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Librarians often 'unsung heroes' at Texas schools

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Roz Brown

(Texas News Service) Starting in the early years and continuing through 12th grade, it's often the school librarian students know best - seeking them out for help with everything from science fair projects to college applications. The digital revolution not only altered the librarian's role, but also the entire library system. 

Becky Calzada, president-elect of the American Association of School Librarians and the library coordinator for the Leander Independent School District, said librarians work in the "schools' largest classroom" - and much of what they do is never seen by the public. 

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"We aren't just about kids checking out books. We provide spaces for kids to work, we provide resources such as technology - our school district recently had a bond package pass and so, every school library has a 3D printer that a student can have access to," she said. 

Calzada believes creating access to technology for kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds levels the playing field as they move toward graduation and seek employment, and added beyond books, what are now school library "media centers" feature computer resources that enable children to engage with a wide variety of information. 

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Most school librarians have masters' degrees in library and information science, allowing them to help students become critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers and researchers. They also collaborate and co-teach with classroom teachers and keep up with new technology which, Calzada explained, is no easy feat.

"We are living in just a massive information age, and searching - it can be a very overwhelming experience - it's like finding the needle in the haystack, right? That person more than likely knows exactly where to go, because that's part of their training," she said. 

From information literacy training to building infrastructure and outreach, she says librarians can be the "unsung heroes" in a school system. At the same time, one study shows there were 20% fewer school librarians in the school year 2019-2020 than ten years earlier.