Replacing School Libraries with Makers Spaces – a worrisome tale


I want to preface this post with a disclaimer: Though I spent 2 years in charge of a school library in the early days of my career, I make no claim to any special expertise in children’s services or school media centers beyond the general knowledge I have gleaned during my time in the library profession.  In addition I do like to ‘stay in my lane’ and, as a result, have rarely if ever weighed in on issues specific to school libraries. When I began reading about the Makers Movement in school libraries, I left the issue alone as it was outside my wheelhouse. However, as this picks up momentum nation-wide it will come to affect us all in time, not just as public libraries but also as a society looking to an educational system to develop our next generation.

I have previously mentioned that I was slow to embrace the Makers Movement shift in public libraries.  It simply didn’t speak to me right away; so I was a bit of a hard sell. I believe libraries, while we continue to innovate, must make decisions based on the ‘long-haul’ from a position that respects public trust and our over-arching missions that withstand the tests of time.  It is human nature to jump on the new exciting thing. However, I have been completely convinced that these programmatic spaces and innovative offerings in public libraries are an exciting component of lifelong learning and essential to bridging the digital divide just as books were in the early 20th century.

So as much as I am a proponent of Makers Spaces in public libraries, this same movement in school libraries is worrisome.  Is the school library really the appropriate home for a ‘makers space’ (3D Printer, sound studios, sewing machines, etc)?  I may be working from an old model- let’s admit- it’s been awhile since I was in elementary or high school.  But wouldn’t the 3D printer be more logical placed in the computer science department or the Technology/Computer Lab?  And the sound studio in the Music Department? And the sewing machine….what happened to Home Economics?

If you do agree that the school library should embrace the ‘movement’, then comes the question of “To what degree?”.  Where is balance in a school library setting between reader advisory, digital literacy, bibliographic instruction, etc and the cutting edge technology we are seeing in Makers Spaces in public libraries?  In at least one school district in Kansas it appears the scales are far from balanced and it has many worried:

School libraries shift toward innovation areas, but librarians fear for what’s lost,

by Rick Montgomery of the Kansas City Star June 24, 2016

(Edited for brevity- follow link for complete article)

Librarians in the Shawnee Mission School District are making way for “the maker movement,” and some worry where that story is going… at least four Shawnee Mission grade schools have hired “innovation specialists” to run their libraries when fall classes open.

That’s the language of the maker movement, which seeks to convert once-quiet school spaces — usually in the libraries — into hands-on laboratories of creation and computer-assisted innovation….In fact, the word “librarian” didn’t come up in the job description for an innovation specialist at Merriam Park Elementary. “Stories” wasn’t there, either. No mention of “books,” “literature” nor “shelves.”

[Jan] Bombeck [of Ray Marsh Elementary] said. “It’s like they’re avoiding people with library certification.”

District administrators say that’s not the case. They do acknowledge, however, that grade schools haven’t much need any more for the libraries of 20 years ago — when they stocked books, gave research help, suggested age-appropriate literature and provided a cozy corner in which kids could turn pages.

Wow…Really? That is quite a statement “haven’t much need any more for the libraries of 20 years ago”…so no middle ground? School libraries must either be an arcane model  or makers space?

 Today all Shawnee Mission pupils are issued an electronic tablet or MacBook, providing them many times the information once squeezed on library shelves.“Now that they have those digital resources in hand, no longer do I have to get up and walk my class to the library,” said Michelle Hubbard, assistant superintendent of leadership and learning.

It is excellent to hear that these technologies are being made available to students on this scale.  It is equally distressing to hear a school administrator diminish decades of school library efforts to this degree of irrelevance.

 This past weekend at Union Station, hundreds of area kids demonstrated what it’s about at the sixth annual Maker Faire: They programmed 3-D printers to craft sculptures. They used laptops to help Lego robots complete assigned tasks. They showed off sewing, gardening, electrical wizardry and consumer products of their own making.

