Challenges of K-12 collaborations.

Mia Morgan, Ed.D., M.L.S., updated 25 Feb 2018

The question, “how can school librarians collaborate or co-teach with classroom and content area teachers” is an important question.  Unfortunately, the current culture in many K-6 schools with scheduled library classes is that ‘library time’ equals teacher prep time.  Teachers use library time to get their own work done or for grade level meetings; these prep periods are essential for classroom teachers.


Librarians do not typically have common planning time with classroom teachers. How, then, can classroom teacher and library teacher co-teach if the classroom teacher is not present and they do not share common planning time?  Library teachers need to develop creative solutions to enable collaborations that do not require side-by-side teaching. For example, librarians can take an active roll in planning lessons that move between the classroom and library by reaching out to teachers with ideas. Librarians might also shelve some of their library maintenance responsibilities and use that time to visit the classroom and help out with assignments outside of scheduled library classes.
I regularly speak with school librarians about their work environment in the courses I teach as part of the LBS program at SSU. Most of the school librarians are eager and willing to teach media literacy and 21st century skills, but their schedules, school climate, or their contracts prevent that from happening.  One school librarian points out her contract had language that specifically forbade her from teaching.  Other school librarians are allowed to teach but their schedules limit meaningful teaching opportunities.  For example, some school librarians either see every class in the school once per week for a library session, which can last anywhere from 30 – 55 minutes, while others do not have any scheduled library classes and rely upon teachers to bring their students to the library for instruction.  It is difficult to conduct a meaningful lesson in 30 minutes particularly if that 30 minutes also includes book check out and return. Seeing students once per week further limits opportunities for meaningful lessons, because, a lesson ends up spanning multiple weeks which makes it difficult to maintain interest in the lesson. Further, when librarians do not even have 5 minutes between classes, it makes it difficult to set up a meaningful lesson.
Librarians who do not have regularly scheduled library time with their students face challenges as well.  Librarians face challenges such as how to get the teachers to bring their students to the library for information and media literacy instruction.  Research has shown that the most meaningful library instruction occurs when the school librarian and classroom teacher collaborate, when they work together to design and present a lesson to students that draws on the classroom teachers’ subject matter expertise and the school librarians’ media and technology expertise (Latham, Grosse, & Witte, 2013).  An ongoing challenge for school librarians revolves around getting support from the teachers and school administration for these collaborative teaching arrangements.
Latham, Don, Gross, Melissa, and Witte, Shelbie. (2013) “Preparing Teachers and
Librarians to Collaborate to Teach 21st Century Skills: Views of LIS and
Education Faculty.” School Library Research 16 (2013): n. pag. Web. 1 Nov