Do What You Love….

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I have begun this journey into library science in a quest to find the “perfect” career: doing something that I love, that I am good at, and that serves society and the world.  After much reflection and research I decided that becoming a teacher-librarian might be the best path for me.  I love children, I love teaching, I love children’s books, I love children’s libraries.  But my idea of what it meant to be a school librarian was informed by my own experience as a child, parent, and teacher.  The role of the teacher-librarian is changing in the 21st century, and I wonder: will I love it?  I am not particularly savvy with technology, the new web 2.0, or social media.  In fact, historically, technology has always been a “necessary evil” in my life and I have always relied heavily on my “IT Guy” (aka my husband and my mother before that) when the technology gremlins have attacked and I’ve become hopelessly frustrated by my supposedly life-enhancing laptop/iphone/internet/streaming provider/etc. It has only been in this semester that I’ve learned what it meant to “embed” a link, what a widget was, and I still don’t have a twitter account!

In reviewing Joyce Valenza’s revised manifesto for 21st century librarians this week, I was particularly struck by one of her last bullets:

● You enjoy what you do and let others know it. It’s always better when you do what you love. (And, if you don’t love this new library world, find something else to do.)

I wonder: will I love this new library world?

It’s still very exciting and interesting, but scary too.  What kind of librarian do I want to be? What kind of librarian does the world need?

Online Collaboration

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Communication technology today allows miraculous things to occur. It allows people who have never even met each other in person collaborate in real-time to create and edit digital products around the world. This can be of enormous educational benefit, particularly when it allows students with common interests but at different schools (around the world!) to collaborate on real-world projects. However, the technology is still “clunky”.  There are still too many different apps, programs, and formats to work seamlessly together.  There are still too many bugs and technical limitations that vary from location to location to make online collaboration “easy”.  And it takes a certain, specific kind of project management with specific technological skills  to make online collaborations to be effective. Certainly “group projects” are difficult enough in-person and real-time! Adding distance, technological differences, and potentially time differences only complicates things further! All this still feels new to me.  The capabilities and possibilities of the technology are still new to me.  And, if technology keeps pace, will continue to be!  However, I find the possibilities and challenges of online digital collaboration an interesting challenge and an interesting experiment.

School Libraries and Censorship

Censorship In Student Media

This week I’ve been wrestling with complicated ideas about intellectual freedom, First Amendment and information access rights for minors, the Library Bill of Rights, and censorship.

While discussing these ideas with my husband, he challenged me to clarify the role of the school library.  In my studies,  it seems the ALA believes the school library to theoretically serve the same mission as the public library: to provide access to all information and ideas to everyone.

However in practice we first serve the educational missions of our schools and districts, and while many school libraries try to accommodate and provide access to all “members of the community,” generally speaking, most school libraries effectively limit access to students, faculty, and (sometimes) parents.

With differing access, constituents, funding, and educational directives should the “rules” about open access be different?

While both my husband and I agree that all people, even minors, should have access to all kinds of media (including racist, pornographic, etc.) in a public (i.e. city) libraries, we differ as to whether schools should be required to provide access to these same kinds of materials. Parents and community trust materials from the school library to be “school sanctioned” and generally expect those materials to have educational benefit.  My husband argues that if clear educational value cannot be demonstrated, students should be directed to the public library for materials (including popular fiction and social-media).

However, it can also be argued that this restricts access for some students, particularly those who do not have easy access to a local public library.

It’s an interesting and complicated topic to think about.

Numbers and Statistics!

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This week I’ve been diving into the world of school library statistics and advocacy as I prepare to create an infographic for my class.  There are a lot of numbers out there! Impressively, school libraries with professionally trained librarians show a consistent link to higher reading test-scores across the country. There are clear and definite correlations between school libraries and student outcomes, even when accounting for differences in socio-economic and special needs status.

What is less clear to me, however, is how GREAT those effects are, relative to the effects of other kinds of outcome-boosting interventions. This seems to be an area for greater study. I’d also be interested to see more correlations in better student outcomes across the curriculum. The school library should support math and science and social studies teachers every bit as much as they support language arts teachers!

Surprisingly, as states go, Texas doesn’t seem to be doing to bad on the school library statistics front.  They rank 16th out of US states for having school libraries staffed by at least one full-time professional librarian, 90% of them are certified media specialists and 75% of them are classroom teachers. Though Texas only ranks 24th for book-holdings per 100 students, they rank 11th for giving students access to online licensed databases, and 6th for average expenditure overall on information resources per 100 students!

Though I don’t associate Texas with a deep commitment to public education and equitable access (we only rank 21st nationally for schools), apparently the library advocacy sector has been doing a pretty good job!  I guess it’s a good state to get my certification in!

 

World of Web Resources

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As I continue to research and learn more about librarianship, I continue to be astounded by the quantity and quality of web resources. How much has changed in the ten years since I first got my teaching certificate and the Technology Teacher largely had web-games only for elementary users!  The quantity of new sites and apps is overwhelming, however. I am coming to appreciate the skill and art of finding quality “resources for resources”–reliable places to go to curate the best of the best.