In this worrisome movement I see a computer lab, tech center, science innovation, music education enhancements and home ec (with even a little bit of ‘shop class’ thrown in).  What I don’t see is a library.  If we need these innovations in our schools- and I would ABSOLUTELY argue that we do- let’s place them in the appropriate department.  If we need sewing machines and we wish to teach this skill, bring back those amazing Home Ec & Shop teachers who taught us how to make great pillows, bird houses, balance a check book and even cook! But don’t use them to replace Librarians. These are two different things and both are necessary!

 …Leslie Preddy, president of the American Association of School Librarians….“To call yourself a librarian, you need to have that training and to be certified,” said Preddy, who works in a school district near Indianapolis. “If you replace a certified librarian with someone who’s just an expert in technology, you’re losing half of the role that school libraries are supposed to be serving.

“You still need someone who is a champion of reading.” She cited the research of Keith Curry Lance (much of it funded by librarian groups) that shows higher student scores in reading, and in some cases even math, at schools where certified librarians are present.

The shift has many worried and they are speaking out.  Hoping to encourage the school district to seek a balance between library and makers space.

…Bombeck…took a stand. At the May 23 meeting of the Shawnee Mission school board, the librarian stepped up to an open mic …“Several elementary principals have expressed a desire to turn the library into only a makers space without any library curriculum,” Bombeck said. “I have never ‘just read stories’ and checked out books. I have taught digital citizenship, copyright law and internet safety. I have taught research skills and database use.”

Ellie Seemann, who just finished her final year as the Merriam Park librarian, said that offering maker spaces and traditional library services shouldn’t be viewed as an either-or proposition. “I hate to hear it talked about as one or the other,” she said. ….

But, unfortunately there may be more at stake than the library-advocates can rail against…

District officials say part of a $233 million bond referendum that voters passed in 2015 directed funds toward remaking school libraries. They say the innovation goals were well-communicated at the time.

As for staffing, assistant superintendent Hubbard said: “It’s really more about the skills that an individual brings to lift kids to that level than it is about certification.”

Whether or not educators have completed a master’s program in library science, which is one route to certification, Hubbard said that “all great teachers can teach kids to read and teach them research skills.” She said she would expect those skills to be highly considered whenever maker-minded teachers are hired to replace retiring librarians….

$233 MILLION! Towards ‘remaking’ libraries.  As I lay in bed in the dark of night and ponder these shifts perhaps I am becoming more cynical with age, but I do wonder: In an educational system that has spent the past decade downsizing and marginalizing school media centers and the role of Librarians, is this shift to makers spaces simply another step to further that agenda but with a more palatable flavor? From the success of the bond referendum and the resulting organizational changes to district libraries and hiring practices, one could certainly draw that conclusion.

They say “you can’t fight city hall” and I think the same sentiment could be applied to school districts.  But I do hope that the professionals, the public, the parents, and groups like ALA and AASL will continue to fight the good fight and raise issues with the worrisome path school districts are choosing.  I certainly believe a balance between library and makers space can and should be found that will provide the most educational   opportunities for students.

If not, in 20 years when our “libraries” are full of sewing machines and 3D printers, we may find ourselves reading articles about a revival movement to add “Reading Spaces” to schools…where will those go…the band room?

 

 

 

 

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ALA 2016 Bound


As Librarians across the country begin the annual pilgrimage, I am joining the ranks!

alaac16

I will admit it has been a number of years since I have attended ALA Annual Conference.  However, I say that will my head held high. Why?  For the last 8 years, as the Director of the Trenton Free Public Library we survived a number of devastating budget cuts that resulted in layoffs and service reductions.  In a climate continually fraught with budget woes, it would not have been appropriate to spend operational funds to travel to the conference.  Instead, I continued my professional development in other ways.

That said, nothing replaces the opportunity to network with your colleagues, wander the exhibits looking at the latest technology, meeting and talk with vendors who shape the next great offering to our services, and learning about the latest trends in our profession.  I am thrilled to be on my way to do just that!

In addition, I will be participating in a panel discussion on Sunday June 26 at 10:30-11:30am in the Orange County Convention Center, Room W101B

A Library App: Driving a Better Customer Experience & the Metrics That Matter

Specifically, I will be presenting a brief talk on “Discontinuous Change through Mobile Service” discussing how mobile services can change our service model to reach non-users, why it hasn’t happened sooner, and what we need to do to manage the process.

