10 questions about books, libraries, librarians, and schools
October apparently was 'Library Month' for me. I was the keynote speaker for the Minnesota MEMO conference and did a breakout session for the Iowa Library Association (ILA) conference. I also brought Dr. Mike Eisenberg to Iowa for three days to talk with school administrators about technology and information literacy. As a result, I've been reflecting a lot lately on books, reading, and the future of libraries and librarians...
Reactions from librarians
I posed these questions in both my MEMO and ILA presentations, explained in more detail my thinking about each one, and gave participants time to talk with each other after each question. I even told them up front that they wouldn't like some of what I said but that I had nothing against librarians and was just asking questions that I thought the profession should be discussing. Reactions of the few librarians from whom I've heard have been interesting...
Librarian 1 (I received this one indirectly)
[Scott spoke] to the Iowa Library Assoc conference this past week and he really was quite negative about the future of libraries and librarians with the technology shifts.
Scott is speaking a great deal for our School Administrators of Iowa and also to principals/supts through the AEA's this year and I'm worried for the future of our profession in times of tight budgets with folks like Scott out speaking to leadership and not promoting the role that teacher librarians can play with technology AT ALL.
We had Mike Eisenberg here in Iowa this past week also speaking to administrators ... which I think is a good thing ... along with Scott McLeod ... which may NOT be a good thing. The topic was information literacy, but in speaking with those in attendance at these Iowa meetings, I heard that the role of teacher librarians was not at all highlighted, and in in fact, I heard there was a bit of librarian "bashing" by administrators in attendance. (Now this is just hear-say as I wasn't there to hear these presentations)
Now, I agree with you that teacher librarians need to be stepping up to the plate at this time and demonstrating the role that we can play with these 21st century tools, but am just wondering how we compete with loud, negative voices like Scott McLeod in Iowa? You know us polite Iowa librarians, we just kept quiet during Scott's session and did not argue with him!
I'm the librarian that said you scared the #### out of me! It's kind of settled in now and I'm reviewing my job duties and seeing what I can do to stay "relevant" and to be a viable information contributor. Thank you for the thought provoking presentation!
I want you to know that I have had a few of my professors writing me today about you. They said that after having a few days to think about what you said, they are REALLY happy that they heard you speak. And that you spoke at the ILA Convention to the librarians there. Librarians and teachers alike need to hear the message of change. I also sent them the link to your blog and guess what... think you have some new followers now too.
I had the opportunity to listen to you present at the ILA Conference yesterday. Your presentation was very unique compared to the speech you shared with the twelve laptop initiative schools earlier this month.... As a leader in [my] district and a huge supporter of the advocacy of information literacy skills, I feel that you underestimate the role of a good teacher librarian. I see the evolution of technology advancing and embrace what opportunities it provides myself, my fellow educators and our future citizens. You see, I was selected by my district to represent them at the 1-to-1 meeting and have been asked to attend [some of your future workshops] because of my leadership and my active role in the integration of technology. And, yes, I am their teacher librarian.
Being curious, I would like to know more about your work with teacher librarians. I'm afraid that you may have assumed the role of a teacher librarian as being one of 'holding back' the age of information. That is very far from the truth. Currently, we live in a world where both print and electronic information are accessible to all. My role is to support both realms and the patrons who use the material. While open access may soon be upon us, I know that I must help students and staff while this evolution is taking place. I know the importance of being visionary and open-minded while at the same time being grounded.
I would challenge you to collaborate with me and learn more about my role as a teacher librarian. I think the role of libraries and librarians is evolving. And, I feel that a good teacher librarian is the 'Ace' in an administrators back pocket! What other position in a school district revolves around information access, collaboration with students and staff, all while taking on a role as an educational leader in learning? Instead of demanding teacher librarians to 'get out of the way' if they are not welcoming technology, maybe we need to look at the role a librarian can play. Their opportunities to support the learning environment can become an asset. Some librarians just need to know in what direction to lead. I hope in the future you consider the value teacher librarians have in this ever-changing world. I know that I am thankful for the opportunities I provide the students at [my district], and I would like to think that they feel the same about me.
If the topic of the future of libraries and librarians interests you, I highly encourage you to read the recent article in School Library Journal, Things That Keep Us Up at Night, by Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson. It's caused quite a stir in the school librarian community...
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