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Friday
Sep162005

Keeping Up?

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that! Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Librarian par-excellance Dian Chen from Nashville recently posted to the AASLForum and LM_Net lists this most excellent set of questions:

Recently I was discussing trends in librarianship with new school librarians (former teachers with no training YET but beginning school). They were amazed at the number and depth of issues facing them in this new field. An interesting question they posed- paraphrased by me- was, “How can you keep up with the new trends in the profession while you are doing the practical?”

While I listed many of the same things immediately darting through your mind, I’d love to open this discussion to an even broader context. How can library educators and administrators stay current with the daily practical needs of school librarians and how can practicing school librarians maintain the breadth of new technology and professional issues on a larger focus than the building level?

Conferences, professional organizations, virtual groups like tappedin.org, blogs, listservs, professional journals, and professional books are immediate partial answers. Yet is this enough? Haven’t you met the library educator who spouts policy and has no clue how this can be implemented practically? Or, haven’t you tried to discuss issues such as filtering, legislation, protecting patron’s privacy, and advocacy with building level school librarians who dismiss this with “I don’t have time for those things?”

How about those school librarians who live in rural areas and can’t continue taking classes or afford access? What about those young professionals beginning families who choose between professional dues and childcare or medical expenses? What creative ways can we brainstorm to bridge this divide?

I hope you, blogreader, aren’t expecting any miraculous solutions from reading this. Most days I feel just like the Red Queen who informs Alice that it takes all the running you can do just to keep in the same place.

I was encouraged a bit, however by library guru Debbie Abilock’s sage strategy: “I’ve become a skimmer of some things and a digester of others but, more importantly, I’ve learned to focus my own learning to align tightly with my goals. For example I wouldn’t “keep up” with information about library content management systems all the time, but when I’m in the market for a new online catalog, I read widely, ask experts, going to workshops, etc….so that I understand federated searching, open URL, folksonomies…the trends that impact my decision. For other new trends I’m skimming quickly, using alerts and respected experts, so that I develop a shallow awareness of horizon possibilities which can act as a basis for future learning when and if I’ll need it.

Here are some thoughts:

1. I’ve come to terms with the plain fact I can’t ever keep up, that others will always know more than I do about almost everything, but that I can still hold my head high. Being ignorant is forgivable, and is a great deal different from being stupid or incompetent. I am awed by the expectations that we have of librarians who are to be “specialists” in literature, technology, information literacy, project-based learning, etc. Are we doing ourselves any favors by spreading ourselves too thin?

I’ve just plain abandoned any claim to expertise in some areas. Regretfully, I’ve almost stopped reading children’s and young adult literature, although it was a passion of mine for many years. I DO however, try to keep up on how good library resources can have a positive impact on reading abilities. I tend to focus very tightly on issues related to libraries and technology and how they can actually have a positive influence on MY school district. Like Debbie suggest, I practice information triage all the time. I do a lot of just-in-time learning. I rely on having an understanding of many things, but no real depth of knowledge, knowing I can tap on experts when the need arises. (I know what a DNS server does, but I don’t need to know how to configure the damn thing.)

3. While I appreciate Diane’s worry about the great unwashed group of librarians who don’t seem to be able to keep up, I think we need to keep the “Circle of Influence” and “Circle of Concern” attitude I expressed in my August 19th blog entry “Picking Your Fights.” If I remember from Sunday school, the Bible says, “The poor shall be with you always.” I’d add, “So shall those who just don’t give a damn.” While it’s good to do what one can through our professional organizations to reach these folks, I will spend the bulk of my efforts in reaching those who are actually within my reach – my own district librarians, teachers and administrators. (I am excited this year that we have funding to establish a Professional Learning Community for our librarians.)

4. Ms Chen also worries about the library educator or administrator, “who spouts policy and has no clue how this can be implemented practically…” I rather think there is a place for educators who are idealists and pound into students the basic principles of the profession. I am glad Mildred Laughlin and Fran McDonald both instilled in me the high ideals of intellectual freedom, student privacy, copyright, etc. Were I designing a library school program, I’d have half the classes taught by our ivory tower professors and the other half taught by cynical, wiley adjuncts. A person needs a balance to be truly educated.

