Tag Archives: Info Literacy

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’s Vision for the Library’s Future is Not Even Its Own

The Libraries Transforming Communities vision is not even a vision that ALA created. It appears to be a vision adopted from one of The Harwood Institute’s programs with whom ALA is partnering to transform America’s libraries. What were they thinking? Obviously grasping at straws, but buying magic beans? SERIOUSLY?

ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2014 includes a disturbing revelation that has actually been brewing for a couple of years, and is well along the way to indoctrinating new librarians. The Executive Summary espouses a vision of the library’s future, if you follow all the links to the source.

The ALA has made transformation a top priority. As libraries continue to transform in 2014, they deepen engagement with their communities in many ways, addressing current social, economic, and environmental issues, often through partnerships with governments and other organizations. Moving forward from being providers of books and information, public libraries now respond to a wide range of ongoing and emerging needs.

That “transformation” link goes to another article about ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), “groundbreaking libraries-as-change-agents initiative.” Read that again. Libraries-as-change-agents!

Through LTC, ALA will help the public library profession become more focused on and skilled at convening aspirational community conversations and more innovative in transforming internal practice to support fulfillment of community aspirations, and ALA will mirror that change internally, in its own processes. This work will help librarians become more reflective of and connected to their communities. It will help libraries to build stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations. It will yield greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health, and well-being.

ALA is working with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to develop and provide training opportunities and learning resources to support community engagement and innovation. The Harwood Institute has a vision of “turning outward” that emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external.

Libraries Transforming Communities is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. [BTW: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped make EDGE Benchmarks possible.]

Professor R. David Lankes and Barbara Stripling presented a webinar on March 8, 2012 “designed to stimulate conversation about harnessing the evolving role of libraries and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception.” Barbara Stripling was Co-Chair of ALA (now Ex-) President Molly Raphael’s Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities task force, and is now ALA President for 2013-2014.

When Professor Lankes published “The Atlas of New Librarianship” in 2011 it was the greatest thing since sliced bread in library circles. Unfortunately, librarians were not reading it closely and really understanding what Lankes advocated. My critique was not so accepting of his advocacy of radical social activism. (Book Review: R. David Lankes – The Atlas of New Librarianship and Final Review: The Atlas of New Librarianship) To repeat my original critique; I was still hoping for something practical and useful in “The Atlas” when I came to the Knowledge section in the Facilitating Thread (which includes access, knowledge, environment, and motivation) where Lankes begins to develop the foundation for an argument in favor of all kinds of literacy. When I read it, I was shocked and appalled at the ideas he was advocating for librarians.

For librarians “To be ‘literate in’ means to be able to use something to gain power.” (pg. 75) Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? Unfortunately, YES! Lankes then continued on down a path I could not have imagined, and hopefully, neither could the vast majority of professional librarians. The lengthy quote that follows is essential not to break context and to fully understand the role he advocates for librarians. The role that ALA has adopted and is now advocating through The Harwood Institute.

Librarians can impart all the instruction they want on how to search and evaluate sources, but if we don’t also facilitate the knowledge of transforming all of that new knowledge into an effective conversation …, we have created a closed loop with limited benefit to the community in general. So information literacy must include the idea of conversation literacy. Indeed, concepts of new librarianship call for a host of expansions in all sorts of literacy.

… Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a handbook written by a far left radical during the unrest of the 1960s … is a fascinating read.

What I want to point out, however, is Alinsky’s take on the word “power.”

    There are a number of fundamental reasons for rejecting such substitutions [for the use of the word power]. First, by using combinations of words such as “harnessing the energy” instead of the single word “power,” we begin to dilute the meaning; and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life.

Power is not bad or evil. Alinsky would say the evil is when you don’t have power. Without power you don’t make decisions, things are decided for you. Librarians need to be powerful. They need to be able to shape agendas, lead the community, and empower members to do the same. We seek out power not as an end but as a means to make the world a better place. To serve, to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.

Why this trip through radicalism and political protest? Because it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship. If we see the role of librarians as supplementing other educational processes (teaching reading in schools or literacy organizations, or supporting parents), then literacy is a somewhat limited concept. …

However, if we look at literacy as empowerment, literally to gain power, then we have a different take on literacy altogether. Librarians, I would agree, need to view literacy as a means of acquiring power – more often than not, power for the powerless. (pg. 74) [Emphasis added.]

