Exploring the role of school librarians in Irish DEIS and fee-paying schools

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O'Dea, Ryan
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MSc Information and Library Management
Dublin Business School
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School libraries provide students with information and resources that complement the curriculum being delivered by teachers while positively impacting students’ schooling experience. School librarians are trained to equip students with the skills required to function in a society with a perpetual generation of information and assist students in successfully functioning in a knowledge-based economy. School librarians in Ireland are overlooked and undervalued. The potential value school librarians could bring to Irish students’ education is unacknowledged at a national level and can also go unrecognised within the very institutions that house them. This dissertation sets out to explore the role of the school librarian, focusing on DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) schools and fee-paying schools in Ireland. These schools are primarily the only second level institutions that house a school library and qualified school librarian. The research for this study will be carried out in the form of semi-structured interviews with seven qualified school librarians; three from DEIS schools and four from fee-paying schools. The findings will be analysed in the context of a literature review which focuses on the school librarians from other English-speaking countries. The findings from the two cohorts of school librarians participating in this study will also be compared and contrasted with each other. The findings illustrate the varied role of school librarians, particularly within fee-paying schools. School librarians from DEIS schools are far more prescribed in their role, whereas the fee-paying school librarians lack the same direction and focus within their institutions. The findings also reveal the poor information seeking behaviour found in Irish second level students and the difficulties school librarians experience in combating this gap in skills. It is evident that school librarians provide significant value to their institutions, however often experience difficultly through misunderstanding of their role or a lack of acknowledgement from the Department of Education. Despite these obstacles, the school librarians that participated in this study prove themselves to be resilient, proactive and effective. Author keywords: School librarian, second level education, information literacy