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SchoolLibraryNJ: Addressing the Information Equity Gap
Associate Teaching Professor Joyce Valenza worked with LIS students and alumni to design and launch the website SchoolLibraryNJ to help bridge the information equity gap.
Associate Teaching Professor Joyce Valenza worked with LIS students and alumni to design and launch the website SchoolLibraryNJ to help bridge the information equity gap.

Working with SC&I Library and Information Science Department students and alumni, Associate Teaching Professor Joyce Valenza recently launched SchoolLibraryNJ, a website that hosts a network of LibGuides created to provide resources for students in New Jersey elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, as well as information for parents, administrators, other educators, and librarians. According to Valenza, the main issue SchoolLibraryNJ hopes to address is information equity. 

“Access to digital resources for learning should be evenly distributed,” Valenza explained. “We want to make the case for the value of librarians and we students in schools without librarians deserve to have access to the material and guidance they need to become college- and career-ready, to engage in inquiry, or to explore their personal information needs and interests. For those schools, we hope SchoolLibraryNJ functions both as an equity bridge and a proof of concept.”

The New Jersey Association of School Librarians and the New Jersey State Library also contributed to the development of SchoolLibraryNJ. “Students, educators, administrators, and parents should have easy access to the quality eBooks, audiobooks, streaming multimedia, and databases to access journals, magazines, and newspapers purchased and licensed for their use,” she said. 

“Unfortunately, not all members of our education community are aware of the bounty of information resources available to enhance teaching and learning and to enrich literacy experiences.”

The site prominently features a professional space, School Library HQ. “During thepandemic, we’ve seen great value in the efforts of so many librarians whose online presence serves to bridge their school communities,” Valenza said. “And yet, not every school, not every teacher, and not every learner has a librarian.”

“For a variety of reasons including training, access to resources, and time, not every librarian is yet engaged in the perhaps daunting task of building a robust digital presence, even when it comes to making sense of and curating freely available resources,” she said. “Most importantly, not every kid has direct access to the tools they need to think, create, share and grow.

“These students can’t wait. Creating a digital library presence is more critical than ever before. Of course, this is best accomplished with local needs in mind. We want to support those efforts, but it’s not necessary that every librarian starts from scratch.  Librarians are encouraged to embed and link to our work, using proper attributions when they are noted. School Library HQ is intended to serve as a professional learning space as well as fodder to help grow school library websites in New Jersey and beyond,” Valenza explained. 

SchoolLibraryNJ, Valenza said, also works to inform the public of the many ways librarians are not only an asset but an “essential investment” for schools. 

“To further promote equity, our Administrators’ Guide offers important advice for school leaders on how to select qualified school librarian candidates and how best to nurture their librarian’s professional growth and leadership,” she said. 

“We hope that those schools without librarians will consider hiring these professionals because of their ability to increase and enhance student learning across and beyond grade levels and disciplines,” she said. “Having a qualified, certified librarian in your building, would augment and enrich any school’s literacy culture.” 

Valenza said the site is currently a “work in progress” and that the team is continuing to expand and refine this network of LibGuides. Valenza presented SchoolLibraryNJ at the New Jersey Association of School Librarians Spring Meeting on March 13th and an edWeb webinar on March 24th.

For those outside of New Jersey, SchoolLibraryNJ also provides information for other states about ways they can find resources and catalogs for their schools and public libraries. “We want to be librarians for everyone,” Valenza said. 

For more information on the Library and Information Science Department at SC&I, visit here

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