Is Your Library a Bully? Part 2: How Skills Instruction Can Kill Almost Anything

By Eddie~S (Bully Free Zone Uploaded by Doktory) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Eddie~S (Bully Free Zone Uploaded by Doktory) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Skills are a very necessary part of life. Just ask any reading teacher or band director. Both the reading teacher and band director connect those skills to other events; the performance. So what does this have to do with library skills? Library skills are often taught in isolation from any application beyond their own end.  We teach students how to use the card catalog (electronic or digital), how to decipher Dewey, how to note this and cite that. Historically, we have taught those skills prior to, not along with, their immediate application. And I believe that is poor practice. Is it bullying? It is when we put our perceived curriculum above that of the classroom.

I believe this type of skills instruction is poor practice because we often use it to justify our existence and professional practice. That also makes it bullying because we shove our way ahead of the curriculum, not cozy up beside it. It’s often been the only other thing students do when they come to the library to select a book.  I believe that skills instruction must be purposeful by being immersed in the curriculum that is being taught RIGHT NOW in the classroom. Yes, I realize that we all have state standards that prescribe competencies for our activity. That is precisely the point. Skills taught in isolation are taught for the sake of the skill and some motivating factor for the teacher, not the student.

I love Pinterest, and I glean scores of ideas for both home and school from it. But I often see and hear teachers and librarians say, “I saw this cool thing on Pinterest and I can’t wait to do it with my kids!” Enter the bully. Just because it is cool or innovative, or something else doesn’t make it appropriate. Yes, kids may learn from it, but is it about them or us. Is it the best thing to forge connections to the activity of the classroom? The same notion applies with the latest apps or Web tools. Timing, planning, and a solid connection to the current curriculum activities of the students make it bully free. This is one bully we can choose to eliminate.