Ok, this entry is far too long. Folks, help Diane and me out with your ideas about some of these issues: How do we keep up? How do reach those who don’t seem to care if they keep up? How do we effectively educate new members in the profession?
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2 Comments »
Lots to think about here. I too am feeling like the Red Queen. There is SO much to keep up with. Here are some things that I do:

1. I use Bloglines to subscribe to RSS feeds of interest. I skim the summaries everyday. Sometimes I read the whole post. Other times, I use the “clip this” feature to save articles for later. I also use Savethis.com to save articles from web sites that cannot be “clipped” with bloglines.

2. I maintain a plastic bin divided up into sections so that I can throw print information under topics of interest to me.

These 2 things probably just make me feel better about the superficial knowledge I acquire from skimming. The folders are sort of like that pile of books that I plan to get around to reading someday…….

3. Pick something of great interest and see if your district will let you use your Professional Development time to pursue it. Our district allows us to choose a professional development plan and pursue it for 2 years in lieu of more traditional administrative observations. I like to pick a new idea that I want to know more about and figure out how I can use my students as “guinea pigs”. Poor little things…. But the district plan requires that I show concrete evidence that the study benefits real students. The last plan I did was “evaluating and citing information - particularly web information”. I was able to develop a lot of practical materials to use with my classes as a result of my research and the imperative of needing something concrete to show the principal at the end of every year for 2 years. I reap the benefit of that plan daily. My students regularly use the web citation slips I developed. I have web evaluation activities and powerpoints that I use at all grade levels. And I have a rubric to evaluate the quatlity of information in student works cited lists.

I have another 2 year project planned with blogs and rss. Not sure what “concrete products” might come out of it. But - there will have to be something or my end of the year evaluation will be pretty sad….

I think it is very helpful if administrators can find ways for educators to follow their own interests/passions. We acquire a lot of superficial knowledge about a lot of important and interesting educational trends. And yet - we seldom get much time to develop those ideas and make them our own.

Comment by Jacquie Henry — September 16, 2005 @ 5:25 pm |Edit This

Terrific ideas, Jacquie - so many districts are very accommodating to teachers who want to pursue a variety of topics for Prof. Dev credit. I think I am ready for that! I think my problem was sort of from the other direction from what the people Doug quoted talked about. As someone with an MLS doing the “career switcher” alternative certification process, I was up on a lot of professional issues but desperate for Lesson Plans, classroom mgmt ideas, etc. I was my own student teacher! I was my own lead teacher! I didn’t have a clue. Now, in my 4th year and with a 6 week old teacher’s certificate, I’m getting some balance. One book I like is Keeping Current published by ALA. I think the author is Cohen. A valuable quick read. I like it so much I may actually buy it (after paying 7 days worth of late ILL fees.)

Comment by Melissa Techman — September 18, 2005 @ 6:44 pm
Thursday
Sep152005

Go Google Yourself

September 15, 2005

Filed under: Navel gazing — dougj @ 4:12 pm Edit This
It’s been just a little bit of crazy around here with the start of school, so I didn’t get to check my Blogline feeds until just before bed last night. (That’s about 8:30 among us wild and crazy Minnesotans.) It was then I found a new delight!

I am a self-admitted Google addict and love all the tricky little things it can do (despite the Onion article claiming the search engine wants to destroy all information it can’t index). So I was happy to see in the Google Weblog that one can now just Google blogs using Google Blog Search.

Although my karma now may be seriously at risk, I Google Blogged myself. (Come on, admit it - you Google yourself now and then when you think you are alone.)

After wading through search results for far more illustrious “Doug Johnson’s” than myself, I found a few hits where some poor soul on his/her blog has linked to something I’ve written.

Now I have been writing for professional journals since the earth was cooling, so finding links to my articles was not too shocking. But I found links to entries in my blog which has been in existence less than two months!

There is a whole, big, whopping blogging sub-culture roaming about cyberspace that I didn’t even know about. It’s like finding a big bunch of elves in the backyard of a house you’ve lived in for 10 years. I’m amazed by the speed which thoughts now propagate in the blogosphere - even crackpot ideas like mine.

I’m going back to the NECC 2005 webast of David Weinberger’s keynote “The New Shape of Knowledge” in which he argues that knowledge is less static entity and more fluid conversation. I’ll be ordering his book too - despite the archaic, staid format.

