I just finished reading the book This Book Is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson.
“This is a book for readers who know that words can be wild and dangerous, that uncensored access to information is a right and a privilege, and that the attempt to ‘catalog the world in all its complexity’ is heroic beyond compare.” (O, The Oprah Magazine )
It is interesting to read a non-librarian’s perception of the new demands that are changing our jobs every day.
The book is definitely from the public and academic library perspective, but the challenges will be very familiar to school librarians as well. Those of us who might have concerns about our “new” title of ”school librarian” should read the book to reacquaint ourselves with the proud tradition behind the word librarian. I am still conflicted about the job title, not because there is anything wrong with the title, but because we just can’t seem to blast people out of their preconceived notion of what a librarian is.
At any rate…
The daily tools of a librarian may have changed. Books might even “disappear” as they morph into a variety of electronic formats. But our mission is the same. And the value we add to life remains the same. The last page of the book finds the author touring a brand new, state of the art library in New England. She ultimately finds a quiet nook, and loses herself in a book. Her description reminds me of our ongoing mission:
“It did not matter who I was, or what I did, or where I paid taxes… I knew the librarians would help me figure out anything I needed to know….I was under the librarians’ protection. Civil servants and servants of civility, they had my back. They would be whatever they needed to be that day: information professionals, teachers, police, community organizers, computer technicians, historians, confidants, clerks, social workers, storytellers, or, in this case, guardians of my peace.
I ask you… How could any one title – librarian, teacher-librarian, school librarian, media specialist, cybrarian, information specialist – possibly encompass all of that?!
From the NYTimes: The Library through Students’ Eyes
After a Room for Debate discussion last week, “Do School Libraries Need Books?” the comments from readers included some first-hand views from students. Below are excerpts of their observations on how studying has changed, how they use libraries (if at all) and how to use the space differently.
I can hear echos of my own students in some of these comments. I was pleasantly surprised that most of these young commenters were favorably inclined towards libraries. But I still see the absolute equation of library = books. I would be happier to see the equation of library = reading and learning and gathering place. ”Reading and learning” is a way bigger concept than ANY container, books OR screen.
I must say I was quite charmed by this particular student comment:
The Art of Looking for Answers
What a question! The richest part of my elementary, middle, and high school education was the fruit of my reading from the library. I no longer use trigonometry, I don’t refer to the periodic table, and I don’t build models of volcanoes. I’ve given up diagramming sentences or memorizing spelling words but I read every day. The school library, with its treasures waiting to be uncovered is an amazing resource – especially in an age where we are “directed” to the answers so often. If you want to abolish libraries, join the Taliban or at least soak your head.
It all comes down to these kids. Whatever we need to do to keep them coming to the library is what we need to do!
The few of you who are crazy enough to read this blog, know that I frequently bemoan the state of technology in this district. I am EXCITED to tell you that I now have huge hopes. We have a visionary superintendent who is helping us articulate our needs and put our ideas into practice.
The latest influx of technology is laptop carts. They are working out beyond my best hopes. I SO wish I had taken a picture of the library today. We had 2 classes here at the same time. One group was researching information for an anti-drug project in Health. They were using the “traditional” library computer lab. We also had a Global 9 class researching architecture. They sat at tables, using the netbooks, notes and other materials.
All of them were working as groups.
All of them were successful.
Which group was able to collaborate the most efficiently?
The netbook group working at tables of course. Speculating on the reasons, I realized that sitting at tables with your group along with your notes AND netbooks facilitated 2 things:
- Students can network with information and other people on the internet
- Students can enjoy F2F interaction with each other as they search.
It’s the perfect set-up for teenagers. Not to mention the perfect setting to develop workplace collaboration skills.
Yes – this could also happen in the classroom. And sometimes the classroom is the best place for the netbooks. But I think the library setting adds that “third space”* element that facilitates learning.
Today validated our decision to schedule netbook use in the library whenever possible.