Here’s to a great conference! Safe travels everyone.

 

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21st Century Library Headed for Bangkok Speaking Engagement


As I mentioned in my 2015 Blog in Review post, one of the 175 countries that view this Blog has invited me to speak at their annual seminar to promote “living libraries.” I will be speaking in Bangkok Thailand at the TK Park Forum 2016 organized by The Knowledge Park on Thursday March 31, 2016. I depart soon for the 24 hour trip to SE Asia and a wonderful adventure and opportunity speaking in such a fantastic venue.

The Queen Sirikit National Convention CenterThe Queen Sirikit National Convention Center-site of the TK Park Forum 2016

I was invited by the Thai Office of Knowledge Management and Development to make a presentation based on my Post from July 2015 “Managing Innovative Personalities for Successful Library Innovation“. Conference papers and presentation graphics will be available online from their Conference Program link. I’m looking forward to an amazing experience, wonderful people and innovative new ideas. Look for a recap along with pictures of the event, my visit to the TK Park, and other adventures!

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Are We Creating an Innovation Divide?


Tis the season for grant and award applications or at least it feels that way from the sheer number of notices rolling into my email inbox and pervading the professional literature. As I scan these various grants and awards seeking ever increasingly innovative projects, I started to ponder an idea. As we’ve discussed previously in this blog: I believe Innovation is a matter of perspective. If you’re driving a car an airplane would be an innovation but if you’re riding a bicycle then a car would be an innovation. Simply put- what is innovative at one Library might be last years news at another. Innovation is about your own unique environment and starting point.

So if each Library’s level of innovation is in a different place based on their starting point and environment…but the awards and grants continually seek to raise the bar and set higher and higher levels for innovation…Doesn’t it stand to reason that at some point some libraries will simply be left behind? Example: Anytown Library has come to a place where they have the staff know-how and community support to add a Makers Space, they begin to apply for various awards or grants to assist in funding the project. However, to their dismay, they are repeatedly turned down with the explanation that the idea is simply no longer ‘innovative enough’ to receive grant/award funding. When you find yourself applying for an award to pursue an innovative project or idea for your library (such as a maker space) only to find that the award goes to someone who already had a maker space and is now taking the next step, where does this leave you looking for funding? Do you regularly notice the list of libraries receiving innovation funding through grants or awards seems to have the same names popping up year after year?

Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about innovation grants and awards. She mentioned her participation as a judge on a panel for a state-wide innovation grant. She served on this panel for several years and she detailed their pursuit of ever increasing levels of innovation. I asked how they balanced those libraries just beginning to innovative with libraries further along the path. She seemed puzzled at my question. I explained by saying “If an applicant starts from a place of less innovation-how were they able to compete for the funding?” She relied “They really couldn’t compete effectively. We were looking for the MOST innovative ideas. ” I queried “But without the funding of their project to raise them to that next level, how were they ever expected to reach a common ground with other libraries in the state so that they could compete for those funds?” Her response “Well, I guess they couldn’t.” I simply stated “Interesting. It sounds like a cycle that inevitably leaves some libraries behind with no chance to catch up…”

So what happens if you’re a library that is trying to continue to grow but find yourself outpaced by those libraries who seem further along on their journey of innovation? As they win funding grants and awards to implement Innovation one year, they then build on that program the next year to have an even better and grander program that they put forward for innovative funding. As funders look for the most innovative projects available to them to fund, are we creating an entire classification of libraries that are simply…left behind?

Hopefully, as Foundations, awarding organizations and other funding sources look at distributing monies to innovative projects in public libraries, they will continue to balance the importance of funding innovation that moves the entire profession and bar for innovation forward as well as those projects that may only move one library forward in their innovation journey. As a profession committed to providing equal services across communities, net neutrality, open access, we must apply that same approach to innovation. Every community and library deserves to have an opportunity to compete for support, awards, and funding for innovation as they perceive it. At the end of the day, we must ensure that we do not leave an entire subset of libraries behind in our relentless pursuit for that next great innovation idea.

