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EdTech Update





Serving the Non-Certified – or Not?

Greetings from AASL in Pittsburgh where I have spent most of Thursday in my capacity of editorial board member for Linworth and in a “think-tank” for Scholastic. At both meetings an interesting question was raised, one which had also come up a year ago at one of our state school library association membership meetings.

“How should we be serving those working in school libraries that may not be certified and have minimal to non-existent training in librarianship?”

It is an interesting and dangerous question, and one that seems to be more important each year, as non-certified library staff (seemingly) replace more and more professional library staff in schools.


Define “certified”. I have my MLS, but I am not a state-certified school librarian (most independent schools do not require that). I would wager that I run as good (if not better) a program as many of my state-certified peers.

Comment by Laura — October 6, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

Since I was very recently one of those “uncertified” I wanted to throw in a few thoughts. I have a masters in instructional technology and am certified in that area. My technology degree involved some credits from a school of library and information science as well as other courses that overlapped with library classes.

I was working as an instructional technology coordinator when, after two failed state-wide searches, I had an opportunity to move into the library world as a school library system coordinator. I immediately began pursuing an MLS and have since then received supplemental (temporary) certification as a school librarian.

Now I will be very open and honest in saying that there were those who felt that I should never have been hired. This wasn’t a case of an organization choosing to “downgrade” their services by going with an uncertified person, but rather an inability to find a certified candidate.

My commitment to finishing my MLS and receiving full certification is making my life rather difficult (not whining, it was my choice to take a job that would include receiving two additional advanced degrees). I appreciate the “support” I am receiving as I work towards this. I actually have it a lot easier than others, though. In New York State, in order for a teacher to become certified as a school librarian she/he is going to have to take an UNPAID 2 month leave of absence from their job. And yet, I see a lot of cases where uncertified teachers are stepping up to the challenge because they want to be fully committed to meeting the library and information needs of their students and school.

Providing support to non-instructional staff that are serving as “library managers” is another issue entirely. I struggle with that as well, but in the end I probably come down on the side of not cutting off my nose to spite my face. I hate that districts are forced to do this (and hate even more when they just decide to do this), but I also don’t want to hurt the students because of “bad choices” by others.

Comment by Christopher Harris — October 7, 2005 @ 11:31 am

There are two distinct camps on this issue. If we provide training, professional membership and support materials to these folks, we are enabling these sorts of displacements. Are we, in other words, directly contributing to the demise of the profession by helping create minimally functioning replacements for those of us with MLS degrees?

The other camp says, “Face reality. These folks exist, they are NOW serving our kids, and for the sake of the kids they work with, how can we not give them all the skills we can? Our children’s interests must supercede our professional pride.”

Man, this is a tough one, and one that goes to long-term and short-term best interests of kids. And I am undecided, believe it or not.

I did explore this topic in a “banned” column back in 1995.

Love to hear your opinion on the topic. Support the non-certified or not?


The Three Commandments of a Successful Library Program

I am looking forward to giving both my sessions at this week’s AASL conference in Pittsburgh, but especially the one on Friday – “Getting the Most from Your Fixed Library Program.” My guess is that anyone who attends this session will be coming to see if my horns, hooves, and long, spiky tail are actually visible.

I was nearly excommunicated from AASL when I wrote a column for School Library Journal a couple years back that heretically suggested there were actually some virtues of fixed (regularly scheduled) library programs. (You can read the column, a good paper by then grad student Christine Hurley, and lots of reactions here.)

For this talk, I’ve been reworking a pro/con session called “Mud Wrestling in the Swamp of Fixed/Flex Access” I gave last fall in North Carolina with my friend and respected colleague professor Gail Dickinson who is from around those parts somewhere. In way of introduction she said, “Doug not only pokes at the sacred cows of the library profession, but actually leads them into the public square and commits indecent acts with them.” Now that’s my kind of intro!

Anyway, the point of this workshop is to give practicing library media specialists some pointers on improving their library programs regardless of whether they are “fixed” or “flexed.” So I’ve been thinking about the very MOST important things one can do to improve any program.

