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EdTech Update




« Reading despite school, revisited | Main | Lit teachers, don't despair »

The librarian bonus


Image source (by Jennifer LaGuarde aka Library Girl)

At an Apple event last Thursday, the Spring Lake Park (MN) school superintendent stated that part of the success of his district's 1:1 initiative was replacing the school librarians with technology integration specialists. I didn't see too many eyebrows go up or hear any audible gasps when he said it. But anymore, I don't really expect such reactions.

I can't deny that schools need technology integration specialists to help teachers learn to use new tools in powerful ways. But what I don't get is why more schools don't add "tech integration" specialist to the job description of the school librarian.

Here's the deal:

If you hire a tech integration specialist, you hopefully get an experienced teacher who is knowledgeable about technology and how it can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom, can do a little tech trouble-shooting, and can offer professional development experiences on the use of technology.

If you hire a professionally trained librarian and give them tech integration responsibilities, you get an experienced teacher who is knowledgeable about technology and how it can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom, can do a little trouble-shooting, and can offer professional development experiences on the use of technology. And you get...

  • A children's/YA literature expert who can help increase Free Voluntary Reading (and reading scores) by getting kids reading.
  • An expert in information literacy (research skills) who can teach students how to find, evaluate, use and communicate information in multiple formats.
  • A building expert in intellectual freedom, copyright, and digital citizenship.
  • A building resource for helping teachers find good analog and digital materials that support their curricula.
  • An evaluator, selector and promoter of both analog and digital materials - materials that will actually support the curriculum and get used.
  • A manager of a space (the library) that offers students a place for social learning, a place of safety and welcome, a place where personal interests can be explored, and the services of an information and literature expert.
  • An experienced team-teacher, collaborator and leader.

Call the position what you want - librarian, tech integration specialist, media specialist, whatever - but get the most bang from your staffing dollars by getting someone who swings both ways - tech and libraries.

See also The Why, What, How and WHO of Staff Development in Technology

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Reader Comments (8)

Doug, could not be stated more clearly! Perfect that you used Jennifer LaGarde's illustration to begin your post. She states on her blog, "school libraries saved my life, so... I'm making it my mission to do whatever I can to help librarians do their best work so that school libraries are around for a long time to come." She is masterful at utilizing educational technology but I've never seen it written or heard her say, "Technology saved my life." in the way that it comes from her heart about libraries. Why? Because she has experiential knowledge of school library programs led by school librarians like you are referencing in your post. They are priceless!

It is appalling to me that there weren't GASPS OF HORROR when the superintendent revealed his actions, but... he was at an, "Apple" event.

Clear message that not only do we need to provide all you have mentioned above but to effectively advocate for our professions so those with the purse strings know what we are capable of and what a great deal school library media coordinators really are.

Thanks for all you do to help us with that. You, Jennifer and others like you are priceless!

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly McBrayer

Hi Beverly,

I agree that Jennifer is a gem and NC is lucky to have her as a state-wide resource. If we all model the kind of librarian that Jennifer suggests and schools need, we can lay to rest the fear of the profession being eliminated.

Appreciate your comment,


October 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

As usual on your blog, this post resonates with me.

I did a quick, unofficial survey of several teachers in my 5th/6th grade building about the role(s) of the their teacher librarian (that would be me) and was not surprised. On the librarian side, they expect books to be checked out, checked in, repaired, and put back in the right place on the shelves. From me, they also expect that all students be taught to "type" and to use MS Word (we are GAFE school, for Heaven's sake), and to "do" PowerPoint (remember - we're GAFE). Also, I am supposed to keep all the iPad carts up-to-date and fully charged, etc. and to manage the circulation of the iPad, ChromeBook, and laptop carts. I don't begrudge any of those expectations, but it's becoming more clear that our librarian position is not being eliminated or replaced by a tech integrationist; those roles have become muddled into one position, neither of which is clearly defined.

I gotta say though, that this year, with a full schedule of "computer skills" classes and very little time left over for my library duties, I'm fully enjoying the contact with all the students. And, well, whatever doesn't get done today in my library will still be waiting for me tomorrow - and the next day and the next...