Let us not leave behind those who have started from a bicycle while those who ride in the car get an airplane and fly away.

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21st Century Library Blog – 2015 in Review


2015 was a great year for 21st Century Library Blog, thanks in no small part to faithful readers like yourself.

While the posts were fewer than I intended, this year saw the creation of a ‘sister’ Facebook page, which became the #1 Referring Site to the Blog!!

The 21st Century Librarian  

fblogo

It is encouraging to me that 175 countries read my Blog, and one of them invited me to speak at their annual library/education conference in March 2016. (More to come on that.)

I hope you enjoy this 21st Century Library Blog 2015 in Review and give yourself a pat on the back for helping our profession progress.

THANK YOU ALL!

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Public Libraries must take a Stand with the Big 5 on eBooks


Library Journal “ALA, Publishers Talk Ebook Lending Terms for Libraries

I saw the headline and thought “Excellent! I hope this means ALA has made real progress toward open access to ALL content regardless of format!” and then I read the article.

“ALA highlighted the valuable role of libraries in the publishing and reading ecosystems and thus why more flexible and favorable terms for library eBook lending are in everyone’s best interest.”

Publishing ecosystems? Huh? Where’s the mention of providing equal access to information regardless of format?

“This visit represents ALA’s ninth such delegation effort over the last several years.”

Ninth delegation!? Seriously? And yet here most of us sit with abysmal title selections and outrageously priced contracts. I don’t think the strategy is working…whatever it is.

“Libraries have a prominent role in the discovery of books and authors, whether in the physical or virtual worlds.”

True. We all love our reader’s advisory and putting those new books in people’s hands.

“Indeed, the opening of a brick-and-mortar store by Amazon is a major acknowledgment that physical place is important, even for an online-based service. “

True…Library as 3rd space. We have been saying this for a decade. Wait…is the delegation saying these publisher’s should think of the libraries as their “brick-and-mortar” presence for their eBook trade? Hmm..starting to feel a little uncomfortable… where is this headed?

“In our meetings, we came away with a few possibilities for strengthened collaboration with publishers to promote discoverability as well as reading and literacy.”

OK- even less comfortable. Let’s break down this sentence. So in addition to promoting reading and literacy which we all do and love…the delegation is suggesting we promote discoverability…of the publisher’s eBooks. Why is it that this sounds a bit more like promoting for revenue than simple reader’s advisory?

“One idea that received some traction is tying discoverability with a particular subject matter, such as health or workforce issues. Library services or programming in an area would be developed and highlighted on a national scale, and publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured. Publishers would offer print or eBooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.”

I’m sorry…what? Let’s read that part again “publishers’ titles on these subjects would be featured”. And…“Publishers would offer print or eBooks through a favorable promotion to stimulate participation by libraries and, in turn, by the public.” Now I’m officially uncomfortable and we have turned into shady ethical territory. Consider this: It is one thing when we host a children’s program with a magician and then put out a display of books on magic. It is ENTIRELY another when a book seller comes to the children’s librarian and says “If you will pay to put on a program with a magician- I will SELL you these books on magic at a discount and then you agree to ‘feature’ those books at the program”. How many of us would pull back from that offer instinctively?

But now we read an article with ALA is actually presenting this as a serious idea. ARE YOU KIDDING!?? Libraries are not peddlers of the publisher’s product! Libraries are not about free advertising for authors! Taxpayers do not give Libraries their hard-earned tax dollars to have us craft services and programming to promote a for-profit venture.

“Most fundamental, however, for these meetings is to further develop the library–publisher relationship at the executive and national levels. Publishers and libraries have similar overall goals—to promote and advance reading and literacy—and are allies in many respects.”

And why is it that each time I read about Library/Publisher talks or pilot programs I always see the same New York area libraries represented? Why are the New York area Libraries driving the national agenda and conversation on eBooks? Why are they some of the ONLY libraries to have ‘deals’ with the publishers? Proximity? Hogwash!! We all know how to get on an airplane. I have as much or more respect for NYPL and its neighbors as anyone (I’ll admit it may nearly bordering on a bit of hero worship); but I would like to see a broader spectrum of folks invited to the table for these negotiations.  Perhaps this is a banner that the new Librarian of Congress or ALA’s new Director of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and Freedom to Read Foundation, Jamie LaRue. With his appointment, I have the first high hopes I’ve had for awhile when it comes to serious progress from ALA.