The ALA is obviously one of these places. Their Best Websites for  Teaching and Learning is a gem at http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/websites/2016 as is their Great Websites for Kids http://gws.ala.org/ which has the added bonus of being organized by subject and content area.

I am also a huge fan of Common Sense Media which includes  not only websites but apps, television shows, movies, games, and even (gasp!) books! I also love that it is searchable by age and media type and has ratings for different kinds of content such as educational value, positive role models, violence, sexy stuff, and (importantly!) consumerism.

Edtechteacher at http://edtechteacher.org also provides an deep resource for quality technology tools aimed at the technology teacher, teacher-librarian, and educator. Websites, apps, and educational tech tools can be discovered searching by educational subject, topic, or learning activity. Tons of free recommended lists, project ideas,  webinar tutorials, rubrics, and more are made available to educators at this site.

I’m also more carefully considering the value and ethics of “parental controls” for web and internet exploration.  While I don’t feel I have fully internalized my personal position on web censorship for children, I can see the value of sites such as kidrex.orggooglejunior.comKideos, as well as  “safe search” and “safety” modes on sites like google and youtube.  Particularly in a school setting, teacher-librarians and educators want to be sensitive to appropriate content for young people and teach media skills without concern about overstepping appropriate boundaries or breaking trust with our family-partners.

But I warn you, once you begin to explore these resources you can go down a very deep and compelling rabbit hole!  Refer back to my blog post about Adjusting the Flow to help keep things in perspective!

 

Montessori & Librarianship

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My career hear-to-fore has been in the field of Montessori education, founded by Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s for preschool aged children and eventually expanded to elementary, infant, and increasingly adolescent communities.

Without statistics in front of me, I would venture to say most Montessori schools are small with only one or two classrooms. Many more are operated in the “year-round, all-day” child-care model. Most of these schools do not have a “library” to speak of–perhaps a closet or a few cupboards filled with books. Some more carefully cultivated to align with Montessori philosophy and quality age-appropriate literature than others. Most supplemented by parent gifts and thrift-store purchases.  If there is any organization to these books at all, it is by the efforts of a dedicated parent volunteer who may have helped to tag the books by subject or order them in some kind of alphabetical order.  Guides (the Montessori name for teachers) select books to rotate in their “library corner” and for occasional read-alouds. Older children may use some of these books for “research” when investigating a topic that interests them. There are likely some leveled books and phonetic readers in each classroom on the language shelves as well.

However, there are an increasing number of bonafide Montessori private schools offering care from infancy or toddler-hood through elementary. And the public Montessori movement is gaining increasing momentum across the country with Montessori charters and magnets opening every year.  To my knowledge, many of these new public Montessori’s don’t have proper, professionally run libraries.  Others have libraries, but run by non-Montessorian librarians who don’t  understand the guiding philosophies of literature and technology, especially for the younger children.  Thus they are not properly weeded according to Montessori philosophy and encouraging resources many Guides would find inappropriate.

Finally, the Montessori community at large has a deep distrust of computers and technology with children.  They seek to “hide” children from technology before the elementary years, and only introduce it with the utmost caution and limitations for report writing and research in the elementary years.  This is in direct opposition from the direction traditional public schools and the library science field as a whole are following, which increasingly emphasize technology even for the youngest students, and encourages educational innovation through technology.

I am not certain where I stand on all this personally. It is an issue I continue to wrestle with.  While I do believe technology can be inappropriate as a primary education source for young children, I also believe it is an essential part of their culture, and thus something that should be taught in a Montessori classroom. Furthermore, I find that innovation continues to create ever-more interactive technologies that ARE increasingly appropriate for young children to interact with and learn about their worlds. Unfortunately, I believe neo-luddite “traditionalists” in the Montessori community are holding Montessori as a movement, and children as individuals, back when it comes to learning enhanced by technology.

All this is to say, how am I going to merge my two passions? How can I advocate both as a librarian and a Montessorian to Montessori schools for professionally run libraries? How should a Montessori school library look? How much technology? What kinds of books? How would it be scheduled? How would one lure students and teachers into the library?  It’s something I am only just beginning to get a glimpse of, but am unsure if it’s something I could “sell” to private and public Montessori schools on tight budgets. How do I sell it from a Montessori philosophical position? How do I sell it from a costs-benefits position?  It’s an interesting conundrum–one I hope I can figure out in the next few years.

 

 

Interview

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This week I had the pleasure of interviewing with my Mentor Librarian, Kay Gooch.  My big take-aways are that your library program can be as book-centric or tech centric as you want it to be–provided you had already developed a strong library program.  As a new hire I imagine one would be much more beholden to the principal.  Also just the value of sheer warmth and likability on making a library program work–Kay is certainly that!  I also found it interesting to hear her take on “debates” in the world of teacher-librarianism and the “boots on the ground” perspective to some of the new theory I’ve been learning.