Check out these construction photos of North Quad on the University of Michigan campus, where the School of Information will be moving this summer. New job, new digs … nice!
Archive for March, 2010
Yup, you saw that right. Forbes magazine ran an article on the kinds of skills that strong school librarians can — and must — bring to students.
Mark Moran of Finding Dulcinea (admittedly, a site that calls itself “Librarian of the Internet”) gives us in School Library Land some new perspectives that we can bring into our PR work:
In the libraries of old, the Dewey Decimal System got you started on research. But there is no card catalog 2.0. To use the Internet as a library you need new research skills: the ability to pick out reliable sources from an overwhelming heap of misinformation, to find relevant material amid an infinite array of options, to navigate the shifting ethics of creative commons and intellectual property rights and to present conclusions in a manner that engages modern audiences …
Me: I love this point. The Web is so much more complex than a card catalog ever was. After all, despite the flaws inherent in any classification system (Dewey and/or Library of Congress among them), once you master the system, the system works predictably for you. The Web’s dynamic content and changing formatting is anything but predictable.
The issue extends beyond homework. The Internet defines the way that young people learn, communicate, and create. A recent report by the Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative at Harvard’s Berkman Center stated that “[m]edia literacy skills overlap with safety skills.”
Me: Right on! It’s not just about finding information. It’s about teaching kids to proceed with caution. We send kids to Safety Town, why not Information Safety Town?
In addition to learning how to phrase a search query, students need to learn how to protect themselves online, and how to share their work through wikis, videos, and other interactive media. Without a dedicated guide, they end up, in the words of professor Henry Jenkins, as “feral children of the Internet raised by the Web 2.0 wolves.”
Me: (to self) Feral children raised by 2.0 wolves…. must file that phrase away.
While not every school librarian is yet adapting to the new reality of what is demanded of the role, thousands of other dedicated librarians I have met are turning their school media centers into “learning commons” where students seamlessly use state-of-the-art Web tools to consume and produce content…
Me: (to author) THANK YOU for pointing out the elephant in the room: that NOT EVERY SCHOOL LIBRARIAN has adapted. Thanks for being real and admitting that although some librarians haven’t grown into their 21st-century shoes yet, it doesn’t mean all librarians are no longer essential.
Some officials have started to catch on. Kentucky, in becoming the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards Initiative, recognized the importance of new technology and research expectations, and it cited school librarians as a key part of its future initiatives.
Me: Whew! That beats Oklahoma, which is currently discussing a bill to remove state regulations regarding the presence and number of school librarians in a school, as well as school library funding.
Before parents accept the wisdom of a school board to cut school librarians, they should ask: Will my child graduate with a 21st century resume, or a 19th century transcript? As the information landscape becomes ever more complex, why does a school district want to abandon its professional guides to it?
Me: As the child of a school administrator, I always bristle at the thought that district administrators want to cut school librarians. Do they want to flush the pipes of the aforementioned old-school library ladies who can’t act as shepherds in this valley of the shadow of the Web? I buy that argument, and I think the budget cuts have facilitated that. But we’re now at the point where administrators, in most part, do not want to cut librarians. They’re just running out of options.
The problem is much bigger than us. It’s Illinois potentially having 20,000 fewer educators, a fraction of whom might be librarians. (Thanks to Buffy for the link.) When you’ve got to cut 20,000, you’re an administrator whose ability to make choices is irrevocably gone.
What can you do? Know how your district’s budget is organized. Comb the budgets. Know how staffing works. And send the Forbes article on to your decisionmakers.
There’s no easy way to deal with the fact that school librarians are losing their footing in the race to stay employed. I’ve always posited that, to date, the great majority of school librarian cuts have been “choiceless choices,” e.g., districts that simply have no other personnel left to cut. Or, in some cases, an administrator removing an ineffective or outdated school librarian.
This week’s news in the state of Oklahoma, though, have sent a frisson of panic through me. To save money, legislators in Oklahoma have been considering relaxing some state mandates, including the requirement that schools have credentialed school librarians. Textbooks, early childhood, and class size requirements would also be exempted through 2012. The story has changed since November, when Oklahoma was actively pursuing school librarians (though, it must be said, sometimes at extensive per-librarian cost).
Shonda Brisco, an assistant professor and education materials librarian at Oklahoma State, has decided that it’s time to start tracking what’s happening with school librarians, harnessing the power of crowdsourcing. She’s created an open Google Map onto which anyone can add a pin describing their school or district’s reductions, eliminations, or other situations. It’s been scary over the past 12 hours to watch the map populate.
As far as I know, it’s the first attempt at graphically representing the loss of school librarians. And it’s another example of how Web 2.0 is transforming the way that librarians come together as activists. It’s a groundswell activity; a grassroots effort; not something created by an association. Shonda got the idea and almost immediately was able to get people acting.
Will the map change our employment outlook? Uncertain. Will it help us see our own individual power as leaders and information gatherers? Absolutely.
Updated 4:30pm – Here’s Joyce Valenza’s take.