Monthly Archives: October 2011

School Libraries: What’s Yet to Come?

What is the future of school libraries – school librarians? That is the core subject of a new “crowd-sourced” eBook edited and self-published by Kristin Fontichiaro and Buffy Hamilton using Smashwords. The eBook is available in several eReader formats including PDF.

According to the authors’ Introduction;

It’s undeniable that the number of certified school librarians is on the decline just as it’s equally undeniable that the explosion of digital resources – in parallel with existing print resources – means students and classroom teachers need more support than ever before.

What is the future of school libraries? More particularly, what is the future of school librarians? At the present time, libraries aren’t being closed in schools; librarians are the loss leaders.

For those of us still working in schools, what are we working toward? For those of us sent back into classrooms or other professions to await a better future, like Eastern European partisans waiting in the forests for rescue after Soviet Occupation, what would life after liberation look like? Both are valid and valuable questions.

Those are some of the question we posed to the extended school librarian community. What is the future going to be like? What do you see? What can you hold up from your own practice as a lantern to illuminate the way for others? These questions are too big to be answered by any single librarian, district, organization, or task force. They take collective thinking.

The monumental questions regarding the future of a profession are certainly best answered by those within that profession, and so the authors did what every good librarian would do in the 21st Century environment of social networking and technology – they asked their colleagues for perspective, and published the results in an open format. What they hoped to achieve was to find out; “What new inspirations could we gain from one another? What new questions might arise? What might help us gain strength and inspiration from one another, even as our roles and duties expand and our job security and salaries decrease?”

With input from over 50 librarians from all quarters and career perspectives, as well as some non-librarians too, the editors organized the content into the following chapters.

    1: Learners
    2: Who And When We Teach
    3: Emerging And Multiple Literacies
    4: Gaming
    5: Reading
    6: Physical Libraries
    7: Virtual Libraries
    8: Collection Development
    9: Collaboration
    10: Professional Learning

While there was no summary or attempt to synthesize the input from contributors, that is not a fault of the work, but I assume, a clear recognition of each contributor’s perspective and opinion standing on its own merit. Overall, it is an interesting and worthwhile work that should contribute to the school librarian profession today.

Some of the more notable input from contributors included the following excerpts.

I began my career in education as a technology instructor but later moved into libraries because I saw that the librarian tapped into the enduring core of what a strict focus on technology could only circle around with its endless stream of upgrades, inventions, and applications. I saw the skill my students needed was to be able to construct meaning and communicate effectively with any tool that happened to be at hand. The tools and media formats are constantly changing, but the processes involved and the habits of mind engaged remain the same.

I have sometimes heard my colleagues described as “more than librarians” or “not really librarians” because they do so much more than hand out books. But “librarian” is not a misnomer for those who embrace collaboration, adapt to new technologies, and serve as leaders in schools.

All these children will be held to the same rigorous standards. Teachers will be scrambling to locate appropriate support materials that allow them to scaffold instruction. Teachers will need to ensure that every student has access to foundational background knowledge that levels the playing field. Teachers will need differentiated material that explains and reinforces fundamental academic vocabulary. Teachers will need multiple reading selections that reflect increasingly sophisticated text complexity for all students, no matter their starting point. These challenges present unique opportunities for school librarians to strut our prowess in finding engaging and accessible information resources.

To meet the needs of our 21st-century learners, we have to think like THEM! How do we do that? By providing engaging, high-interest connections designed to awaken prior knowledge and linking it to the research ahead we will jump-start the creation of new, authentic, and globally-shared knowledge.

It’s easy: keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening now in the lives of teens. What is important? Grabs their attention? Makes them wonder or laugh? Frightens them? In many cases, answers can be found by tapping into the world of social media and pop culture.

Our library program uses tweets, podcasts, movie trailers, television commercials, music videos, blogs, and more to connect students to the inquiry process. High-interest introductions can awaken prior knowledge and set the stage for engaging, participatory learning. Capture your students’ attention from the start. (and its companion sites UiaNgāPā and is a free online reference service for New Zealand school students. The service is staffed by friendly librarians from around New Zealand and is funded by the Ministry of Education to provide information literacy skills. Operators don’t find information for students but rather assist students in developing information literacy skills so they can find the information for themselves. The service exists to supplement the great work that school librarians do already, and since 2005 the service has helped over 80,000 New Zealand school students.

