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Social-Emotional Learning in the Library

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

by Sarah Sansbury

Responsibilities of the school library include teaching students how to evaluate and access information. Its programming includes teaching digital literacy and information literacy. What if SEL was the new literacy taught in the school library? The SLMS would help teach its patrons how to read and evaluate one’s own emotions as well as other’s emotions and then how to appropriately use that information in a healthy, positive way.

The American Association of School Librarians 2018 Standards Framework for Learners includes helping our students “exhibit empathy” and to “demonstrate empathy” (p. 35). We, school librarians, provide the mirrors and windows via our reading collection that empowers students to self-reflect and grow. Our collection development, what books we obtain and promote, can help students better understand themselves and feelings as well as the feelings of others. Quoted in the School Library Journal, Lindsay Wyczalkowski, manager of district-wide implementation of a SEL program in Atlanta Public Schools, speaks of the power of books: “We’ve been using literature for thousands of years to really talk about values and belief and culture. We’re going to support kids’ academic needs and lift them up, but we’re also going to make sure we’re supporting their social and emotional needs” (Himmelstein, 2019, pp. 28, 33).

Not surprisingly, researcher Howard (2010) found a relationship between school culture and effective school library programs. School libraries can be the heart of the school--its classroom includes ALL the students. Its programming affects all the teachers. Its positive effects can even reach students’ families. Because the library is uniquely positioned this way, it can highly influence school culture as a whole. This is important because SEL is most successful when diffused in the school community and adopted by the entire school community.


American Library Association, A. A. A. of S. L. (AASL). (2018). National school library

standards for learners, school librarians, and school libraries. American Association of

School Librarians.

Himmelstein, D. (2019). Teaching with heart. (cover story). School Library Journal, 65(3),


Howard, J. K. (2010). The relationship between school culture and the school library

program: Four case studies. School Library Media Research, 13.

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