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Focused curation - an indispensable role for the school librarian

As a school librarian in the 1980s, I was sometimes asked to pull books, locate magazine articles, and find filmstrips that could be used by students to support independent research on a curricular topic. Since "plate tectonics" was already covered by the seventh grade science textbook, these resources were considered supplementary. As was my position as a librarian.

With the emergence of learning management systems (LMS) like Moodle and Schoology replacing textbooks as the primary means of providing informational materials to students, the librarian's role as "focused curator" presents a very real opportunity to become indispensable. While the modern school librarian has happily adopted the role of "digital curator" of print and digital resources organized as pathfinders, webpages, GoogleDocs, or Pinterest, the learning management system can provide genuine curricular focus to digital resource curation.


While learning management systems provide interactive tools (discussion forums), formative and summative assessment tools (online quizzes), and organizational helps (calendars, homework drop boxes), their primary use in many classrooms is providing clear and easy access to reading and viewing materials that support learning objectives tied to state standards. There are several reasons why the LMS used in this way becomes a more powerful instructional tool than the textbook alone:

  • Reading materials on a single topic but on different reading levels can be provided
  • Informational materials in a variety of formats, including video, can be provided
  • Links to powerful interactive websites and applications can be provided

This ability to correlated materials to student abilities and learning preferences as well as providing links to materials with differing points of view on topics (overcoming the built in blandness and irrelevance of the mass-produced textbook) simply engages more students, especially those who may not fit the definition of the "average" student.

Yet it is a huge challenge for classroom teachers to replace the textbook with LMS courses. Along with often learning the operation of the devices students use to access the LMS, the functions and features of the LMS itself, re-organizing course content by state standards, and writing learner outcomes, the location, creation, and evaluation of digital material can be both frustrating and time-consuming. Teachers will require assistance in populating units of instruction with high quality intructional materials.

Librarians, do you see an indispensable role for yourself as your school rolls out its LMS?

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Reader Comments (3)

Wow! What serendipity! My class will have a Skype session on this very topic tonight which will begin several weeks of in-depth discussion about the process and value of the school librarian as a curator. One thing I would add to your comments is that I see this another avenue where the librarian can act as leader in the building.

August 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFloyd Pentlin

What it also does is bring in another perspective besides just the teachers. Sometimes teachers take the attitude that they can find sources for their courses but reaching out to the SLMS can mean that different sources are found rather than just he ones the teacher normally uses. This is a win/win for everyone.. Always learn so much from you, thanks for your post.

August 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDebra Gottsleben

Hi Floyd,

Glad to hear you are still teaching! Happy to know this post was of value. And yes, the librarian can and should take the lead in all new initiatives!


Hi Debra,

I think most librarians genuinely desire to be a vital part of the educational process by helping teachers do the best job they can. This seems like a natural to me since I librarians ARE the resources gurus with, I hope, expertise in location, evaluation and selection of materials.

Appreciate the comment,


August 26, 2015 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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