In many ways AnyQuestions is the future of librarianship, a decentralized service that students access as and when they need.

Yet many AnyQuestions operators are uneasy in this space. There is a definite sense that the online environment is a space where students have the power. ….

Of course this argument that the students have the power is fundamentally flawed. Students log on to because they don’t have the skills to find the information they are looking for, skills which the librarian does have.

One of our [librarian and teacher] most successful collaborations was with a group of senior students studying genetically transmitted diseases. Traditionally, this project would have been a fact gathering mission that amounted to cut-and-paste with little evidence of real engagement or learning. We brainstormed ways of delivering the information gathering process that would increase student engagement and make the learning more personal. Eventually, we decided to put the students in groups of five, assigning the following roles: a person with the genetic disorder; the parent who had passed on the gene; a medical professional; a sibling who did not have the gene; and a presenter who would interview the others on video.

Seek out that special teaching practitioner. Look for a teacher with experience and a willingness to work collaboratively, a teacher who is looking for a new challenge. Avoid the brand new enthusiast, who will likely be overcome by the challenges, and in particular, avoid the jaded. If you select well and execute with grace and precision, this teacher will likely become your strongest advocate. Nurture this teacher; your future may depend on it.

The future librarian is an instructional leader and partner who works with teachers and administrators to build school-wide collections that are accessible beyond the walls of the library and that defy traditional delivery methods. She builds a library presence centered around both physical and digital spaces for conversation, creativity and collaboration. She and her students blog, Tweet, and share their work in collaborative online spaces.

The future librarian embraces social media and uses it to build a bridge between students, teachers and the world. She understands that in order to meet student needs, the library must be accessible anytime, anywhere. The future librarian is creative, flexible, and willing to do whatever it takes to engage students. He is an active member of personal learning networks and, what’s more, he thinks reflectively about what make learning joyful and exciting for him. Then he applies those lessons to the library. The future librarian provides opportunities for wonder and experimentation. He promotes reading for pleasure and learning through play; this librarian knows that all instruction must be both relevant and riveting.

The time for the future librarian is now. Though we live in exponential times, the world of education has struggled to keep up. For school librarians, there has never been a time of greater uncertainty or opportunity. As what it means to educate the 21st-century learner evolves, school librarians have the opportunity to claim our place as instructional leaders in this new educational landscape. [Emphasis added.]

One such [pivotal teaching] moment occurred for me more than a decade into my teaching career and was sparked off by my involvement in the online digital novel Inanimate Alice. Written for, and specifically to be read and viewed from the screen, Inanimate Alice represents a radical shift to the transmedia universe. Designed from the outset as a story that unfolds over time and on multiple platforms, ‘Alice’ connects technologies, languages, cultures, generations and curricula within a sweeping narrative accessible by all.

For me, Inanimate Alice represents a paradigm shift in how I approach education in the 21st-century. Through the power of transmedia storytelling, I am able to take what might otherwise be a one-dimensional task for some of my learners and turn it into a fully immersive and multi-dimensional experience for all.

[The] skills of discernment are in greater demand now than ever before, due to students’ unprecedented access to an unprecedented flood of information. Now the greatest commodity is not the information itself but the distinct ability to synthesize and contextualize it, to turn it into useful, practical knowledge.

School librarians—through Dewey, Bloom, and by other means—have always helped create order in the world as well as a context for learning and reading. Now they must work to apply these critically important skills to the next content wave: the emerging tide of Apps and other new streams of e-content on the verge of becoming ubiquitous.

[W]hy isn’t the library the largest tinkering space in the school? Why in a project based environment isn’t the hub of activity located in the library? It could so easily be a large open space with mobile resources forming constellations around working students. Tables where 3D models are built can cluster with tables supporting wireless laptops. Print resources on wheels can parallel park next to those tables. And the whole project could have been diagramed and dissected into peer accountability with a mobile whiteboard and chairs pulled into an open space….

[A]s budgets tightened the Napa Valley School Library Consortium began to experience the elimination of funding that purchased valuable student print and digital resources. The city county public library systems and the consortium member school districts began to collectively explore different ways to provide much needed services. The NVSLC, the Napa City County Library, and the independent St. Helena Public Library formed a valuable partnership to make available student resources that were beyond the NVSLC’s funding capabilities The result of this collaboration has been to define the student library card or instant eCard as the point of entry to access public library resources.

