The Norwegian School Library Programme is a four-year (2009-2013) national programme which aims to strengthen school libraries as an educational tool. The goal is to make active use of the school libraries in reading education and development of information literacy. The University of Agder (UiA) implements the programme on assignment from the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training.
The programme encompasses several focus areas: competence enhancement through studies and training courses, practice- related school projects, and development of a digital collection of ideas and a learning resource concerning information literacy. When the programme is completed in August of this year, a total of 173 schools will have undertaken projects under the auspices of the programme. 105 municipalities and all counties are represented through projects.
UiA’s long-standing efforts in providing training to school librarians are the reason why the Norwegian School Library Programme was located here. This university has trained school librarians for more than three decades. In 2011, the study programme was expanded into a BA programme in school library studies, in which an introduction to library-related disciplines, literature for children and adolescents, information skills and literacy development are key topics.
The project schools in the Norwegian School Library Programme were initially funded for one year, but have the opportunity to apply for an additional year. The schools that have been granted funding for two years have developed their projects and act as resource schools to the programme.
Support to the primary and lower secondary schools
Only primary and lower secondary schools have been eligible for project support, since the programme has had no funding for the upper secondary schools. This priority was decided on the basis of a comprehensive study of Norwegian school libraries undertaken by the research institution Møreforsking in 2007. In their report, the researchers concluded that the primary and lower secondary schools had the least resources for school libraries.
The upper secondary schools more frequently had qualified personnel and tended to allocate more time to the school librarian’s position. These two types of schools were also different in terms of the funding devoted to premises and accumulation of collections.
The principal as project director
On the other hand, Møreforsking’s study revealed no clear correlation between the resources that were devoted to school libraries and the extent to which the school library was integrated into teaching practices. The report established that the key factor for active integration of the school library into teaching activities consisted in support from the school administration, inclusion of the library in planning frame-works, and a school culture that was open to inclusion of resources such as libraries.
The teachers’ attitudes were crucial. For the school library to be actively used, the teachers had to include it in the planning of their classes. This is the reason why the Norwegian School Library Programme insists that the principal should act as project director, and that the entire project group, consisting of the principal, the school librarian and the teachers involved, must attend a supplementary training course under the auspices of the programme.
Research on the students’ learning outcomes from the process of searching for information underscores the need to regard training in the use of libraries and information sources in the context of the teaching provided for each school subject.
The students acquire knowledge related to searching for and using texts more easily when they need to do so for purposes of school assignments. This means that the use of school library resources must be planned and evaluated in collaboration between the teacher and the school librarian. The projects devote much effort to establishing satisfactory forms of collaboration.
The supplementary training courses for the project group members are held in the spring and autumn, and topics include educational use of school libraries, development of information literacy in schools and reading of various types of printed and online texts. The courses also focus on cooperation between school libraries and public libraries. In addition to the course, all schools are provided with a mentor to accompany them through the project period.
The role of school owners
The programme assumes that embedding the activities in the school system is essential to achieve a more deliberate and systematic use of the library in teaching. Its use must be endorsed by the school administration and in the schools’ annual plans and syllabuses, and as project director, the principal has a general responsibility for ensuring that the experience gained from the development activities will benefit the school once the project is completed.
Embedding the activities with the school owners, the municipalities, is equally important. These school owners have determined their priorities and subsequently submitted project applications to the programme. This two-step application process has ensured that both the schools and the municipalities have needed to reflect on the roles and remit of the school libraries.
Moreover, this process has included an incentive to consider shared solutions within the municipality, between schools, as well as between the schools and the public libraries.
Two websites have been developed during the programme period. www. skolebibliotek.uia.no disseminates information about the development projects and programme activities on an ongoing basis. Here, articles are also posted on Norwegian and Nordic school library developments in general.
The website www.informasjonskompetanse.no contains ideas for teaching programmes on information literacy, examples of completed projects and web assignments. It also encompasses a progression pathway with relevant competence goals from the syllabus and proposals for learning objectives related to information skills. The collection of ideas and examples of completed projects will gradually be expanded.
The project and resource schools included in the Norwegian School Library Programme have developed models for the use of school libraries as a method in teaching. In their reports, the schools highlight two essential success factors: the principal’s role as project director and the participation by the entire project group in the supplementary training course provided by the programme. Knowledge dissemination is a key part of the project schools’ role, and experience from the programme will help build a foundation for the further development of Norwegian school libraries.