I’d really like to have a whole 10 Commandments (there is a precedent), but so far I can only think up three. Just as well since I am having a tough time getting that burning bush lit anyway. Here they are, the Three Commandments of a Successful Library Program:

1. Thou shall develop shared ownership of the library and all it contains.
2. Thou shall have written annual goals tied directly to school and curriculum goals and bend all thy efforts toward achieving them.
3. Thou shall take thy light out from under thy damn bushel and share with others all the wonders thou performs.

Pretty good, huh? What do you think Old Testament prophet pays nowadays?

I’ll keep working on the other seven commandments (and get some new charcoal lighter fluid), but in the meantime, send me your commandments.

Hope to see lots of folks in Pittsburgh. I’m making sure my hooves are well polished.


Revisiting Pink and “Conceptual Age” Skills

A Saturday Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. The original post from October 4, 2005.

In my August 22, 2005 blog entry, I did a short review of Daniel Pink’s new book A Whole New Mind in which he lists six right brain “senses” he believes successful workers in a post-information age economy will need to have.

Pink’s “senses” (DESIGN, STORY, SYMPHONY, EMPATHY, PLAY, and MEANING) were on my mind this weekend when working on a “serious” paper for the National Library Board of Singapore conference*. The topic is “The Knowledge Worker Redux” and it was a great chance to reflect on what skills our students need to successfully compete in a global economy.

First, I am going to be bold and add a seventh “sense” of my own to Mr. Pink’s list:

7. Not just knowledge, but also LEARNING. Unless a person develops both the ability and the desire to continue to learn new skills, to be open to new ideas, and to be ready to change practices in the face of new technologies, economic forces, and societal demands, he or she will not be able to successfully compete in a global economy.

In the age of educational accountability, we seem to be gearing all our instructional efforts to helping students master left-brain skills, since that is what tests usually measure. But to what extent do we and should we also be developing design sense, storytelling abilities, the ability to synthesis information, empathy, the use of humor, and the ability to detect the importance of the information learned? How do we create true “life-long learners?” What emphases, using Pink’s model, might schools and libraries wish to cultivate in the “conceptual age” worker?


  • Offer art classes and activities
  • Assess not just content, but appearance of student work
  • Teach visual literacy


  • Ask for student writing in the narrative voice.
  • Teach speaking skills.
  • Use storytelling as a part of teaching.
  • Give students opportunities to both hear and tell stories.
  • Honor digital storytelling as an important communication format.


  • Design classroom projects that cross disciplines.
  • Ask for the application of skills and concepts to genuine problems.
  • Use inductive learning strategies (learning by doing).


  • Emphasize reading literature about people from other cultures and socio-economic groups.
  • Give students service learning and volunteer opportunities or requirements.
  • Give students the opportunity to take part as an actor in theater productions.
  • Design group projects.


  • Teach with games, including computer/online games.
  • Teach with simulations.
  • Offer a variety of athletics and physical education classes.
  • Offer participatory music classes.
  • Teach through riddles and jokes, and encourage students to tell them.


  • Offer classes in comparative religion, myth and legend.
  • Teach ethical behaviors as a part of every project.
  • Asking for writings to include statements of personal values.


  • Teach processes, not facts.
  • Allow students to research areas of personal interest (and tolerate a diversity of interests).
  • Give students the ability to learn in non-traditional ways (online, early enrollment in college, apprenticeships).
  • Make available clubs and organizations for students to join in which students learn non-academic skills.
  • Provide access to a wide range of information sources.

Our society and educational system sadly sees many of the opportunities listed above which develop “conceptual age” skills as “extras” – frills that are often the first to be cut in times of tight budgets. It’s tragically ironic that we are doing a disservice to our students as future workers and citizens by doing so.

Other “conceptual age” skills? Other things schools should be doing to help kids practice those that Pink enumerates?

*The paper went on to appear as an article in Teacher-Librarian magazine.