After banging this drum for 20+ years, why have not all librarians become the tech leaders in their buildings? Don't they want to remain relevant? To stay employed? To add real value to their students' educational experience? To temper tech fever with common sense, purpose, and educational value?
From The Indispensable Librarian, 2nd ed.
Many districts have had wonderful success in giving librarians responsibility for staff development in technology. Here’s why:
Librarians have a healthy attitude toward technology. I am afraid my latent sexism will show here, but the majority of our librarians are female, and females often exhibit a healthier attitude toward technology than do we males. On seeing a new box that plugs in, rather than asking “How fast is the processor?” or “How big is the hard drive?”, a librarian tends to ask “What is it good for?” Good librarians are neither technophiles nor technophobes. The librarian considers and teaches not just how to use technology, but why and under what circumstances it should be used. An old adage says that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. For many technologists, technology can become the solution to problems that actually require traditional or human solutions. (Ever see someone spend 45 minutes using a computer to address an envelope?)
Librarians have good teaching skills. Unlike technicians they are more likely to use good pedagogical techniques and have more developed human relations and communication skills. We are understanding and empathetic when technologically related stress occurs in the classroom.
Librarians have an understanding of the use of technology in the information literacy process and its use in fostering higher level thinking skills. We view technology as just one more, extremely powerful tool that can be used by students completing well-designed information literacy projects. “Technologists”, it seems, are just now understanding this powerful use.
Librarians have experience as skill integrators and collaborators. Integration of research and information literacy projects has been a long-term goal of school library programs, and as a result many librarians have become excellent collaborators with classroom teaches, successfully strengthening the curriculum with information literacy projects. We know kids, know technology and know what works.
Librarians are models for the successful use of technology. The library’s automated library catalogs, circulation systems, electronic reference materials, and student accessible workstations all showed up well before classroom technologies. Teachers rightfully see the librarian as the educator with the most comfort with technology as well, which in turn bolsters their own self-confidence.
Librarians provide in-building support. A flexibly scheduled librarian is a real asset to teachers learning to use or integrate technology. The librarian can work with the teacher in the library, lab or classroom. The librarian is available for questions that might otherwise derail a teacher’s application of technology. This as a primary advantage of the librarian as opposed to a classroom teacher having primary responsibility for staff development in technology.
Librarians have a whole school view. Next to the principal, the librarian has the most inclusive view of the school and its resources. The librarian can make recommendations on where technology needs to be placed or upgraded as well as on what departments or teachers may need extra training and support in its use.
Librarians are concerned about the safe and ethical use of technology. Students will need to have the skills to self-evaluate information; understand online copyright laws and intellectual property issues; and follow the rules of safety and appropriate use of resources. Who but the librarian worries about digital citizenship?
We need to remember that those responsible for staff development must have good opportunities for training themselves. Librarians can justify a need for workshops, conferences, and training sessions beyond that of the classroom teacher. And, accompanying the extra training must be the administrative expectation and acceptance that the knowledge and skills gained will be proactively shared with the rest of the staff.
Librarians must also commit to on-going, self-directed skill acquisition by forming professional learning communities.
Whether called a consultant or a partner, the school library media specialist needs to be a major, if not lead, player in building staff development efforts. It builds our indispensability!
OK, the remaining 28%. Get on the stick.