School Librarians and STEM in the Digital Age: Faculty Advance a New Program Integrating OER

A powerful shift is in progress where, increasingly, librarian expertise in inquiry, 21st learning skills, and information literacy is becoming critical to STEM learning and classrooms and to the development of cultures of inquiry that extend beyond the boundaries of their schools.

What we're seeing is the role of school librarians being transformed radically: from reference experts who answer questions and build collections to dynamic advocates and leaders in STEM education whose expertise and influence are sought after and transcend the boundaries of their schools.

That’s the aim of School Librarians Advancing STEM Learning, a pioneering three-year project training school librarians and STEM teachers to collaboratively build literacy-focused, STEM lessons for K-12. The goal is to support professional learning cohorts to elevate and expand the role of school librarians as leaders in building cultures of inquiry, STEM learning, and literacy.

Led by ISKME, the project is a partnership with Granite State College, the New Hampshire Department of Education, New Hampshire’s Institutes of Higher Education Network, and with endorsement and participation by American Library Association/American Association of School Librarians. Support is provided by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The project is working on two fronts: First, it’s supporting cohorts of school librarians and STEM teachers within seven New Hampshire school districts to work hand-in-hand in co-planning and co-creating lessons that put STEM inquiry and literacy at the center of the lesson. Through this process, ISKME and partners are aiming to forge more connections between school librarians and their colleagues, with respect to curriculum, other resource and technology needs, and to building a culture of inquiry, particularly in the STEM areas of study--science, technology, engineering and math, and, STEAM, when including the arts. Second, the project is providing processes and tools for faculty and advisors of Granite State College’s new Library Media Specialist certification program that will enable them to integrate open education practice as well as open educational resource (OER) creation and improvement into their course creation workflows.

In August, ISKME’s education lead, Megan Simmons, and librarian consultant, Letha Goger, met with the project’s fellows: eight library education experts drawn from Granite State faculty and its national advisory council. The fellows were introduced to open education principles, processes, and tools accessible through OER Commons, ISKME’s digital library of freely available, high-quality education resources developed over the past ten years. In addition to discovering the diversity of content in OER Commons, they became more familiar with Creative Commons licenses and other permissions that OER curriculum authors can apply to allow open redistribution and customization of their content.

Fellows then explored the tools and templates within the digital platform that will enable them to author course modules individually, or collaboratively. OER Commons contains the integrated authoring tool, Open Author, as well as curriculum design templates that demonstrate, step by step, how to create educational resources, such as lessons, class activities, and course modules; remix other open resources; and share the results.

Follow-up webinars will continue to support the fellows’ collaborative process over the next three months. The fellows are expected to develop at least one course module, and their work can become part of Granite State College’s Library Media Specialist certification program, a groundbreaking model to fully integrate the school librarian into a synergistic school leadership role.

Using OER to build courseware for this new certificate offers benefits to other new leadership programs that Granite State College is developing for school principals and school technology leads, as well as for library media specialists. Course modules that are authored using OER for one certification program can lend themselves to being easily adapted and customized to another complementary program, without having to start from scratch, and building knowledge sharing and the potential for continuous curriculum improvement into the process from the get-go.

As this work develops over time, ISKME anticipates the creation of new OER courseware for the LMS certification to become part of a broader effort to advance the multi-faceted role of the school librarian. Granite State is to be lauded for breaking ground on a new model for integrated, collaborative librarian training. More and more, we’ll expect to be seeing school librarians recognized for their innovative K-12 program development, community outreach, and school leadership.


About Institute of Library and Museum Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Their grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.

Image credit: ISKME, Licensed CC BY-SA

September 01, 2015