In addition to those high school English or history classes that introduce critical thinking skills, it is the librarian who takes critical thinking development further in prepping their students for the rigors of academic writing that include the essentials of Boolean searching, how to read a scholarly article, how to effectively use citation tools, and more.

Whether through membership in a national, regional or state association, collaborative/consortium, wiki, subscription to a listserv or blog, or participation in a social network like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, there is a need for us to find and connect with one another as professionals committed to continuous improvement of our work. I can’t imagine that this need will change though I do imagine that the ways in which we do connect may be very different. In the here and now, know that I can get frustrated at the seeming stodginess of our more venerable associations and the bylaws and traditions that seem to get in the way of providing a rapid response to address compelling needs or just get necessary work done in a timely fashion. [Emphasis added.]

An appropriate quote on which to end! If you are a school librarian, you will want to use this resource.


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IMLS Announces the 2011 National Medal Recipients

This award recognizes innovative approaches to public service and community outreach.

Washington, DC – The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has selected five libraries and five museums to receive the 2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries for extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions. Recipients must demonstrate innovative approaches to public service and community outreach.

“Congratulations to each of these organizations on receiving the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The work they have accomplished is an inspiration to libraries and museums throughout the nation,” said Susan Hildreth, IMLS Director. “With innovation, creativity and a great deal of heart they have achieved an outstanding level of public service.”

The winners of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service are selected each year by the Director of IMLS, following an open nomination process and based on the recommendations of the National Museum and Library Services Board. The award was created to celebrate the vital role museums and libraries play in American society and is awarded to institutions that have developed innovative ways to serve their communities.

Recipients of the 2011 National Medal for Library Service are:

Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, FL

Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, OH

San Jose Public Library, San Jose, CA

Weippe Public Library & Discovery Center, Weippe, ID

To learn more about the 2011 winners of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service view the brochure at this site, or visit

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Now More Than Ever – 7 Imperatives for Library Leadership

(in the 21st Century)

Now seems like an excellent time to highlight and re-emphasize 21st Century Library – “Rebooted” Into Relevance that highlighted an exceptionally thought provoking article by Scott Corwin, Elisabeth Hartley & Harry Hawkes – “The Library Rebooted” published at Booz & Company website strategy+business.
Because the article contains the authors’ insightful
7 Imperatives for Library Leadership

    1. Rethink the operating model
    2. Understand and respond to user needs
    3. Embrace the concept of continuous innovation
    4. Forge a digital identity
    5. Connect with stakeholders in ways that pure internet companies cannot
    6. Expand the metrics
    7. Be courageous

And, because it contains many elements of change that are being discussed in the library community regarding becoming a 21st Century Library.

1. Rethink the operating model.
Many of the old assumptions about running a library — that the measure of a library’s quality is the size of its book collection, that there’s value in keeping even infrequently loaned books on the shelves, that library staffing decisions shouldn’t be questioned — are outmoded and need to be set aside. This is not to say that libraries will be able to re-create themselves as purely digital, service-oriented organizations; …. But many libraries today, operating in paper and film, haven’t changed some of their operating practices since World War II. Their role as the preservers of recorded history means they have to spend a lot of their resources just maintaining the assets they already have. … They should … explore new ways of serving users more conveniently, effectively, and efficiently. Perhaps they can create an online reservation system that patrons can use for a small fee if they want to have a book waiting for them at the front desk when they arrive. … Such analytically enabled improvements are necessary as libraries come under increasing budgetary pressure.” [Emphasis added.]

From my March 11 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like: Efficient – “Even with an economic upswing on the horizon, the focus on doing more with less won’t fade away. In fact, some say the paradigm of productivity has changed. Smart companies are moving beyond the basics – empowering top talent to implement creative solutions and finding innovative ways to free up cash and lift operating performance.” Deloitte Development LLC

2. Understand and respond to user needs.
“Libraries have only the most general information about their users — how many of them there are, what they do when they are at the library, and what they borrow. … [Due to] some provisions of legislation enacted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. … the solution most libraries have settled on — namely, to avoid gathering any detailed information about users’ needs and activities — is far too timid. Libraries should develop advanced capabilities to build aggregated profiles of users, or what retailers call customer segmentation analysis. Who is visiting the library and how often are they coming? What are they doing once they get there? Which books do they borrow most often? Which books never leave the shelves? Which services get used most often; which least? Merchandisers and retailers have tools to help them answer these kinds of questions. Libraries, too, should adapt or create these and similar tools.” [Emphasis added.]