And lets not overlook the bit about similar goals.  Unless it’s a charitable tax write off or a form of promotion, do we really believe the Big 5 have any other goal at the end of the day other than to make money? What better way than to get one of the most trusted of public institutions to hawk their products?

Let’s stop kowtowing to the Big 5. Stop telling them how good we are for their product and begging for scraps. Please ALA, do not sell the soul of the Public Library – the public trust that Libraries are one of the only remaining ‘commercial-free zones’- for a better price on the latest best seller. We are not the pawn of the Publishers. We are not their salesmen. Instead stand up for EXACTLY the reason we Public Librarians are here! To ensure that all Americans, regardless of their means, have access to ALL content/information REGARDLESS of format.

THAT SHOULD BE OUR MESSAGE TO THE PUBLISHERS. We will NOT allow them to throw our ability to create open access to information back into the dark ages because the technology of this bright new century allows them to maintain a strangle hold on content. Access to information is a right of all. NOT just those who can pay. That is why the FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY was created. How DARE we let these publisher disregard this basic tenant of our democracy!

Perhaps in the 10th meeting Libraries will make a stand.

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What Future Will Watson and DPLA Make for Libraries?


It was January of 2014 since I last wrote a post about IBM’s “Watson” cognitive computer. That’s actually longer than I expected before hearing news about this revolutionary computer. In that post I wrote:

Just as historic as Bell creating communication over wire, Marconi making it wireless, and Perotto creating the desktop computer, IBM has broken through technology to the holy grail of computing by inventing Watson – the cognitive computer.

Would you rather “Ask a Librarian” with human limitations and biases with limited resources at your local library, or speak to a computer with almost infinite knowledge who will recommend resources and even tell you how confident it is that it will satisfy your question? Would you rather go to the Only Vanilla Ice Cream Store, or to Baskin & Robbins 31 Kinds?

Combine the threat to libraries from “e-book and digital media retailers” that Brantley addressed with the threat from Watson toward the reference role of libraries and it is obvious that libraries MUST reinvent themselves NOW! As I wrote last February; “This is by no means the first or even a new call to action, but … time is running out for libraries to find their place in the community they serve. I for one seriously wonder what it will take for library leaders to recognize the future challenges and adopt a vision to overcome them and save the library. Traditional librarianship is a relic of the past century. Creative and innovative thinking with visionary leadership and bold action is the only approach that will save libraries” in the 21st Century.

The “What Is Watson” website:
IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data

How Watson answers questions
First Watson learns a new subject
• All related materials are loaded into Watson, such as Word documents, PDFs and web pages
• Questions and answers pairs are added to train Watson on the subject
• Watson is automatically updated as new information is published

How Watson learns
Then Watson answers a question
• Watson searches millions of documents to find thousands of possible answers
• Collects evidence and uses a scoring algorithm to rate the quality of this evidence
• Ranks all possible answers based on the score of its supporting evidence

I recently reviewed the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) to see how that is progressing, since there is an obvious match-up between the two – super smart computer that needs an extensive database to learn! They have hundreds more contributors than last time I checked, and are now at about 2.5 Million volumes, so obviously they are growing exponentially. DPLA is still frequently in the news.

So, what does a merging of Watson and DPLA mean for librarians? Twenty years ago librarians thought that the proliferation of the Internet would put an end to their usefulness. Well, it did and it didn’t. In the beginning of this new century libraries experienced a decline in users, those people who actually came into the library to check out books. However, as the first decade passed, users became new types of customers. They could get digital and audio materials from their local library, and libraries started to adjust to offering more customer-centered services and became less library-centric. Libraries began reaching out to users, rather than being the stoic institution that users had to come to for unique services. Libraries’ services, at least in terms of collections, were no longer unique.

