fundamental responsibility of the
library media specialist is to provide the leadership and expertise necessary to
ensure that the library media program is an integral part of the instructional
program of the school" (AASL/AECT, 1988). INFORMATION POWER offers a vision that
encourages involvement at all levels, from definition and conception to
organization and management. With respect to the library media specialist as an
instructional consultant, INFORMATION POWER lists four responsibilities:
o participating in curriculum design and assessment,
o helping teachers develop instructional activities,
o providing expertise in materials and technology, and
o translating curricular needs into library media program goals
and objectives (p.35)
These responsibilities are expanded into actions that are necessary for
school library media specialists to successfully fulfill their
curriculum-related roles and responsibilities:
o Library media specialists participate in building, district,
department, and grade level curriculum development and assessment
projects on a regular basis.
o Library media specialists offer teachers assistance in using
information resources, acquiring and assessing instructional
materials, and incorporating information skills into the classroom
o Library media specialists use a systematic instructional
development process in working with teachers to improve
o Library media specialists provide leadership in the assessment,
evaluation, and implementation of information and instructional
Aimed at administrators, teachers, school boards, and community members as
well as library media professionals, INFORMATION POWER is useful for improving
the educational community's understanding of the library media center as a
resource and the library media specialist as an involved member in curriculum
development. For library media personnel, it suggests specific goals by which
the new roles might be developed and benchmarks for evaluating program success.
LOERTSCHER, TURNER, EISENBERG/BERKOWITZ
As noted above,
three recent works offer new insights into curriculum responsibilities and
suggestions for moving library media programs to "center stage" in the
educational process. While sharing a common understanding of the active
curriculum role of library media programs, each work presents unique ideas.
In TAXONOMIES OF THE SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAM (1988), Loertscher outlines
eleven levels of school library media specialists' involvement with curriculum
and instruction. This spectrum of roles is divided into three general
categories: solid warehousing services, direct services to teachers and
students, and resource-based teaching, the greatest professional involvement
occurring in the latter. At the bottom of Loertscher's scale, the library media
specialist has no involvement. At level eight, scheduled planning in the support
role, the library media specialist begins limited involvement with curriculum
planning. Finally, at Level 11, curriculum development, the library media
specialist is an integrally involved curriculum consultant.
Turner, in HELPING TEACHERS TEACH (1985), identifies three global
curriculum-related activities performed by library media specialists:
o promoting reading and viewing by children and young adults,
o providing library instruction and reference services, and
o helping teachers in the design, implementation and evaluation
Difficulty implementing these activities within library media programs thus
far is attributed, in great part, to the reluctance of library media specialists
to assume new roles. Faced with "a set of expectations and terminology which
[are] foreign and often intimidating," library media specialists are unwilling
to abandon their traditional roles and adopt new roles as instructional
consultants (p. 11). Turner recognizes the importance of library media
specialists' potential contribution in all three curricular activities. However,
he contends that their short-term impact will be least in the area of
instructional design, due to limited professional training for this task and the
scarcity of other resources required for change.
In CURRICULUM INITIATIVE: AN AGENDA AND STRATEGY FOR LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAMS
and its accompanying RESOURCE COMPANION, Eisenberg and Berkowitz (1988a, 1988b)
assert that library media specialists' roles are becoming redefined due to
technology, the "information explosion," a renewed emphasis on lifelong learning
skills, and an increasing acceptance of additional responsibilities by library
media specialists. They outline five emergent roles based on traditional
(1) collection management based on a unified media concept,
(2) promotion of literature and guidance in the use of media,
(3) teaching information skills through integration with classroom
(4) acting as a catalyst or agent of change through awareness of technology
and consultation on curriculum and instructional design, and
(5) assuming information management responsibilities beyond the walls of the
centralized library media center facility.
