The role of high school librarians as sexual health information providers : perceptions from two social systems
Richey, Jennifer Elaine Moore
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Educating adolescents about sexual health in schools has been a controversial issue for the past 40-plus years. Multiple studies conducted by academic scholars, government agencies, and private organizations have concluded that adolescents receiving sexual education in schools typically make healthier decisions than adolescents not receiving a formal sexual health education, and adolescents participating in comprehensive programs make healthier choices than adolescents participating in abstinence programs. Texas school districts are not required to teach sexual education, but if they choose to do so, adolescents receive abstinence education. Texas adolescents also consistently report making more unhealthy sexual decisions than adolescents in other states. According to the social constructivist epistemology, learning occurs through social interactions with people, symbols, and tools. Interactions with various people, institutions, and information formats construct adolescents’ knowledge about sexual health. High school librarians who teach information literacy skills, who provide sexual health information resources in their collections, and who promote intellectual freedom improve adolescents’ knowledge about sexual health. The more informed adolescents are, the more likely they are to practice healthier sexual behaviors. Myriad factors encourage and discourage high school librarians from playing the role of sexual health information provider. This study explores the role high school librarians play as sexual health information providers within the framework of Role Theory. According to Role Theory, individuals exhibit predictable behaviors within a specific context based on socially constructed expectations. Multiple factors, both internal and external, may inhibit individuals from playing roles. District level library coordinators and high school principals share their perspectives about high school librarians playing this role and the factors influencing librarians’ willingness to do so. Data was collected through three rounds using the Delphi technique. Library coordinators and principals disagree about the role librarians play. Together participants identified fifteen motivators and five barriers to information provision.