Wearing many hats is an appropriate saying when you are referring to the role of a media specialist in a school. Depending on the day and depending on the time, a media specialist could be supporting the school in many ways with each one being significantly different than the others. Only when you carefully examine what they do, can you realize how they affect the school community. There are five different but interconnected roles that a media specialist fills in a school with each one affecting the school and community at large.
Traditionally seen as a teacher in a school, the media specialist’s role in advocating and supporting both reading skills and values has been a longstanding part of the library program. From little kindergartners sitting on the carpet listening to a picture book to a high school media specialist promoting poetry through “Poetry in your Pocket” day, media specialists have an opportunity to affect the way their students feel about literature and nonfiction. By being aware of national trends of popular books and student interests, they develop collections that fit their school and reflect the needs and backgrounds of their learners. Media specialists also explicitly teach students to become ethical users of information as well as how to become skillful researchers. While teaching has been a focus in the past, the developing trend is that media specialists will become closer partners with teachers and support more frequently what is immediately happening in the classroom.
Partnering with teachers or collaborating creates a school community where the school media specialist has the ability to develop the policies, practices, and curricula to guide student learning. In doing this, media specialists are able to help develop key critical thinking skills, technology and literacy skills, and core social skills. Communication with teachers, administrators, and students will help to support this now most important role of the media specialist. The use of research and information to solve the projects and questions developed by this partnership is also hugely important in making the collaboration successful.
Information and technology are crucial elements of the media specialist’s job. Being able to support the school’s resources, create engaging learning tasks, and connect the school community with helpful resources, information, and services around the clock is essential for the school to be successful. The school media specialist also needs to introduce and model new technologies and strategies for finding, assessing, and using information. However the media specialist must also be the spokesman for the ethical use of the found information whether it’s pictures, music, or a piece of writing. The idea of using information in an educational setting ethically can be a confusing task, and the media specialist will need to act as a leader helping both teachers and students act professionally in this matter.
Media specialists must also lead the way in regards to information literacy and technology skills. As these skills become more and more important in our digital fast paced world, the media specialist must be able to navigate what is most important for learners to develop. By becoming partners with outside organizations such as the American Association of School Librarians or their public library system, the media specialist can develop a successful school program and in turn successful students. Managing national and local partnerships along with what is currently happening in their own school media program can be a challenging task.
Effectively managing the school media program requires the school media specialist to be able to meet the various needs of their learning community. While building a successful program, media specialists need to effectively plan their program mission, manage the budget and media staff, and ensure that the resources they acquire are accessible and interesting to the students who will be using them. School media specialists also often serve on school committees, run the school website, oversee a morning news program, and coordinate the distribution of school equipment especially dealing with technology. Other policies such as what happens when a fire drill occurs or how the media center is set up are also carefully reviewed and developed by the media specialist.
These five different roles are interconnected and cannot be done without the support of the others, which can make the media specialist’s job difficult. Being able to balance out the needs of the media center and school community while continuing to learn and develop new technologies, formats, and polices can be challenging. However, the media specialists of Carroll County Public Schools strive daily to ensure success for both their students and the teachers in their building. We are committed to being the “hat rack” of our schools taking on the many different responsibilities that affect the school so positively in so many ways.