Library Media Specialists Roles

One Bad Apple Does Spoil the Whole Bunch

I had the opportunity to talk to a high school teacher yesterday at my state tech conference.  After sometime we reached the subject of school libraries and librarians.  She told me that her school librarian was “good, but didn’t really like kids.”  I told her that I thought those two ideas were incompatible.  What did she mean when she said that her librarian was good?

Well, of course, she meant good in a stereotypical sense.  Her librarian kept the library neat and organized. These are not bad qualities, I told her, but they are the least important aspect of our jobs.

I welcomed the opportunity to explain to her the five ranked roles of today’s library media specialist: leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher and program administrator.  I suggested that if she ever wanted to see a real high school library in action, she should arrange to visit a particular library in a neighboring county, and I briefly explained that librarian’s philosophy.  She was very impressed with what I had to say.

And that’s the problem.  Library media programs such as the exemplary one I described should be closer to the norm than the one in this teacher’s school. Unfortunately, teachers and administrators only expect what they have experienced.  If all they have experienced is the archivist school library prototype, they have no reason to demand more.

Yes, I just hung an unknown colleague out to dry.  And I am not the least bit sorry.This bad apple does endanger the rest of us. Her lack of initiative to provide high quality library services and her clientele’s lack of expectations makes us vulnerable to job cuts. This is unacceptable.

As a profession we need to demand more of each other.  Nurturing only works with those who wish to be nurtured.  When that fails, it is time to call out those who are bringing us down. Further, if we cannot convince the librarian to step up her game, we need to inform her colleagues as to what they should expect. Carl Harvey II, a former AASL president, developed a list of attributes that teachers should expect of their school library media specialist. This is available in the February 2005 edition of School Library Media Connection.  The publisher grants permission for copying and distributing the document in the school in which you work. Use this to let your teachers know how valuable you are and can be. Then share the link in your newsletters and with your school and district administrators.

Harvey has also written a similar list for principals, but probably the most accessible information for principals is written by Doug Johnson.  Johnson’s work includes a  13 Point Library Media Program Checklist for School Principals that is a bit dated but still useful. Share this with your principal. Share it with your district office folks.

As a profession we have an obligation to educate our principals, teachers and parents as to what our roles in our children’s education actually should be.  And we need to call out both the librarian who falls short and the administrators who allow that to happen.

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Education

Have Computers in Education Become Part of The Problem?

I had made up my mind that I was going to write today.  I had no idea what I was going to write about, until I happened upon a tweet/retweet from Doug Johnson and Donna Baumbach, two library influencers whom I deeply respect.  Their tweet led me to a post by Audrey Watters, who asks if it is time to give up on the idea of computers in the classroom.

Watters offers the premise that computers once were renegade, that they could democratize education.  Now, she argues, they are part of establishment, a means of control and surveillance.  They are part of an ever-growing industry that aims to make the white man big bucks.

I can hardly disagree.  Each year we sign a contract designed to protect us, our students and the school system from bad choices made in an Internet gone amok.  Our computers are locked down to the point that we cannot use the webcams for collaboration as our software may have intended.  We cannot use wikis and blogs without imperial oversight.  Everything teachers want to do that is creative must pass through administrative channels.  Our choices, then, are to risk asking permission and being refused, or to claim ignorance and ask forgiveness.  I choose plan B.

Our schools employ Technology Integration Specialists whose job is to help teachers find resources and employ them with their students.  Much of their time, however, is taken by “administrivia-” setting up grade books, maintaining web pages, attending meetings about the upcoming test, implementing the practice sessions for the upcoming tests, and of course, administering the tests.  They are not invited to grade level planning meetings where they could offer expertise to classroom teachers or even offer to help.

Don’t get me wrong:  I strongly believe in computers in the classrooms, and I support the Technology Integration Specialists initiatives as vital to today’s education.  But I do admire Watters for boldly stating how such an innocent initiative has become a tool of the corporate world and the education machine itself.

Certainly, computers in education (technology in education) is not the only part of education that has been commercialized to the point of insanity.  The whole standards-based testing movement has become a huge industry that benefits no one in education – not administrators, teachers or students. But someone is making big bucks, or these initiatives would have been discarded.

How do we get off this merry-go-round?  Certainly not by getting rid of computers in the classroom, but perhaps by adopting the renegade spirit that brought them to education in the first place.  Do what is right and engaging with the tech tools you have –and ask forgiveness.