The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has approved a Master of Education degree program in school librarianship at Longwood University, the first such program at a public institution in Virginia.
The new degree has its roots in Longwood’s graduate-level School Library Media Program, currently a concentration under the Master of Science in education. The stand-alone M.Ed. will be offered for the first time this fall as a result of SCHEV’s vote of approval on March 18.
"This is great news for Longwood," said Dr. Audrey Church, associate professor and coordinator of the School Library Media Program, which began at the graduate level in 1989 and is one of two nationally recognized programs in Virginia that prepare students to be PreK-12 school librarians.
Most classes in the School Library Media Program are taught off campus in partnerships with school divisions that have a need for school librarians. Longwood currently is working with the Chesterfield, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Hanover, Spotsylvania and Williamsburg/James City County school divisions. A total of 19 school divisions have partnered with Longwood since the program began.
The majority of students are full-time teachers who attend classes part time. Sixty-seven students are currently enrolled, 23 of whom are seeking an endorsement rather than a master’s degree. While many states require a master’s degree, an endorsement is the minimum requirement to work as a school librarian in Virginia.
"The job market for school librarians is huge," said Church. "We can’t turn them out fast enough to keep up with the retirements. A division-level library supervisor asked us, ‘Can’t you teach faster?’ We said, ‘We’re teaching as fast as we can.’ We don’t go looking for students; they come looking for us. Our good reputation precedes us."
Longwood’s School Library Media Program has been nationally recognized by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (formerly the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) and the American Association of School Librarians since 1991.
"Graduates of the program are prepared to work as 21st century school librarians who help students become media-literate, digitally literate, technologically literate and information-literate," said Church, a 1993 graduate of the program.
Church, a former president of the Virginia Educational Media Association and current editor of its quarterly newsletter, the VOICE, worked as a school librarian in Lunenburg County for 20 years before joining the Longwood faculty in 2000. The other faculty in the School Library Media Program are Frances Reeve, associate professor, and Dr. Karla Collins, assistant professor.
The M.Ed. in school librarianship will be the fourth master’s degree offered by Longwood, which, in addition to the M.S., also awards a Master of Arts and a Master of Business Administration. The M.Ed. in school librarianship will reflect minor curriculum revisions and updates from the School Library Media Program.