They further present and define a broad view of the curriculum role of the
library media specialist as an interrelationship among five areas of
o Resources Provision
o Reading Guidance and Literature Appreciation
o Information Service
o Curriculum Consultation Service
o Curriculum Development
Eisenberg and Berkowitz summarize the curriculum development role as one
which includes "the articulation of purpose, goals, objectives, clearly stated
learning outcomes, and sound research based approaches to achieving
(curriculum-related) goals" (1988a, p.97). This definition is as applicable to
any content area as it is to the school library media instructional program, and
it is equally acceptable to teachers and administrators.
Throughout the body of well-accepted literature in
the field of school library media, authors call for various levels of
involvement by library media specialists in curriculum and instruction and decry
the disparity between the profession's ability to be increasingly active and its
actual level of participation. Although many library media specialists remain
uninvolved in curriculum matters, their need to become intimately involved in
curriculum related decision-making and activities is apparent.
While explanations of various authors differ in wording and emphasis, there
is general agreement that library media specialists must be able to:
o provide necessary information and resources for curriculum
o consult on information use and related concerns in curriculum
and instruction, and
o work together with teachers to design, implement, and
evaluate curriculum and instruction.
INFORMATION POWER reasserts that library media specialists have the
responsibility to accept roles and responsibilities at the highest levels of
curriculum development. Given the trends in education and the rate at which
information is produced, school library media specialists find themselves at the
crux of change, finally in a position to narrow the gap between theory and
Aaron, Shirley L. "Teaming for Learning" SCHOOL MEDIA QUARTERLY (Spring 1976): 215-218.
American Association of School Librarians and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. INFORMATION POWER: GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAMS. Chicago: American Library Association, 1988.
American Association of School Librarians and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. MEDIA PROGRAMS: DISTRICT AND SCHOOL. Chicago: American Library Association, 1975.
Barron, Daniel D. "Communicating What SLM Specialists Do: The Evaluation Process." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL 33, no. 6 (March, 1987) 95-99.
Chisholm, Margaret E. and Ely, Donald P. MEDIA PERSONNEL IN EDUCATION. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976.
Chisholm, Margaret E. and Ely, Donald P. INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN AND THE LIBRARY MEDIA SPECIALIST. Chicago: American Library Association, 1979.
Craver, Kathleen W. "The Changing Instructional Role of the High School Library Media Specialist: 1950-84." SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA QUARTERLY 14, no. 4 (Summer 1986):183-191.
Eisenberg, Michael. "Changing Roles of the Media Specialist." ERIC Digest, Syracuse, New York: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources, 1987.
Eisenberg, Michael B. and Berkowitz, Robert E. CURRICULUM INITIATIVE: AN AGENDA AND STRATEGY FOR LIBRARY MEDIA
PROGRAMS, Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp., 1988a.
Eisenberg, Michael B. and Berkowitz, Robert E. RESOURCE COMPANION FOR CURRICULUM INITIATIVE: AN AGENDA AND STRATEGY
FOR LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAMS, Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp., 1988b.
Gerlach, Vernon and Ely, Donald. TEACHING AND MEDIA: A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH, 2ND ED. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980.
Kies, Cosette. PROJECTING A POSITIVE IMAGE THROUGH PUBLIC RELATIONS, Chicago: American Association of School Librarians/American Library Association, 1978.
Kuhlthau, Carol, INFORMATION SKILLS FOR AN INFORMATION SOCIETY: A REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH. ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources: Syracuse, New York, 1987.
Loertscher, David V. TAXONOMIES OF THE SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA PROGRAM, Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc. 1988.
Pretlow, Delores Z. " School Libraries: A Time for Change." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL 34, no. 2 (October 1987): 48.
Roggenbuck, Mary June. "Curriculum Involvement: choices and challenges for the school library media specialist." CATHOLIC LIBRARY WORLD 57, no. 3 (November/December, 1985): 125-132.
Salle, Ellen M. "Riding the Wave of the Future: Media Specialists Face a New Age." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, (March 1983): 126.
Turner, Philip. HELPING TEACHERS TEACH. Littleton, Co.: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1985.
Walker, Thomas and Montgomery, Paula. TEACHING MEDIA SKILLS, Littleton, Co.: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1983.