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Things that keep us up at night

I haven't seen the print version (School Library Journal, October 2009) yet, but the article Things that keep us up at night that I co-authored with my friend Joycie Valenza is online .

In the cover art by Brian Ajhar, it's pretty easy to pick out Joyce. I am guessing I am represented by the cockroach looking fellow in the lower left.

I am not ver good at collaborative writing, but Joyce is always a pleasure to work with and GoogleDocs made the task very simple.

What keeps YOU up at night?


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Reader Comments (7)

What keeps me up at night-ummm-Scott McLeod's speech and subsequent breakout discussion at the MEMO conference and its implications for libraries and those who provide materials for them??? Although these types of discussions on the future of digital learning are nothing new, his "get going or get out of the way" philosophy provides an added sense of urgency to the issues before us. While we are buried (hide??) beneath our our day-to-day workloads, are we ignoring opportunities to find out what our 21st century learners really need from us?

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Mansfield

Hot flashes

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanet


October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Doyle

I wonder - where are the librarians who disagree with this? I know they are out there. You point your finger right at them in this piece and tell them they are dragging us down. However, they never seem to enter the conversation. Many of us think we know some of these librarians. But they are absent from the debate.

I attended part of the @karlfisch inspired Elluminate session that asked "Is there a place for media specialists who don't know social media?" It was such an excellent presentation, but it was also a little unnerving - all the people who presented had the same answer to the question that framed the debate: no. Where are the people who say "yes"? Would we allow one of our students to investigate only one side of a debate topic when creating a presentation or making a decision? Why ask a question if you already know the answer?

Of course, those of us who have PLNs are likely going to be moving along in the same mindset - we engage in conversations on twitter and elsewhere with people who believe, more or less, in social media. Again, we only hear one side of the argument.

Yes, there are people in our profession who resist change. This is true in all of education. But outside of our blogging-tweeting-2.0 professional circles are librarians who are concerned about things like basic internet access, aging collections, fixed scheduling and no paraprofessional support. In my district, our high schools often have over 3000 students with two librarians. Test scores dictate instruction. Money to travel to conferences no longer exists. Filtering reigns. In many cases, the librarians are advocating for the immediate issues at hand: Basic access to information. Flexible scheduling. Updated resources. They may face administrators who don't support them, teachers with no time to collaborate, and few obvious opportunities to develop whatever a PLN is.

You say that there is no perfect library anymore. I agree. But there certainly seem to be many unacceptable ones in your view. I think we can all do better. We can all push for change. Maybe it is, instead of judging the person who does not tweet or have a webpage, taking an afternoon to sit with them and walk them through setting up a twitter feed or google site. Just because someone doesn't incorporate tech doesn't mean they are opposed to it. It is hard, as a professional in the world of schools, to admit you don't know something or don't understand it. I don't think our profession makes this easy either. Sometimes one-on-one mentoring can help. There are all kinds of opportunities to transform our profession if we take time to listen. The tone of pieces like this, in my view, may do more to drive people out of the conversation than invite them in.

In the end, we need to know what is going on with everyone. What barriers do they face as information professionals: material, professional or otherwise? Many librarians are not given autonomy. We operate within a system that has many many problems that affect our practice. I think if we created opportunities for librarians to share these stories we might better understand why they do what they do. I think we still have to listen to the "yeah, buts" - but that can't be the end of the conversation. We can't dismiss them, but instead open a dialogue and try to strategize through it with everyone's input. Then the transformation of the profession continues with more buy in than we have now, we hope.

Our brand really can't be social media. It can't be databases. It can't be 2.0. Not only will these things fade away, they exclude large parts of our profession from participation. I'd rather adopt our brand as "cultivating curiosity." That will stand the test of time. And it's something we can all gather around the table and talk about pushing toward.

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Don't you think you are one of the blue guys? I assume the largest and wisest looking one.

October 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVal

Hi Ann,

Yup, Scott's message got me thinking too. It would be nice if we could invent the future like he suggests, but it seems pretty much out of one's personal control most days!

Nice to have you at the MEMO conference.

Thanks for the comment,


Hi Janet,

And for me heartburn!



Hi Michael,

I always tell the LWW that my ability to sleep well is the sign of a clear conscience. She just rolls her eyes!

Sleep well,


Hi Val,

Well, it's nice of you to suggest this. I guess I'd make a pretty big bug at that!


October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I just want to add that in this month of pink slips for teachers, talk about shortening our librarians' hours even more in our district, and a state budget in the red, our librarian just finished her masters in library science. Furthermore, she takes it upon herself to read every new book we receive in our school so that she can personally recommend to our diverse population of middle-schoolers the perfect book for them. She is also a wiz on the latest technology and the first to sign-up for any professional development our school offers. So, even though many things keep me up at night, our librarian makes it a little easier to catch some z's.

March 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Jackson

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