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Friday
Jan112019

My IASL newsletter article

My submission "Signs of an Empathetic Library Professional" was accepted and published in the January 2019 issue of the IASL newsletter.

For those of you unfamiliar with IASL, it is a professional organization representing school librarians around the world. Formed in the early 1960s, IASL actively serves their professional development and networking needs. One of the things I admire most about the organization is its scaled membership dues - librarians in countries with lower GDP pay less in dues than those in more weathly countries. Everyone can participate.

The organization has an annual conference (2019 is in Croatia), regional conferences, a newsletter, a journal, a listserv, and a forum. 

Increasingly our national standards ask for students to become "global citizens." Is this not something then that we as professionals should be modeling? Starting with my own stint as an international librarian in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s and continuing with participation in conferences like NESA, EARCOS, AASSA, AISA, CEESA, ECIS and others, both my professional and personal life has been enriched by getting to know and learn from my peers around the world.

If you have any interest in libraries in countries other than your own, join up! 

Tuesday
Jan082019

The direction of state school library organizations

The graphic above is the front page of a reboot of the ITEM (Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota) newsletter. It's a members-only publication, I'm afraid, so I can't link to the whole thing - but trust me, both in layout and content it is a class act.

For quite awhile now, our little state organization has been struggling. Membership is low, conference attendance had dropped, involvement in lobbying efforts is not great. We had good leadership, many dedicated workers, a reliable executive secretary, and good communications efforts (including a focused use of social media), and yet we don't seem to be growing. 

This is heartbreaking to me. I joined the organization (then MEMO) in 1989, my first year teaching in Minnesota. Over the years, I served as president, newsletter editor, intellectual freedom chair, legislative chair, standards writing committee member, and conference chair. The relationships I developed, the skills I had the opportunity to practice, and the learnings I acquired were outstanding. Both my professional and personal lives were made richer because of MEMO/ITEM.

This Saturday the new president of the organization is holding a day-long "visioning" meeting with a small group of ITEM members. My sense is that I was allowed to attend to perhaps provide a historical perspective. The profession is in a different place than it was in 1989 when I joined. It is in a different place that it was, of course, when MEMO was established in the late 60s (if I remember correctly) by merging the state's school library organization with its "AV Coordinators" group. Given the continuing impact of technology on the field and on education in general, a new vision is needed - if not overdue.

The trick, I believe, will be in differentiating ourselves from other professional organizations, yet meeting the needs of a broad number of educators and librarians. Can we grow our numbers even as the number of library media specialists seems to be decreasing? Do we combine with other groups - public librarians or technologists? Can we reengage our university library education programs? How do we get our message out, how do we influence policy makers, how do increase our value to those who pay our dues? 

Any lessons learned from your professional organizations, Blue Skunk readers? On Saturday, I'd like to be more than just the cranky old guy in the back of the room who says 'We tried that back in my day and it didn't work."

Saturday
Jan052019

BFTP: Don't be a mushroom when it comes to filtering

Knowledge is power.
Francis Bacon 

At a conference session I once attended, a school librarian discussed how she was able to get a GBLT website unblocked in her district - but not until after a long and stressful ordeal, including the involvement of the ACLU. 

The discussion was inspiring and I applaud the librarian's efforts and eventual success, but it also made me wonder how many librarians and classroom teachers could answer these simple, but important questions:

  1. What is the brand name of your Internet filter and what are its features? Can sites be white/black listed? Can teachers be given the ability to bypass the filter? Is the filter local or regional? How are the organization units (OUs) structured?
  2. Who actually decides what sites are blocked in your district or region? Is there a process to getting a site unblocked or blocked?
  3. Do you know your district's official selection and reconsideration policies? Do they apply to all resources - curriculum and library; physical and digital? Is there a standing or selected reconsideration committee?
  4. What does CIPA actually require be blocked? Graphics and/or text? Social media? Pornography? Violence? Have you read the law?

Without knowing the answers to these questions, one is at the mercy of the tech department in determining what is allowed and not allowed through the Internet filter. I hear more librarians say, "The tech director says it (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) is not CIPA compliant. Well that, quite frankly, is bullshit and if you accept it, you are a mushroom - being kept in the dark and fed a lot of bull. 

Come on, knowledge is power. Know the facts about Internet filtering! Do it for your students.

Original post Nov 18, 2013