Information literacy begins in your school library 

By Lisa Manganello 

As the New Jersey Department of Education rolls out the information literacy standards that Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law last January, teachers should be forgiven if they find themselves a bit overwhelmed. Each school year, teachers face new standards, building and district initiatives and changing resources, not to mention an increasing number of tech tools.  

Wouldn’t it be great to have a partner to work with? Someone who is a natural helper? Someone who curates, reviews, and understands the latest academic resources? Someone who thrives when working together with their colleagues to enhance student learning opportunities, to build strong readers and researchers and to support the hard work happening inside our classrooms? Enter your school librarian! 

By partnering with their school librarians, educators set their students up for success. Front row (l-r)- Social studies teacher Marisa Carlisi and science teacher Courtney Kestner. Back row – Health and physical education teacher Ray Ostrowski, English teacher Collin Rossi, and school librarians Lisa Manganello and Kate Hanusosky. 

Supporting teachers 

In 2007, while earning my master’s in information and library science at Rutgers University, I learned that the best way to integrate information literacy into high school classrooms is by finding ways to support the great work that teachers are already doing. As a new school librarian, I looked for opportunities to get to know my staff and understand their needs. I had to find a way to fit into my school community. To do this, I listened—all the time. I attended every meeting I could, even when a well-meaning administrator told me that I didn’t need to be there. I was there, and I was listening. This allowed me to get a sense of what was really important to each department and to start looking for ways that the school librarian could help.  

After a department meeting in 2013, social studies teacher Nicole Sanyigo, who is now an administrator, shared that she was struggling to get her students to cite their sources consistently. She added that copying from the internet, often without considering the quality of the source, was a huge problem for her student researchers.  

After listening to Sanyigo’s concerns, I examined the social studies curriculum and the research project outline. I then created an information literacy lesson designed to support the student research skills that she was concerned about. The lesson was a success and other teachers in the social studies department reached out to learn how to bring their classes in for an information literacy lesson.  

“After collaborating on multiple lessons on research skills, reliable sources and writing techniques, students performed better on their research papers,” Sanyigo explains. “They also were able to work more independently and seek the help they needed from the library on their own. Students came to see Mrs. Manganello not just as the ‘librarian’ but also a teacher who was there to support them in her classroom, the library.” 

Ten years later, that initial lesson is now part of the ninth grade curriculum and school librarians teach it to every American Government class each fall. Marisa Carlisi teaches both honors and in-class support sections of American Government and has seen a positive change in her students’ work since they have started visiting the library.  

“Students are definitely able to find better sources and they are more comfortable with citing sources,” Carlisi notes.  

Another benefit of working with the school librarian is found in source selection and content curation. 

“In social studies, we teach things that can be controversial,” Carlisi says. “If students are just diving into the internet they might get sources that we would not necessarily want them to use, instead of moderate representations that allow the students to draw their own conclusions. Our school librarians create a curated collection of sources and share how to approach the research process. Our teachers work with the school librarians to improve student learning.” 

Support for all content areas 

Collaboration does not end with social studies. School librarians are ready to support all content areas. Courtney Kestner teaches a biotechnology elective and has found working with the school librarians to be beneficial to her students. 

“Information literacy, especially in the sciences, is extremely valuable,” Kestner shares. “As a new teacher, I had just come from my undergrad, and I was used to writing papers where we needed 30 sources from 30 scientific journal articles, but when I asked my students to go find a scientific journal article, published by a scientist over the last year to support their claims they were confused by what I meant.”  

To help, fellow librarian Kate Hanusosky and I developed a lesson on how to find and read a scientific article. In addition to having print copies of journal articles available for students to examine, we model how to mine a popular science topic for keywords that will allow a researcher to find the connected article in a database. Once the students have located a journal article of interest, we demonstrate how to break the article into pieces to make it more approachable for the high school reader.  

“This is an elective course for students who are interested in pursuing a career in science,” Kestner notes. “This information literacy lesson allows students to understand scientific research before they get to their first semester in college where the professor says, ‘Go write a scientific paper and include five sources in your introduction.’ Information literacy is extremely valuable—especially in the sciences to gauge the credibility of your sources.” 

Lifelong skills in health literacy 

The value of information literacy is not confined to the college classroom.  

“Health literacy is a skill,” according to health and physical education teacher Ray Ostrowski. “There is tons of information out there, and it is very easy for students to take the first Google result that they find, or what someone posted on TikTok or Instagram, as a fact.” 

Ostrowski notes that health issues will be important for the rest of students’ lives.  

 “In health education we talk about moving to a skills-based curriculum, and one of those skills is how our students locate information that they can trust to make informed choices,” Ostrowski says.  

To help students to evaluate the sources that they select for their health projects, we librarians created an online health library of credible articles and websites connected to Ostrowski’s curriculum. Each marking period, the class visits the library for a mini lesson on source selection specifically aimed at health research. The partnership has made an important difference.  

“I see a vast improvement over when I tried to do research in the past,” Ostrowski says. “The students can ask questions about specific databases for research elements because the school librarian is there to act as a guide as needed.” 

Skills for collecting high-quality sources 

As English teacher, Collin Rossi explains, students benefit from information literacy lessons taught by their school librarians.  

“Our students are arguably more tech-savvy than we are, but they are also far more naive,” Rossi says. “They are far more comfortable using technology intuitively, but they don’t have the mental stamina to read past the first item in search results. They want to do what is easiest and fastest without taking the time to make sure what they are doing is accurate and thorough.”  

To combat this tendency, we developed a lesson on source selection for the 12th grade English synthesis essay. Students arrive with a self-selected topic of interest, but the school librarian teaches them how to break this topic into keywords and use those terms to collect a high-quality list of resources to support the paper they plan to write.  

All teachers can find a natural partner in their school librarian.  

“I know that when I need help with framing an issue or concept, I can knock on the library doors and receive help,” Rossi says. “I know that if I need help teaching a complicated issue, I can ask my school librarians what resources they have collected for the topic. When I have been working on curricula, I can stop by and chat with my school librarians about my ideas and walk away with a dozen new books and ideas I hadn’t considered or even known about. Whatever I am working on, I can find the most effective resources in my library.”  

A plaque with the quote “Teamwork makes the dream work” hangs in the library office because it truly fits the role of the school librarian. School librarians are helpers who thrive when collaborating with their colleagues to enhance student learning.  

As Kate Hanusosky, my partner librarian at South Brunswick High School, notes, “Whether it’s teaching information literacy, collaborating on a lesson or unit, sharing a book talk or exchanging a quick email for help, school librarians are the best go-to resource for the whole building. We are built-in co-teachers and we love working with all content areas to help support classroom instruction and student learning, no matter the task.”  

Information literacy is critical to our graduates, who will use these skills throughout their lives. By partnering with their school librarians, educators set their students up for success in the classroom and beyond.  

Visit your school library today to find out more!

Lisa Manganello is a media specialist at South Brunswick High School and an active member of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL). She can be reach at For more information about NJASL, visit