From my March 11 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like: Marketing Strategy – “The more difficult the economic climate, the greater the imperative to have systems which provide the firm with market focus, the ability to differentiate itself from the competition through innovation, and the processes to manage scarce resources.” United Kingdom Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Supporting innovation services Executive Summary August, 2008.

3. Embrace the concept of continuous innovation.
“This is not the time for libraries to shy away from new strategies. Library executives need to do more than innovate, however. They need to approach the innovation challenge with an entrepreneurial mind-set: test, measure, refine. And if something does not work, they must go through the process again: Test, measure, and refine using new ideas and concepts. The innovation doesn’t have to be of any one type; it can happen across the whole library value chain. For instance, changes might be operational — like the Toronto Library’s use of radio frequency identification (RFID) readers to bring a measure of self-service to the checkout function … Changes might be atmospheric, such as the background music the Seattle Library now pipes into its domed young-adult sections. Finally, there might be changes in format, including the opening of smaller library “outlets” in what is essentially a variation on a theme already being practiced by retailers like Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Tesco. Libraries should appropriate the many traffic-building enhancements that retailers are making to their stores.” [Emphasis added.]

(Read my March 11 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like RE: Innovation, and my August 10 Post Perpetual Beta – The Real 21st Century Library Model?.)

4. Forge a digital identity.
“Clearly, there is no way that libraries could transform themselves into leading-edge Internet organizations even if they wanted to. Nor should they aspire to that. A great many things are in flux, and a library that goes too far with a digitization initiative today runs the risk of creating data structures that will be incompatible with future standards. But some experimentation is in order. Should libraries let people reserve books remotely, from their home or office? Should they adopt a convenient delivery-to-home model, à la Netflix? Should they make their librarians available at all hours to respond to online inquiries? And to the extent that they do these things, should they (as part of rethinking their operating model) charge for some of these services, as the Toronto Library does with a fee-based custom research service? Finally, should libraries pursue these initiatives alone or in concert with one another?”

(Read my September 30 Post 21st Century Library Collaboration.)

5. Connect with stakeholders in ways pure Internet companies cannot.
“Libraries can’t provide faster online data retrieval than a search engine, and that’s not where they should try to compete. What they can do, on the community library side, is take advantage of their local strength…. Community library leaders who get out and make connections in the community will successfully transform their institution into a fulcrum for many of the issues and concerns that touch local residents. Their programs, services, and offerings will all be better off as a result of this outreach and connectedness.”

In June 2009 Librarians Matter Blogger Kathryn Greenhill of Australia posted some valuable and intriguing ideas about “Getting deeply local at our libraries”.

6. Expand the metrics.
“… Keeping track of the number of monthly and annual physical visitors … monitoring the number of books … in circulation” must give way to “online-specific metrics … especially as libraries invest more resources in digital initiatives and put bigger parts of their collections online. And it will be important … for the measurements to move beyond the strictly countable … into attitudinal areas like level of engagement and customer satisfaction. … [I]n the bigger context of changes, this resistance to [measure staff performance] should be easy to surmount. Institutions that proactively measure performance, embrace change, and look for ways to serve users will have an easier time getting financial support in an era of reduced public resources and private donations.” [Emphasis added.]

7. Be courageous.
The library “… world has changed — a lot. … the environment in which libraries operate has certainly shifted, and the challenge for those running them is to figure out the evolutionary path they should follow. There is no one answer, which may provide an advantage to those with an appetite for intelligent risk taking. After all, nothing nowadays — nothing at all — is written in stone.”
[Emphasis added.]

Odds are there are more “imperatives” that a 21st Century Library could/should adopt, so let’s hear yours!

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21st Century Library Organization

For many decades SLIS have been teaching that the library organization is a basic form-follows-function, hierarchy style organization. One director supervises an appropriate number of assistant directors, depending on the size of the organization, or function managers, who oversee the “traditional” functions of a “library”.