I still agree with the saying that “Closing libraries in an economic crisis is like closing hospitals in an epidemic.” And, of course, “Now that we have Google, why do we need libraries?” is answered by asking “Now that we have WedMD, why do we need doctors?” Having said that, let’s consider how a marriage between Watson and DPLA affects librarians.

As the volume of published materials also increases exponentially, it becomes like the air – IT’S EVERYWHERE – and thanks to DPLA and Watson it’s as easily accessible as air. Way back in September of 2010 I wrote about the new high school curriculum standards that 12th grade students are expected to meet before graduation – 21st Century Skills in Action in School Libraries

7e. Benchmarks to Achieve by Grade 12

Standard 1: Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.

Strand 1.1: Skills

Indicator 1.1.1:  Follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life.

·Independently and systematically use an inquiry-based process to deepen content knowledge, connect academic learning with the real world, pursue personal interests, and investigate opportunities for personal growth.

Indicator 1.1.2:  Use prior and background knowledge as context for new learning.

·Explore general information sources to increase familiarity with the topic or question.

·Review the initial information need to develop, clarify, revise, or refine the question.

·Compare new background information with prior knowledge to determine direction and focus of new learning.

Indicator 1.1.3:  Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.

·Recognize that the purpose of the inquiry determines the type of questions and the type of thinking required (e.g., an historical purpose may require one to take a position and defend it).

·Explore problems or questions for which there are multiple answers or no “best” answer.

·Review the initial information need to clarify, revise, or refine the questions.

Indicator 1.1.4:  Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.

·Identify the value of and differences among potential resources in a variety of formats.

·Use various search systems to retrieve information in a variety of formats.

·Seek and use a variety of specialized resources available from libraries, the Internet, and the community.

·Describe criteria used to make resource decisions and choices.

Indicator 1.1.5:  Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.

·Evaluate historical information for validity of interpretation, and scientific information for accuracy and reliability of data.

·Recognize the social, cultural, or other context within which the information was created and explain the impact of context on interpreting the information.

·Use consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information from other sources.

Indicator 1.1.6: Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.

·Restate concepts in own words and select appropriate data accurately.

·Integrate new information presented in various formats with previous information or knowledge.

·Analyze initial synthesis of findings and construct new hypotheses or generalizations if warranted.

·Challenge ideas represented and make notes of questions to pursue in additional sources.

Indicator 1.1.7:  Make sense of information gathered from diverse sources by identifying misconceptions, main and supporting ideas, conflicting information, and point of view or bias.

·Create a system to organize the information.

·Analyze the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods.

·Analyze information for prejudice, deception, or manipulation.

·Investigate different viewpoints encountered and determine whether and how to incorporate or reject these viewpoints.

·Compensate for the effect of point of view and bias by seeking alternative perspectives.

Indicator 1.1.8:  Demonstrate mastery of technology tools for accessing information and pursuing inquiry.

·Select the most appropriate technologies to access and retrieve the needed information.

·Use various technologies to organize and manage the information selected.

·Create own electronic learning spaces by collecting and organizing links to information resources, working collaboratively, and sharing new ideas and understandings with others.

Indicator 1.1.9:  Collaborate with others to broaden and deepen understanding.

·Model social skills and character traits that advance a team’s ability to identify issues and problems and work together on solutions and products.

·Design and implement projects that include participation from diverse groups.

Seriously, can any public librarian read this list of expectations of what the high school graduate will soon know about information literacy and NOT question their own role in the library profession? School librarians have always supported the curriculum, faculty and students, but the public librarian role is NOT so clear cut.

Presuming that a high school graduate has actually become competent in all the Standards described above, how many librarians (MLS or not) can say they are MORE proficient than that? Maybe these standards should be the new standards for librarians. Public librarians have the opportunity and the challenge to become more than they ever thought they could be, or …………….. The alternative is not enticing!

That was five years ago. How much progress do you imagine schools have made in the graduating classes in the past five years? Add this level of information literacy to the explosion of availability that Watson and DPLA can create and anyone in this profession MUST question what the future holds for librarians – especially reference librarians in the public library.

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