*”Third Space” – a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. (Wikipedia, 1-15-10)
Many schools are purchasing mobile computer labs. A possible downside is what a recent LM_NET post referred to as a “library detour”. Teachers bypass the library (and the librarian) in favor of having kids researching in the classroom …. sans librarian.
One practical suggestion to avoid this downside to mobile labs……? Volunteer to be in charge of scheduling the labs. I do not have mobile labs – but we might have them in the future. I plan to handle that situation the same way I handled computer labs when they were added. Volunteer to take over the scheduling duties.
Right now, the teachers come to me to schedule the stationary labs. If they are doing an online lab etc., I simply schedule their classes into a lab. However, if they are doing research, I schedule the computer lab AND myself, AND the library (or at least a cart of books). I have a form that references information literacy standards, so it is immediately obvious that there is a curriculum requirement that needs to be met.
When/if we have mobile computer labs, they will also be scheduled via the library department. I am hoping to have one mobile lab that stays here (for the most part) to add to the current 15 library computers. This will allow students to work with books and laptops at tables, providing a more seamless research experience. The other mobile lab will be reserved for classroom use. BUT – mobile labs will have to be scheduled by us, and returned to us for recharging. Yes … I know….that will be a lot of work. I am blessed to have an assistant. Not every one is so fortunate. I also know that many schools schedule lab use via a lab assistant. If that is the case, then the librarian can check the schedule regularly and make teacher contacts where appropriate.
It is a matter of a small shift in mind-set – research and libraries are no longer bound by library walls. Research means information literacy, and information literacy should automatically involve librarians. Furthermore, the library and the librarian are NOT synonymous. The librarian is as mobile as any mobile lab – and a whole lot smarter! He/she can, should and does travel to where the need is – whether in the library, in a stationary lab, or in the classroom with a mobile lab. Teachers and librarians have worked together with students in the library for years. Teachers and librarians can work together just as easily in the classroom.
This might be a big paradigm shift for some teachers – but it isn’t a big leap for us. We are used to being flexible …… not to mention mobile!
What do librarians have to do to convince folks that the library and the internet are intertwined? Why do folks see the library as the old way (Boo!) and the internet as the new way (Yay!!) that has replaced libraries?
For the second time this week, I ran across the term “ha-ha” in reference to landscape architecture. So – of course I immediately went to the internet to find the definition. Yay!! The NEW way. So much better and more convenient than the library – especially since the library is closed right now. I did two searches. First I went to Wikipedia which gave me an excellent summary and provided pictures. For my purposes this was enough. So, I guess I can understand why most people would think that this is proof that libraries might as well close thier doors and donate their books for use as an alternative fuel to save the planet.
It got me thinking though. The information from the Wikipedia article and its associated links would not be nearly enough for someone studying landscape architecture as a career. So – I went out and did a Google search. It was much harder to locate relevant articles. The BEST I found was for a book called “Where Land and Water Intertwine” By Christopher Weeks, Michael O. Bourne. Google Books provides a limited preview to this book. A quick search of it shows me (posing as a landscape architect student) that I have found exactly what I need. A few clicks and I can purchase it used for around $10, new for $25 – or I can click the “find it in a library” link (World Cat), copy the location information and send an email to my friendly public, school or college library to borrow it for free.
World Cat is the science fiction fantasy that librarians started to construct in the distant reaches of time. I recall learning about it in the late 60′s. It wasn’t brand new then. I remember creating an extra catalog card for every book we purchased back in the early 80s when our school library system was born. All to go into the “great catalog in the sky” that one day would be available to all. Well – one day is here.
If they build it they will come? I don’t know…… I don’t think the message is getting out.
I need to work harder on this. It’s not just the college librarian’s job.
….And yes… Maybe some day you will be able to download the book to your Kindle, iPod, iPhone et al. Doesn’t change things. (Unless artists & writers figure out how to make money by giving all their works away for free). Libraries will STILL be the ones providing free access. Those with the means and the need to own the downloads, will buy access. Others can still get the best deal in town from their local library. Not to mention, the ability to attend community events and have some quality face-time with other humans