These traditional functions include:
• Public service – circulation, adult services, youth services, programing, etc.
• Operations – cataloging, collection development, facilities, tech support, etc.
• Administration – accounting, human resources, policy, training, etc.
Many of these functional areas have supervisors/managers, depending on the size of the organization, and an appropriate number of staff “librarians”.

Virtually all library organizations are some derivative of this diagram.

Librarians fill many functional roles within the traditional organization, but the relevant question is – “What is the role of the librarian in a 21st Century Library?” As more technologies emerge, and more types of information demands emerge, the “librarian” role is transforming. Doesn’t this transformation require a new type of library organization?

Galbraith, J.R. (1971). “Matrix Organization Designs: How to combine functional and project forms” was a standard for matrix management and organization design back in the day. The basic distinction made by Galbraith was between “functional” and “product” design for an organization, on a continuum between the two pure forms, with “matrix” being the blended design in the middle.

Galbraith’s 1971 “matrix” design diagram.

The Embedded Librarian David Shumaker proposed that “… a matrixed organization in which librarians are matrixed, or embedded, where they are needed, is an organization that really brings information and knowledge to bear on critical elements of its work.”

I suspect that his proposal for embedded librarians is a matrix design limited to just the embedded librarians, but he makes a good case for the advantages of this type of organization.

There continue to be some tasks that are better performed centrally: these may range from basic document delivery work to negotiating and managing complex and expensive enterprise-wide content licenses. Keeping the embedded librarians connected to the central library service strengthens communication and collaboration between the two: the embedded librarians can refer some tasks to the central library, and also provide their insights to help inform service and resource decisions.

Finally, the embedded librarians are likely to use many of the same tools and encounter the same problems in their work. Clearly they constitute a community of practice, and they have their own knowledge sharing needs for professional tips, tricks, techniques, and problem solving. The central library connection facilitates communication and collaboration among them.

The major distinction between Shumaker’s proposal and Galbraith’s is that the two managers involved over the embedded librarian are not part of the same organization with a single conversion of authority over both at some point up the ladder. One traditional disadvantage of a matrix organization is a conflict of loyalty between line managers and project managers over the allocation of resources. With Shumaker’s proposal technically being more of a collaborative relationship than a true matrix, that weakness may be overcome.

I think Shumaker may have hit upon a new concept for the 21st Century Library organization that blends and combines whatever structures and lines of authority will actually work. What does your non-traditional library organization look like?

PS: Perfect segue – Galbraith has a new book (2008) entitled “Designing Matrix Organizations That Actually Work” in which he asserts that “organization structures do not fail, but management fails at implementing them correctly. This is why the idea that the matrix does not work still exists today, even among people who should know better. But the matrix has become a necessary form of organization in today’s business environment.”


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Five Challenges Every Librarian Must Face

The dramatic changes in society, exponential advances in technology and globalization of ‘everything’ are easily recognizable one decade into the 21st Century. The United States is no longer world leader in a global society – not even in education (we are now ‘average’, and rank 25th of 34 in math). Smartphones with 4G wireless data transfer, touch screen and digital video recorder, have made the Jetson’s video phone a reality – and more dramatically – mobile. Tablet devices are replacing laptop computers as the standard mobile computing device for the most continuously connected society in history in a ‘post-PC’ world.

Nowhere is change more evident than in the librarian profession. We are; seeing commercial competition for information access and delivery services arise routinely, making ineffective attempts to serve young library customers whose needs we don’t understand, being inundated with technology beyond our capacity to keep pace, while knowing our younger customers are more technologically savvy than we. We are experiencing library closures everywhere and rampant privatization of library management, regardless of our best achievements. Affects on libraries are obviously more than just the bad economy based on daily reports of unforeseen changes in all of the external factors that influence libraries and librarians.

There are at least five major challenges that every librarian will face, sooner or later. Whether you overcome these challenges will determine whether you become a 21st Century librarian, and ultimately whether you, your library and your profession survive.

