Monday, December 24, 2007

Have You Shifted?

It's December 24 and I have just put my cabbage rolls in the oven. I'll be a slave to my kitchen for the next couple of hours so I thought I'd do some reading and blogging while I babysit my cabbage rolls.

I remembered reading a post from Joyce Valenza's Never Ending Search blog called Shift happened. The librarian divide about the shift that is happening in respect to the teacher librarian role. The integration of technology is becoming more and more important and as a result, teacher librarians need to become more tech savy. And we have to know and be able to teach kids how and when each technology is appropriate to the needs of the task.
Joyce stated in her blog:

"If our librarians are not viewed as leaders in information and communication technologies, we will lose the opportunity to teach information fluency skills and effect thoughtful change in these new landscapes. But, if our librarians wait for formal training and do not opt to train themselves, we will find ourselves irrelevant and optional. More important, learners will lose. Shift happened. Our response is not optional."

What is the shift? It's the change from just being a keeper of books, a finder of resources and a collection developer. It's still valuing all of this PLUS knowing how to use the many Internet 2.0 tools that are now available to us: blogs, wikis and RSS to develop collections of current resources, wikis for group projects, blogs for metacognitive processing of the research process, collaboration of students not only in their own school but with students around the world using Skype, student and teacher librarian created podcasts, web pages, video, and other digital media. Using the lingo, it's shifting from a 1.0 TL to a 2.0 TL.

And we can't wait for formal training. While we have lots of opportunities to develop our tech and research development skills through after school sessions (see Book It), that alone cannot suffice. Much of our professional learning needs to be self-directed.

I'm linking here to a site that I found this past summer that opened my eyes to what had been passing me by for the last couple of years. This site, called School Library Learning 2.0(developed by the Californian School Library Association), is a self-paced tutorial that introduces teacher librarians to the Internet 2.0 world. I started working through this site last summer, completing the 'things'. I have to tell you that after completing these 'things' I was quite knowledgeable when I participated in the hands-on session with Will Richardson. Through the School Library Learning tutorial I had already set up a blog, RSS feeds, made an iGoogle page and started to set up a wiki (stay tuned for this - I'll let you in on it as soon as I have it developed a bit more).

Doug Johnson in his Blue Skunk blog wrote:

Why librarians should be in charge of educational technology
"If you want well and appropriately used educational technology in your school, turn its planning and implementation over to your library media specialists..."
He lists a variety of reasons why he thinks that TLs should be in charge of ed tech. The blog itself is an interesting and motivational read. But I found the comments just as important. Craig left this comment:

"... Media Specialists [TLs] are taught to collaborate with instructors so they can utilize technology in their curriculum, not just use it to meet state standards. I’ll be the first to admit there are some media specialists who aren’t willing to put in the effort or still have the idea their sole responsibility is cataloging and shelving books, but many others can greatly improve wh[at] students learn and how educators teach. And for those of you out there who have a Media Specialist who’s stuck in the last decade I feel sorry for you, but in the same respect stay positive, they’ll probably retire soon. "

I have fears and that is our position is slowly being eroded by other agendas. If we do not take the initiative to innovate and collaborate in a 2.0 way, we'll be left behind and deemed irrelevant. We have tremendous skills in information literacy and researching and now we need to mashup those skills with 2.0 technology.
So what is my advice? Take as many computer/technology sessions as you can through our board's professional learning sessions. Start working your way through School Library Learning 2.0. By the time that you have done a couple of the 'things' you'll have your own blog and RSS feeds. Read blogs. Get comfortable in this world. Then you can start thinking about how you can appropriately begin to use these tools with students and their teachers.

Start shifting.


Katie the Library Lady said...


I enjoyed reading this latest post to your blog. I'm teaching an online class about librarian teacher collaboration so your post was of special interest to me at this time.

Most of the librarians taking my class are intermediate or primary school librarians, often working on a fixed schedule.

Now I know this is like asking for advice on how to help a dinosaur cook if it doesn't have thumbs, but...

Do you and your readers think that the responsibility for the media specialist to be both librarian and technology facilitator is reasonable at the elementary school level ? I am in a high school, and I am (and enjoy being) the tech facilitator as well as librarian, but my schedule is extremely flexible. And I do have an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher in the building one day a week to help out.

So, to clarify my question: Should elementary librarians be expected to take on these extra responsibilities or should they be allowed to focus on story-telling, book check-out, and (print) library skills instruction while another professional in the building handles the technology?

Deb Waugh
Graham High School
Bluefield, VA

Sharon Seslija said...

Hello Deb,

Thank you for your comments and your question. Since blogging is relatively new for me, I am thrilled to see that you found the blog and that I wrote something comment-worthy. I will respond to your question by giving you some background info that will give some perspective to my answer.

In my board, many of the elementary TLs are on a fixed schedule too, providing prep for other teachers. Many have been assigned Early Literacy classes (grades 1 to 3) in the library and many often do not even see the junior and intermediate students (grades 4-8. This causes another problem - students are coming into our secondary schools with no information retrieval skills other than googling!). So while we have TLs in every school, many are in name only and have many responsibilities: a half-time homeroom, a half-time vice-principal position,early literacy teacher,computer teacher or learning support teacher (spec ed), with the additional responsibility of taking care of the library. This year,we also lost some extra time that used to be alotted above prep time for library adiminstration (shelving, new book cataloging and preperation, book ordering,etc.)

As a result, the position has been slowly deteriorating, I think due to a lack of understanding of what TLs do and from putting unqualified teachers in the role. Many of our administrators, both senior and school-level, have the idea that the librarian role is that of the stereotypical minder of books. Not!

This is why I have encouraged many of the TLs to also be the computer contact person in their schools. I believe, for our board, that this is the route to take in order to preserve our position until libraries and the TL position becomes more valued (we currently have a government-backed school library document in press and are hoping that it will revitalize school libraries and teacher librarian roles in the province).

I encourage the TLs to find ways to integrate information literacy with the early literacy programs that they teach, using technology when it applies (recently all of our schools received Smartboards and many of the boards are located/stored in the library - these boards are really working well with the Early Literay classes). The more technologically savy our TLs are, the more they will support their staffs and the more indespensible they will become.

My idea is that TLs/media specialists need to focus on the teaching aspect of the position and not the library tech aspect - TLs should not waste valuable library time on book-exchanges - let the classroom teacher arrange another time to do this on his/her own. If TLs take on the computer resource person as well, then obviously other responsibilities have to be reduced i.e the library tech type ones. Training students to shelve, parent volunteers to process new books - these will hopefully reduce some of the library maintenance jobs. Time in the library needs to be spent on literacy, information literacy and digital literacy skills (print and electronic) and collaborative research-based projects that allow these skills to be taught in context.

I am not sure that an instructional tech resource teacher understands the many skills that need to be integrated -technology is just a tool for all types of literacy development. I really think that what we see now as 2 separate roles are really melding into one - a qualified TL with technology skills vs a technology teacher with library qualifications - an interesting thought! If there are 2 people, technology facilitator and TL, then they should be working as one entity. Collaborating to develop lessons that teach the necessary skills to students.

Having said this, it really all depends upon who has been placed in the TL/media specialist position. I have always maintained that this position is one of added responsibility and that teachers who want the positon should be interviewed for it - and re-interviewed every few years. It really does take a leadership skill set to do the job well.

Well, that was along-winded answer to your question. For us here, I think that it is vital to our survival as TLs to also be the computer contact.