Still trying to get my mind around this. Are you beginning to look at knowledge as not just facts, but dialog?
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2 Comments »
Yes - it is truly amazing. Here is what is rolling around in my mind… We have some very well established criteria for judging the reliability of web sites. What criteria should we add to evaluate blogs? I will be teaching evaluation skills to 9th and 10th graders over the next few months, and need some serious help with this issue!

Comment by Jacquie Henry — September 16, 2005 @ 5:49 am

Karen Schneider’s comment that “I do believe information is more of a conversation than it was in the past, and that librarians who fail to understand that are not coming along” still resonates; especially when we look at how new technologies are changing our whole perceptions of information-delivery. But critical thinking is still critical thinking, no matter what the format or framework, and that’s really what we need to concentrate on.

Comment by Alice Yucht — September 17, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

Wednesday
Sep142005

It’s Not My Job

NEVER say “It’s not my job” to your boss, teachers, or kids. If someone asks you to do something that you can’t do, you have two acceptable responses:

1. I don’t know how to do this. I need to find someone who does or find out how to do it.
2. I have other tasks I have to do first, but I will get to it when I can. (And you enumerate those other tasks.)

As you know, whenever there is a new technology implementation, there are new jobs in training, trouble-shooting, and support. And not a one of them comes labeled saying, “The librarian should do this” or “The technician should do this” or “The district technology guru should do this.”

I have always advised folks to take on the nasty, specialized jobs that are vitally important. If you have some of those and your job or hours are ever threatened, they are wonderful things to put on the table. Your boss will quickly realize that if you aren’t there do some of these things, s/he will have to find someone else to do them - and may find someone else (with few nastier jobs that need to be reassigned) to cut.

If my job ever is axed, I want the person who wielded the instrument to be really, really, really sorry s/he did - because they miss me.

Strike “It’s not my job” from your vocabulary!

Any nasty little jobs that have saved your big job?
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2 Comments »
Ironic that I should choose now to check out your blog . . . hours after I very nearly lost “it” and went storming into the office screaming “this is NOT my job!” I didn’t. I surely wanted to.

I find more and more and more of my time spent in technology/network troubleshooting. This leaves less and less time to devote to the library program, collaborating with teachers and just helping kids find a book they will love.

I am relatively new to the profession. This is my second year at the school. Where is the balance? As a librarian I expected to help out with technology. Graduate classes covered all sorts of multimedia productions and how to create rubrics for assessment, teaching kids and teachers effective search strategies, promoting higher level thinking assessments and information evaluation. No one mentioned that few teachers are willing to give you the time of day and try these activities. What they want is someone who will run AR for them. And someone who can IMMEDIATELY fix network printing problems.

It’s also especially funny when I call the district help desk and am told “we aren’t trained in trouble-shooting like you are.” HA! When did that happen? Almost everything I know about computers I learned by playing around with it.

I know I need to learn to say “I have other tasks I have to do first, but I will get to it when I can.” So how do you get the people who are standing there waiting while you are trying to teach a class to LEAVE and let you get to it when you can? Which may be in quite a while? There is no way I can go to each and every computer on campus and input the proxy server numbers or change email account names. Is that my job? Can teachers not follow written directions? I know they have a lot to do. So do I.

Vent over. Thanks, cyberspace readers, for listening.

Comment by Angie — September 24, 2005 @ 6:55 pm

I am in my 28th year of teaching-the last 10 in a high school media center. I love everything about being a media specialist including tech support-one reason I was lured to this position. But I am extremely frustrated that I, like Doug suggests, did not say no when asked to add to my responsibilities. One of the secretaries at our school was doing asset inventory which includes labeling and tracking everything purchased in our school with 100 teachers and almost 1900 students. She didn’t want to do it and the principal asked me to take it on. Of course I said, “yes”. I would never think of telling an administrator I could not handle something he or she needed done. But, besides being burned out I am no longer enjoying the perfect job. I feel I no longer have the time to discuss books with students or spend time helping them find answers to things they just “were wondering about”. I am constantly stressed because teachers don’t get information back to me in a timely manner so that I can complete endless reports which includes a video inventory of the entire school-something that took two weeks to get done with a school this size and a schedule like mine. I can retire after next year and will because I am no longer doing the job I loved.
Debi

Comment by Debi Tebeau — September 29, 2005 @ 3:05 pm