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« Alpha wolf syndrome and why it hurts technology efforts | Main | BFTP: Reading levels are political not educational »

The librarian and the tech integrationist - compete or complement?

I've been asked to do an interesting workshop this fall. An association of international schools has asked me to help answer the question "What are the mutual roles of the school librarian and the building technology integration specialist?"

For buildings that have both positions, the lines of responsibility are blurring.

Library media specialists are increasingly instrumental in providing and teaching students how to use digital resources for problem-solving along with assisting teachers in curating these resources to be used for instructional purposes.

Technology integration specialists have seen the ISTE Standards for Students become less and less about "how to use technology" and more about how students can use technology to collaborate, create, and problem-solve using those technologies.

Schools are repurposing "media center" spaces into learning commons, productivity centers, and makerspaces. Who is in charge of these areas?

Who supports teachers as they work to incorporate new technologies (and catch up with older technologies) in the classroom? Who best fits ISTE role of "coach" as defined by Standards for Coaches?

Who evaluates and selects digital resources and tools?

Are there unique roles for each position (book stuff for the librarians, hardware stuff for the tech integrationists)? Or should there be a single job description that includes both?

In 1998 I managed to insult both librarians and technologists with a snarky little colum called "Librarians Are From Venus; Technologists Are From Mars" playing off common stereotypes of both positions.

I would like to think that in the past two decades we have moved beyond viewing each other as competing species, but view our roles as complimentary.

But the important question for many schools still remains "How do we define the role of each position?"

I don't have an easy answer but I'll be doing some research and keeping my ears open. And I hope during the workshop to facilitate discussions with representatives of both groups which will lead to  useful ideas.

Anything, you dear readers, care to share on the topic?


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Reader Comments (8)

Our small school has had both an LMS and ETI for six years now -- I have been said ETI. Love my job and the people I have around me.

It was apparent from my first day that much of the LMS and ETI curriculum content crossed over: efficient searches, evaluation of sources, ethical use of other's work, etc. So much so that I started coursework to get certified as an LMS -- which I found much of my ETI coursework fulfilled. Next year I will be shifting over to that position, but will still be a tech resource in the building.

If we're talking Mars/Venus, I would say that the fight (or rather the rich exchange) is an internal one for me. I am a nerdy tech geek with a background in software manufacturing, educational publishing, and a degree in Art History. I grew up in a sea of books and music, with a history-teaching father and a math-teaching mother. I'm all over the map.

When we look to our mathematical, scientific, literary, and artistic geniuses of history, we know that they lived in a world where the different disciplines worked together, not just as complements, but as symbiotic parts to an intellectual whole. As the ETI and soon-to-be LMS, I hope to break the barriers between disciplines, so that a visit to the Learning Commons to work on a math project is just as fitting as a visit for an imagination-inspiring read-aloud.

June 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJodi Tamayoshi

Our small school also has a Teacher Librarian (Library Media Specialist) and and ICT co-coordinator(tech-integrationist). We work very closely together. He is more the visionary of school-wide ICT programs and I am more on the front-lines helping those initiatives role out smoothly. Technology is not naturally one of my strengths, but the ICT coordinator has provided me with many Pro-D opportunities to grow in this area. We attended ISTE together a number of years ago and now have a technology rich Maker Space in the library. Collaboration helps us both do our jobs better.

June 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEsther Memmott

Thank you for sharing information with us,it will really helpful for every one.

Hi Jodi,

Thanks for sharing your insights into the librarian/tech relationship. I guess I also have that inner conflict, just had not identified it. And yes, symbiotic relationships mean real progress. Good luck as an LMS!

All the best,


Hi Esther,

I am happy that at your school you have created a strong relationship between these positions. I think that happens often. Any secrets of how this happened or did you just get lucky with the right personalities?


June 12, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Esther,

These are all wonderful suggestions and observations. Thanks also for the kind words about my writings!

All the very best,


On Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 3:58 PM, Esther Memmott wrote:

Hello Doug,

I definitely was lucky in that our new ICT coordinator is in no way an "alpha wolf" (to reference one of your recent blog posts). He seeks to collaborate and empower staff.

