Connie Williams, a National Board Certified Teacher Librarian from Petaluma (CA) High School and school library leader, left a wonderful response to an article* that I share with her related to the librarian's role in 1:1 computing programs. I asked if she would consider allowing me to share her thoughts on the Blue Skunk and she graciously agreed...
Thank you for inviting me to ponder this topic on your blog. I’ve been reading many articles like yours about the changes needed in today’s libraries and I’m pleased to see that more of these articles are appearing in the journals that administrators read – and are striking a chord with them.
Administrators reading these articles find much to love: vibrant learning spaces where students investigate, and “make”, and collaborate. What I find missing in these articles is that no one mentions that it is adequate staffing—a library “team”—that makes it all work.
Rather than turning to information professionals to assist in the dialog of pedagogical change, far too many administrators are dismissing them or reducing / eliminating library clerical staff.
In libraries where clerical staff is missing, singleton librarians are spending far more time conducting day-to-day clerical tasks to the detriment of instruction. In schools without a librarian on staff, students do not have access to the instruction a librarian brings – and the library becomes a beautiful space that cannot realize all the things they could be with the kind of staffing that brings readers advisory, digital citizenship instruction, third space learning environment, development of project based learning activities and dynamic teacher collaboration.
Staffing, money, teacher buy-in and administrative support are the backbone of any good 21st Century library. Real change comes from planning what the library space, program, and resources should look like to support these new technologies. Buy-in from classroom teachers should include readiness to participate in learning new ways to teach that incorporates a wide variety of activities and pedagogical shifts. Lastly, setting priorities are a must. There’s not a lot of money out there and the majority of spending appears to go towards devices with the idea that free apps will satisfy the research needs of our students.
What the library looks like, and how it operates should come about organically as part of a school culture that wants to create a particular environment that matches the goals of the school and take into account the many teachers and staff members it takes to sustain it well. My “21st Century library” might look very different from yours, but the goals are the same: ensuring that kids are effective users and creators of information and ideas. Knowing that they will come to the library to use it as an educational ‘third space’ is an important piece of the physical library.
If we want beautiful furniture, it will cost money. If we want kids who use their iPADs or Chromebooks for work as well as they do for play, it will require assignments that compel and tools that support. If we want them to be able to identify their information needs, locate the resources, evaluate them critically, use the information well, and create something interesting to present to others, then they need a librarian.
And that librarian needs to be part of a library - and teacher - team. Staffing beats beautiful furniture any day.
Actually though…really. I’d like both.
* “Why Do I Still Need a Library When I Have One in My Pocket?: The Teacher-Librarian’s Role in 1:1/BYOD Learning Environments. (with Jennifer LaGarde), Teacher-Librarian, June 2014