Through the past decade, rapid adoption of K-12 classroom technologies has pushed librarians increasingly into an instructional technologist role.

As schools shift towards bring your own device (BYOD), 1:1 learning environments, and blended and online learning, school librarians must serve as collaborative instructional partners, technology scouts, and digital curators.

Brenda Boyer, PhD, received her PhD in Instructional Design from Capella University in 2015, and is an Information and Technology Resources Department leader and the high school librarian for Kutztown School District in Pennsylvania. Here, she talks about the importance of continuing education as librarians move into expanded roles in the digital age.

 Q. Tell us about your dual role with the school district.

A. I provide direct instruction to students and professional development to the staff. I train teachers on information fluency and research (e.g. using digital resources, creating digital texts sets, using social media curation tools), and I help design courses in Moodle, the school’s LMS (learning management system).

Q. How has the digital shift impacted the role of school librarians and libraries?

A. The digital shift is transforming how students learn, how teachers teach, and how we do business as school librarians. Information now comes in a variety of packages (print, online, mobile), so librarians have a responsibility to help students learn how to manage this deluge of information.

School libraries are now both physical and virtual “learning commons” where students can not only access a wide variety of resources and digital tools for class assignments, research, and personal interests, but also interact and collaborate with teachers, classmates, and the librarian.

Q. How has the role of K-12 librarians changed over time, and what are some of the new areas of focus?

A. K-12 librarians are in a greatly expanded role today. Librarians are collaborative instructional partners with teachers, tech scouts for finding new tools and techniques, and often are now providers of professional development for their colleagues. This progression is a very natural one, as many librarians, like myself, have always been at the forefront of technological and educational change in their schools and collaborating with teachers for tech integration and instructional design before this was an actual title.

For some school librarians, these changes, are relatively new. This gap creates a real need for professional learning for librarians about the intersection of technology and personalized learning. As more students are encountering blended and fully online environments, librarians need a variety of skills in order to meet students’ needs in the new digital landscape.

Chief among these skills is the ability to create digital library spaces, which are online counterparts to the school’s physical library. These spaces go way beyond a static library web page, offering both free and subscription resources, media tutorials, and more.

Today’s K-12 librarians must also be able to design relevant online information fluency instruction. This refers to the training necessary for students to access, evaluate, and ethically use information. This instruction includes everything from how to use an online library catalog, evaluating resources, and using databases, to how to create presentations, videos, and other products of student research.

 Q. What skills and training are needed for librarians to fill this new role?

A. Librarians shifting into new roles will be expected to:

  • Develop deep tech savvy, such as knowing the tools and apps available in your school and those that are freely available online, as well as keeping up with new emerging tools.
  • Understand online learning and how it differs from traditional brick-and-mortar learning (something that is still greatly lacking in teacher training in general).
  • Develop skills in creating digital library spaces; and
  • Apply library services and instruction to meet the needs of student populations that may be in physical, blended, or completely online environments.

Q. How did Capella’s PhD in Instructional Design help prepare you for the digital shift?

A. My PhD sharpened my existing online instructional skills, broadened my use of online learning tools and resources, and helped me understand the theories behind instructional decisions. This growth enabled me to create digital environments that suit my students’ workflow and design relevant and engaging instruction, making me a stronger collaborative partner to the teachers I serve.

Teachers are busy; knowing that the librarian is a highly skilled partner for planning, designing, delivering and assessing research instruction really forwards a school’s programs.

Q. With all the new opportunities presented with the digital shift, what type of continuing education is going to be beneficial for K-12 librarians and why?

A. K-12 librarians need professional development in educational technology related to online and blended learning (including how to personalize learning, increase rigor and engagement through the use of tech tools), as well as training in how to help their colleagues with methods and tools for digital curation of content, use and organization of OER (Open Education Resources), and how to collaborate within instructional teams to achieve rigor and engagement.

I also highly recommend developing strong professional learning networks (PLNs) to share ideas and tap the expertise of colleagues around the globe. For example, school librarians can participate in Twitter’s #tlchat (teacher-librarian chat) to offer suggestions, ask questions, and provide resources to one another on library-related topics. Twitter is my main PLN tool along with traditional email listservs, and, of course, professional journals.


Capella offers master’s and certificate programs in education innovation and technology, including:

  • Competency-Based Instruction
  • Instruction in a 1:1 Environment
  • Personalized Learning
  • Professional Growth and Development