Thursday, October 28, 2010

The New Librarian/Media Specialist

"Go paperless," proclaims the computer technician in my school district. I asked him recently if he planned to come by our fall book fair (knowing what kind of answer he would give). "Do you have ebooks?" he, indeed, did ask.

That's a good question to ask a librarian in the 21st Century, for the librarian's role has changed in the last ten years. And either we change with the times or we walk into the deep freezer and join the frozen meat or step into that gummy residue that preserves insects on trees. In plain language, do we remain "librarians" (as I am in my little parochial school location--the library and the one classroom not technology rich) or do we embrace and embolden ourselves to become Media Specialists, as my colleagues call themselves in the public domain?

What finally pulled me out of Fossil Land is this four-day workshop for librarians/media specialists. Previous to this one, I have participated in two other workshops: "Online Resources" and "Thinkfinity," another website-rich educational experience. For the hundredth time in the past five years or so, I wish I were young and starting over now, at this point in time, with all we know about cyberspace and its connective webs and machines, about methods of teaching/collaborating/facilitator of learning. It's a new world in education. (I'm blatantly and blythly ignoring the silliness and waste of NCLB.)

After a day of introductions to mind-boggling lists of websites for media specialists to use in their own instruction and ones to share with their teacher-colleagues, we were given several assignments in preparation for tomorrow's class. One asked us to read an article, now four years old, and respond to it. This blog is my response.

Three Roles for the 21st-Century Teacher-Librarian

"Three Roles for the 21st-Century Teacher-Librarian" by Michael B. Eisenberg (copyright privilege forbids my posting this article or the website from which it is taken) clarifies the role of the librarian in this new age of cyberspace, the clouds, "out there." Is my response paperless? Indeed, it is. As for "out there," for those who are just about clueless about the vastness, think about this. See that little blinking character that sits next to the spot of the page where you type. Well, imagine it offpage, out of sight. How do you get it back on the screen? What I'm asking is that you think of how lost your little blinker can become if you don't know which direction to take it. That becomes a description of patrons in your library who don't know how rich in resources your library really is and the terrible responsibility it is to show them

That responsibility is exactly what Eisenberg writes about. In a sentence, his thesis is that librarians of the 21st century should be instructors, facilitators, advocates, and managers with the direct purpose of ensuring "that students...are effective users of ideas and information" (from page one of his article).

Specifically, the media specialist now has (or should have) three functions: as information literacy instructor, as reading advocate, and as information manager. In providing this information, the media specialist no longer is a lecturer, but a facilitator. The student is an active participant in his/her own acquisition of ideas and information.

So just how does the librarian accomplish these goals? By taking charge of her own library program, making it indispensable to users, and promoting that necessity to one and all.  How do we do this? By rethinking what we do, finding ways to provide what is needed for patrons, and changing perceptions of what a library should be and provide.

The library as a favorite place

Several years ago, I worked part-time at night at my local branch library. I had not much used my local public library since childhood. What I found really was surprising. For example--get ready for this!--on Saturday mornings, at nine a.m., at opening time, people were jammed around the front door, eagerly awaiting those magic doors to be opened to a magic land. When the doors were finally unlocked--gasp!--those people rushed to the computers. People were clamoring to get into the library! Why? They had important missions to accomplish using cyberspace, the clouds, out there! As part of its program, our local public libraries hold regulary scheduled classes to teach patrons how to use word documents, search engines, and valuable websites.

What about my little parochial school library? Six years ago, when I was hired, my library was a dingy, dusty warehouse. I did the first thing any self-respecting librarian would do: I made that place into a magic kingdom--clean, bright, colorful, comfortable, inviting. All it lacked was a serious weeding of ancient books and a generous addition of new books. Six years later I'm still working on both.

But now, today, after one day of this workshop, I have been given a mask of oxygen, a burst of new life, a yearning and burning to  bring my little parochial school library into the 21st century. Even retirement-age librarians can be rejuvenated to become cyber-savy, technologically adept with a deep need to pass on this excitement to teachers and students, to become their partner in becoming effective users of ideas and information.

Eisenberg also points out that the blame game simply won't work here. Tsk, I intended to whine and carry on about how my library has only one computer, that I have no projector or whiteboard to at least show students how to use various websites that they can navigate at home. No, he says, rethink your options. It is the librarian's responsibility to create "active, vibrant, engaged, and meaningful" library programs. I have not done that.

Three roles

First, let's look at the three roles that Eisenberg sees for media specialists. Information literacy is a huge responsibility, encompassing print, non-print, and electronic information. Add to that the types of outcomes found in the standards for the library program. In addition to information literacy, students should know how to pursue independent learning and social responsibility concerning that information.

As a reading advocate, the librarian has a huge role. Eisenberg states that "reading proficiency is ...the number one predictor of student success."  As information instructor and manager, the librarian has the huge responsibility of showing students and teachers alike how to find and access information, then use it effectively. Our future depends upon it.

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A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.