1. Broadest Spectrum of Library Customers in History
The six generations (including that Gen Next of adolescents) that comprise 21st Century library customers create significant differences in library service demands, with the most drastic difference between the Great Generation and the Millennials. This drastic difference creates a heavy demand on librarians to continue traditional library services for some ‘patrons’, while creating new technology-based services for Digital Native ‘customers’. Digital Fugitive and Digital Native customers are at opposite ends of the customer service spectrum, but both deserve excellent library services. The following diagram is a broad generalization of where the generations fall within three types of library customers.

2. Information Literate Millennial Customers
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills published its model in 2009, and since then a nationwide movement to reform public education has gained popular appeal. To ensure that future America is capable of participating in the global economy, a major priority is to teach information literacy to young people to be able to use all the technology effectively to access and manage information.

The role of librarian as expert researcher handing information to a waiting patron is the antithesis to the collaborative, participative mindset of the emerging Millennial customer. Even Gen Y customers are more technologically literate than most librarians, because the vast majority are Digital Natives, but very few of them are pursuing a career in librarianship. In order to prepare for the increasingly more information literate Millennial customer, librarians need to become guides for information literate participants.

3. Computers that Replace Librarians
Michael Milken, called “The Man Who Changed Medicine” by Fortune magazine in 2004, explained to CNN’s Larry King that cancer research is progressing at an exponential rate because of the massive quantities of data available to researchers. “Computers are a million times faster than they were 10 to 15 years ago. We have the computing capacity now to deal with … one trillion calculations a second. … What we only could have dreamed of doing when I started working on cancer research more than 30 years ago, we can do today in an hour or an afternoon. It is a totally different world today.” [Emphasis added.]

In June, 2010 the New York Times published an article about IBM’s new super “answering” computer called Watson.

For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself. … With Watson, I.B.M. claims it has cracked the problem.

Will the reference librarian become obsolete? It will be up to them NOT TO.
And The Winner Is…

4. Transition to Digital Content
Because digital media providers, like industry leader Overdrive, provide greater access to eBooks, audio books, music, and video (over 300,000 titles) than your local library can afford to offer from its own collection, traditional circulation is being overshadowed by electronic formats.

“OverDrive has developed custom download websites – or ‘Virtual Branches’ because they look and feel like one of your [library] branches – for 10,000 libraries worldwide.”, because Millennial library customers prefer to access rather than own, so digital media is only going to become more available.

For those who prefer to access it today, rather than wait for 2-3 weeks to check it out at their library when they finally get it in their catalog (the one book for one customer model applies to eBooks also), “The third-generation Kindle is now the bestselling product in Amazon’s history, eclipsing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7). … Kindle (Wi-Fi) and Kindle 3G were the best-selling products on this holiday season [2010], and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was the most purchased Kindle book on Christmas Day, as well as the most gifted Kindle book on Christmas Day.” [Emphasis added.] (MSNBC article, 1/12/11)

“Since the beginning of the year [2011], for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books.” (MSNBC article, 1/28/11) In addition to Amazon now making its eBooks available for check-out through 11,000 local libraries, the predicted under-$100 Kindle is now a reality, and the predicted ‘free with subscription’ Kindle can’t be far behind. [See Amazon’s New Kindle Bringing Fire to the Tablet Market, 9/29/11.]

“At HarperCollins, … e-books made up 25 percent of all young-adult sales in January [2011], up from about 6 percent a year before – a boom in sales that quickly got the attention of publishers there.” (NY Times article, 2/5/11)

5. Devaluing of the Library’s Benefit to the Community
Alarming news of the California governor’s proposal to cut over $30M in funding for the state’s libraries, staggering news of award winning Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County cutting $17M from their 2010-11 budget that forced the lay-off of dozens of staff, and more local library closures in 2010 than anyone cared to count, bring a frightening issue to the forefront of our professional concerns – the role of the library in the 21st Century!

Can or should libraries try to compete with commercial information providers like Google, Netflix and Amazon? Can or should libraries try to compete with digital technologies like smartphones, tablets, and geosocial networking? How does the library retain it’s relevance in its local community that is a part of a global community?

Both Leonard Kniffel, long time Editor and Publisher of American Libraries, and former ALA President Roberta Stevens have acknowledged that the major question of the 21st Century that they are most often asked is; “Why do we still need libraries?”. They both also express exasperation from being asked that question routinely, which makes one wonder if the profession has any adequate answer. What can libraries do to remain relevant in their communities in the 21st Century environment – except become 21st Century libraries?