However, I was a bit nervous prior to meeting him as our jobs do overlap and I did feel a bit threatened by his position. That being said, I tried to counter that feeling by being intentional about building a positive working relationship.

I first of all sought to understand his role and looked to complement rather than compete with his initiatives. I offered help wherever I saw that my position lent itself naturally to supporting his work. Ex. When we rolled out office 365 school wide, I offered to conduct tutorials for students during library orientations.

Because technology is not my strong suite, I was sure to seek his opinion/advice about library initiatives that involved technology such as the purchase of our 3D printer.

I also asked him to sit in on ICT club meetings that I run for students who help with our maker space.

I noticed that the more that I invited collaboration, he reciprocated in the same manner, inviting me to attend ProD opportunities with him (like ISTE!!!!) and including me in more decision making at the ICT level; I was actually asked to be part of the ICT team.

We certainly have stepped on each others toes at times, but we try to express when one of us has done this and redefine boundaries.
As a teacher librarian, I am aware that advocacy is a big part of my job. Reading your books helped me develop this perspective, so thank you!

To me the best form of advocacy is demonstrating why people want you on their team. Making oneself "indispensable" as you would say.

And certainly, working as a team has benefited me greatly! I have done way more than I ever could have on my own being a part of a larger team that seeks to integrate technology in creative ways to enhance student learning. And this team definitely includes students; they are such an important voice!

Thanks for all you do to advocate for students and librarians yourself!



June 13, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug:
In my opinion, the difference between the two is that there does not necessarily have to be a difference. School library media specialists hold a license to teach. So do most technology integrationists in schools. The Scope of Effective Practices for School Library Media specialists was modified a few years ago to include information and technology literacy -

"A library media specialist is authorized to provide to students in kindergarten through grade 12 instruction that is designed to provide information and technology literacy skills instruction, to lead, collaborate, and consult with other classroom teachers for the purpose of integrating information and technology literacy skills with content teaching, and to administer media center operations, programming, and resources."

Given this definition, to me, most school library media specialists who follow this scope of practice are already technology integrationists.

I think the difference comes in with how the school district defines the positions, and how much time is allotted to the roles. In some schools, for instance, school library media specialists are provided with support of paras, assistants, or volunteers who can help free up time for the school library media specialist for the higher level activities of teaching, collaborating, and leading information technology literacy efforts. Unfortunately, this is sometimes not the case, and districts may view the school library media specialist as the person who checks out books, dabbles in the research process and the administration does not see the media specialist as the highly skilled information literacy specialist and teacher they are trained to be. Many times when a district views the school library media position this way, they either cut the position or reduce the hours and provide no additional support staff so the media specialist is set up for failure since you can't provide any sort of effective education program with just a few hours a week here and there.

In the perfect world, I do believe that school library media specialists and technology integrationists can complement each other and work together to create enhanced learning experiences for students if both of them exist in the school. Not only can they complement each other, they can teach each other since school library media specialists bring an additional layer of literacy and skill to the table and technology integrationists may bring an added level of interest and passion to the use of technology in the classroom. I know school district financial resources are often limited so many districts can't do both, but if a school district has a school library media specialist who embraces the current scope of practice, that person is already fulfilling many of the duties of a technology integrationist already,


June 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Hi Mary,

Thank you for the thoughtful reply. (I call it thoughtful because it closely echoes my own ideas ;-) ) So often we operated at two levels in situations like this - the theoretical and the personal. Ideal job descriptions are not hard to write, but getting people to fill them and recognize this challenging. And of course I often think the best people more or less write their own job descriptions based on the needs of their organizations. If you hear of any strategies that help techs and librarians become more effective collaborators, let me know.



June 22, 2017 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Doug:
In terms of strategies to help technology integrationists and librarians collaborate more effectively, one idea that comes to mind is to have a facilitated activity where both groups come together and talk about what their jobs look like, what they understand their jobs to be, and what is alike and/or different. This could be done in a reasonably short amount of time, and just giving librarians and techs the opportunity to meet each other in a neutral activity can go a long way towards collaboration.

I also read this really good book called The Indispensable Librarian and there is an entire chapter on collaboration that also gives good food for thought. :-)


June 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMary

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