Social capital experiences of solo middle school librarians at a public school district in south Texas: A phenomenological study.
Lilly, Jessica Michelle
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Purpose The results of a pilot study (Lilly Hughes, 2013) I completed in 2013 sparked my interest in investigating the social capital activities of the solo middle school librarian. I investigated a sample of middle school solo librarians in a large Texas school district as they shared their participation and experiences with librarian-to-librarian social capital. First, the social capital activities in which solo middle school librarians and other librarians participate were identified. Second, the social capital activities in which solo middle school librarians participate with other solo librarians within their school district were identified. Third, the factors that influenced the solo middle school librarian’s ability to participate in social capital activities were examined. Method A qualitative approach was used to determine solo middle school librarians’ opinions about social capital experiences at a public school district in south Texas. A phenomenological approach was used because this study involves real-life, contemporary settings. Five solo middle school librarians were interviewed in this study. Recorded, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the solo middle school librarians at each school or home allowing the participants to describe their feelings about and perceptions of these experiences. Using the participants’ responses in the interviews, I interpreted the data to understand the phenomenon. Results A high degree of consensus across the 5 solo middle school librarians led to the themes of collegiality, professional organizations, principal support, librarians are teachers, and isolation. Implications for practice included librarian advocacy for principal support of additional support staff. Findings relevant for policy included the need for updated state library standards. The need for increased library staffing and opportunities for solo middle school librarian to experience social capital opportunities was confirmed. Not all participants in this study value all social capital experiences. The same was discovered true for each participant regarding the benefit of social capital experiences provided by professional organizations and social media on their professional practice. All participants agreed some form of self-imposed restrictions have been made regarding involvement in social capital experiences because each is alone on the job, which restricts their time and stamina to engage with other school librarians.