Inescapable Conclusions
When one considers all the evidence of advancing technology, education reform, societal changes, information literate customers, and globalization of ‘everything’ and their impact on librarianship and libraries, it is crystal clear that 21st Century librarianship MUST BE drastically different from all previous concepts of librarianship. It requires a professional who embraces the potential of technology, creatively finds appropriate ways to implement it into library services, and one who has more diverse – even ‘unconventional’ – skills than ever before. The 21st Century Librarian is a professional who understands the Millennial library customer, is able to adapt existing services and create new ones to meet their community’s needs, and change the public perception of “library”.

The future of librarians as information providers is not in a dazzling building, but in the world of cyberspace that resides in the hand-held devices of most library customers, and as an indispensable partner in the local and world communities. Generation Next adults will only access information on their mobile devices, and they will have information literacy skills far beyond any previous generation while living in local communities that are becoming more focused on global issues.

Librarians must both catch a vision of the 21st Century Library and Librarianship, as well as achieve them before 2020, or the local library will either be extinct, a reliquary, or simply a community civic center, with no librarians. In this Century of change, only 21st Century Librarians can create a 21st Century Library!

A Sixth Challenge Every Librarian Must Face 8/18/13

A new answer to the old question – Why Do We Still Need “libraries”? – We Don’t! 2/3/14


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Two Rules for 21st Century Librarianship Success


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School Librarians Not Even an Afterthought in Education?

Last week (September 26 & 27, 2011) librarians were conspicuously absent (to School Library Journal at least) from NBC’s second annual Education Nation Summit, “a two-day event that brought together 350 educators, policymakers, business leaders, parents, and students to talk about improving education—but one thing was clearly missing: the discussion of librarians.” Shouldn’t there be a hue and cry of outrage from someone, somewhere?

According to SLJ, “… the only talk of librarians during the 19 panel discussions was when education activist Diane Ravitch, speaking about student achievement, said “closing libraries and getting rid of school nurses is not the answer.” No doubt librarians will love being in the same category as school nurses – and vice versa. Should janitorial staff be included in there?

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic, but to think that school librarians are not considered a critical stakeholder in education – as equally so as “business leaders, parents, and students” – is an outrage. For librarians not to be included in any public education summit, conference or conversation of any group is an outrage. Unfortunately, it is not a new phenomenon, but this slight seems to take marginalizing school librarians to a national extreme.

Back in May I Posted Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program Eliminated writing that “ALA tells us that literacy within our schools is no longer a priority for our government.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program was zeroed out under the Department of Education’s allocation for FY2011 funding (PDF), released today.

Improving Literacy Through School Libraries is the only federal program solely for our nation’s school libraries. This program supports local education agencies in improving reading achievement by providing students with increased access to up-to-date school library materials; well-equipped, technologically advanced school libraries; and professionally certified school librarians.

“This decision shows that school libraries have been abandoned by President Obama and the Department of Education,” Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office, said.
Nancy Everhart, president of the ALA’s Association of School Librarians (AASL), said school library programs provide students with the skills they need to select, interpret, form and communicate ideas in compelling ways with emerging technologies, preparing students for the demands of a global, competitive economy and a 21st century workplace.

“Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that students in schools with strong school library programs learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized tests even when differences in socioeconomic factors are taken into consideration,” Everhart said.

It appears that school libraries and librarians have also been abandoned by “educators”, and those like NBC purporting to support education.

A year ago I was encouraged by AASL’s “Standards for the 21st-Century Learner IN ACTION“. In my Sep 13 Post 21st Century Skills in Action in School Libraries, I wrote;

If you thought the 21st Century Skills list of Information Literacy expectations for 21st century learners was impressive in the previous Post, then just read what the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) … has developed as guidelines for school librarians and 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.

My point back then was whether any public librarian could 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?

My point now is that if marginalized or non-existent school librarians are not the ones to achieve these 21st Century Skills literacy standards, who is? Classroom teachers? Those with math, science and social study degrees? During which class period? Homeroom? Study Hall? Without school librarians – IT WILL NOT HAPPEN!

The proof is in the short video below.

“First the governments eliminated the school librarian jobs and I did nothing, because………” Who will be left to speak for your librarian job?

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