The long-time researcher is committed to evidence-based practice and research in the field of school librarianship.
Ross Todd, a longtime academic who had a transformative impact on school libraries, has died at age 70.
An associate professor of library and information science at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Todd was committed to using evidence-based practice in school librarianship and school library research that focused on three things—understand how children learn and gain new knowledge from information, evidence-based practices for school libraries, and using information for learning.
“He emphasized research-based knowledge,” said Marc Aronson, associate professor of public and professional practice at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information and a colleague of Todd’s since 2010. where there’s a lot of stuff on the -earth, practical, ‘That’s how we do it’ [learning], but that’s different from analyzing what worked and what didn’t work and why in different contexts. He insisted a lot on that. As administrators demanded more and more data to make the case for having a school librarian, having a certified school librarian, his work was exactly the kind of work that you could muster to argue that case.”
Aronson says Todd’s care and commitment to the department will be missed as much as his research and work.
“The phrase ‘duty of care’ was something he used sometimes,” Aronson said. “You really felt like it was organic for him.”
Todd was born in Australia, and his interests and research were a global effort. He would travel the world not only to lecture and educate others, but also to learn from them, Aronson said.
“His commitment and research was not just in school librarianship, but in international school librarianship.—tThis sense of learning the best from everywhere, of sharing research knowledge gleaned from everywhere,” he said. “This internationalism, which was so fundamental to him as a person, is something I deeply share. He was so encouraging.”
Todd appeared in April 2006 SLJ cover, and related article, “Ross to the rescue“, featured an interview where he talked about the groundbreaking 2004 study he conducted with Carol Kuhlthau, “Student Learning at Ohio School Libraries.” In this interview he said, “We can’t wait for someone outside of ourselves to save us, because no one comes to the rescue. It may sound pessimistic, and I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but that’s why I focused on this broader area of evidence-based practice. We have wonderful evidence emerging in all of these studies that shows that school library practice can improve student learning outcomes. I would argue very strongly that simply providing technology infrastructure, simply providing high quality information resources and reading enrichment materials, providing a certified school librarian, providing administrative support, does not generate not necessarily an improved practice.”
So what does it do? he was asked.
“I truly believe these are the transformational actions of the school librarian,” he said. “That certainly came out of the Ohio study – the action of the school librarian in terms of instructional intervention, that instructional role. You can provide all the information resources, but if the students don’t have the intellectual scaffolds with which to connect, interact with and use these resources, then it is as if they do not exist. It is a question of taking action and looking at my educational intervention. How can I develop in children the scaffolds intellectuals to interact with the information and really build my understanding and new knowledge of these curriculum standards?”
Todd also wrote for the magazine, notably in April 2008 ” The Evidence Manifesto for School Librarianswhich was a breakdown of 2007 SLJ Closing session of the Summit, led by Todd. Much of what is discussed about evidence-based practices remains relevant today, especially since school librarians are often asked to show their impact on students in measurable ways when districts consider budgets and the funding.