I should, but my personality prevents it, post a list of everything that school librarians do when it seems to many that we do so little.

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBob Follmuth

I totally agree with you. I am now teaching a computer skills class to half of the 6th graders -- the other half have choir. I feel like my library duties are being neglected, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am getting to know my 6th graders better than I ever did in 5th grade when I only saw them once a week. I am so glad I was able to see you at the MASL Conference a few years ago and I picked up many new ideas from your talks and workshops. I have a HS Library in one building and an ELMS Library in the other building that keeps me pretty busy as well being the Discovery Education Coordinator for our district and Scholastic Book Fair Chairperson. Some days I don't know if I am coming or going. I love my job, but I wish I had more time each day. I am fortunate that we have a district Technology Coordinator and that my principal thought I was the perfect fit for the computer skills class when she was planning it this summer. I am very fortunate that we did not have a techology curiculum so I can pull from many teaching sources to fit my students. I just wish they would have learned morecomputer skills in their 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade Emints classrooms. We have had to spend the first part of the year learning keyboarding skills.

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarcia R.

Hi Doug,

I'm so tickled that you chose to use one of my images for this post and am truly humbled by both yours and Beverly's kind words.

Much of my current work in North Carolina revolves around the implementation of our state's new Professional Teaching Standards for school library folks. These are the new standards/rubrics by which school librarians will be evaluated in NC. Instead of changing the position name, we've tried to change the expectations of the profession - to include instructional leadership all sorts of areas, including technology. We are really, still, at the beginning of this work as this is the first year that that these instruments have been officially adopted state wide, and some days I feel like we still have a very long way to go. But I am absolutely convinced that this work, changing what all members of the school community (but especially administrators) expect from these members of their staff, is key to saving libraries in North Carolina. I'm very committed to it and I am curious if other states have gone through this process.

Thanks again for including me in this discussion. I'm so glad we fight for the same team.

October 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer LaGarde

Hi Bob,

The roles you describe in your school are identical to what our librarians do here.

Your last statement resonated with me. This is something we really need to overcome, I think. Rather than "What does the librarian do all day?" being the question, it should be "How does the librarian manage to get it all done?" The only way we change this question is through transparency and communication. (See <>


Hi Marcia,

You sound very busy indeed. When my folks are asked take on a new task that seems to put them over the top on things they can get done, I encourage them to visit with their principals about what they see as priorities - if there is a chance of something going by the wayside.

Thanks for the kind words about MASL. I've always loved coming down to Tan-Tar-A for both the scenery and wonderful people.


Hi Jennifer,

It's nice to hear that your state is undertaking this work. I think here in MN it is every dog for him/herself.

Good luck in your efforts and thank you for being an inspiration beyond the borders of the Tar Heel State.


October 30, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I agree with your suggestion. I just sent your blog post to our Director of Libraries and Technology and the Asst. Sup of Technology. However, I did include my own caveat. A few years ago we lost our library assistants, and our Campus Instructional Technologists (professional level position equivalent to a librarian) were split between two campuses. This has resulted in a loss of emphasis on instruction because checking out books and troubleshooting finicky technology, etc. are competing for our attention. In a perfect world with limitless funding, I would love to see these positions restored. Reality strongly suggests that's not going to happen any time soon.

My caveat is that the district hire a library assistant/tech support position, one for each campus to address these day-to-day operational tasks freeing the librarian to truly focus on all the aspects of the job that you outline. The line between librarianship and instructional technology have blurred to the point of invisibility and like you, I believe an integrated approach would positively impact the learning environment.

Just curious. Are your schools staffed with the type of support staff similar to what I'm suggesting or am I completely off track?? Your thoughts?

October 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRenee

Hi Renee,

I agree with you about the need for support positions. (You've encouraged me to do a separate blog post on this.) The main thing is that when cutting support positions and having professionals take up the slack, you are really cutting professional services and getting high-cost clerical/tech support.

We have .8 library paras in each of our elementary libraries (along with professional staff) and 1.0 paras in each of our secondary libraries. We also have 6 full time technicians that do building support for our district of 7500 students.

Hope this helps,


October 31, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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