Lankes admits that he is trying to shape ALA’s vision of the librarians role as social activist. His mission statement for New Librarianship reads; “The Mission of Librarians is to Improve Society….” He actually justifies his “trip through radicalism and political protest” because “it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship.” SERIOUSLY? Since when does radicalism or political protest have any place in librarianship? And, he also advocates that librarians “seek out power … to make the world a better place. … to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.” is arguably the most arrogant attitude any profession could conceive. Then couple that power with Lankes’ idea that librarians should be present for ALL knowledge creation within the community and you have what sounds like something that is certainly not librarianship!

Now, what exactly is ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative that they are partnering with The Harwood Institute to sell to librarians? Harwood’s “Turning Outward” states;

Turning Outward makes the community and the people the reference point for getting things done.

Turning Outward impacts:

1) Engagement – Shifting who you see and include in your work and how you engage with them to create change.

2) Partners – Helping you gain clarity about the partners you need to move forward – and those that are holding you back.

3) Priorities – By understanding what space you occupy within the community, you no longer struggle to be all things to all people. Instead, you focus on what you can and should impact.

4) Strategies — How you develop and implement strategies that reflect the context of your community and people’s shared aspirations – and not to get so entangled in programs and activities.

5) Communications – Reframing how you talk about your work and impact, so that it is relevant to people and their concerns – and how you can contribute to a more productive community narrative.

6) Organizational Culture – By Turning Outward you can align and drive internal efforts around shared aspirations and shared language, which makes it easier to work across departments and get things done.
[Emphasis added.]

Sprinkled throughout their six-point approach to transforming librarianship are innuendos that are contradictory to everything that libraries stand for. Changing who we include in our work so that we can change society? Aren’t libraries supposed to be all-inclusive? And change society into what? Into some librarians idea of what their community should be? Only partner with organizations that can help the library and avoid any that might “hold you back”? And, who might those organizations be that would hold back the library from serving ALL the citizens within their community? We should no longer struggle to be all things to all people? SERIOUSLY? So libraries should only serve some select tax payers, and ignore the interests of ALL its taxpayers? And, by all means let’s STOP getting entangled in programs and activities!

What in the name of S.R. Ranganathan has gotten into ALA? Since when has librarianship been about radical activism, or totally focused on “changing society”? Since when has librarianship been about gaining power in the community and deciding what improvement society needs? Since when has librarianship been about exclusivity?

If this is where 21st Century librarianship is headed, I want no part of it. I will not be the librarian that ALA’s visions and programs are espousing. I will not impose my personal biases (and don’t think for one second that you don’t have any, because everyone has them) on my community and judge what improvements it needs. Especially not when it is paying my salary to serve it.

If ALA has any perception that librarianship is lacking a clear identity, then they are clearly clueless about what it should be. In fact, they are so clueless that they are willing to buy some program from The Harwood Institute and adopt Professor Lankes’ New Librarianship, both approaches that will surely destroy any resemblance of what librarianship is in favor of creating a library workforce intent on changing the world. Change the world to what?


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Is the 21st Century Library a Fad?

When I saw this Huffington Post headline – The “Pop-Up” Library: A Mini-Movement of Knowledge – I just had to respond to what appears to be almost a counter culture movement (Actually I hate to give it that much credit, but what should it be called?) within our profession – and unfortunately the media – toward making events into a “LIBRARY” when everyone knows they are NOT LIBRARIES.

I first heard about the “pop-up” fad on an Anthony Bourdain TV show about restaurants that are popping up in odd places, sometimes overnight. They offer great food – according to Tony – stay in business often with volunteers, and close about as quickly as they opened. The point being – as I understand – to spotlight good food and fun times among foodies.

The fad is apparently also filtering into weddings. You can find evidence online, and even in the movies. The recent film The Five-Year Engagement ended with a pop-up wedding of sorts. It was ‘planned’ by the bride and friends, was a surprise to the groom, but he got to cafeteria-style pick his wedding in the park in San Francisco on the spur of the moment. Cute idea – but it is the movies.

Back to the Huffington Post article by Ryan Mack (Financial Expert and Economic Commentator) that states;

On this day, May 1st, deemed by many as May Day, activists from across the country had gathered in protest hoping to breathe fresh life into the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Five hundred gathered in Bryant Park and over 300 gathered on the Brooklyn Bridge. However, these two activists in Brooklyn decided not to participate in the protests and wanted to create change in a different way.

Margaret, an unemployed librarian, and Adam, an architect looking for work, decided to create the “pop-up” library. The idea is simple. Gather as many donated books as possible (they got their original books from the Occupy Wall Street library), collect furniture from the street to paint in nice bright colors, get mugs of coffee and put it all out in urban locations throughout the community. They had carefully selected areas of the community that looked as though they could benefit from some brightening up … not only with paint and bright colors but also with knowledge. There you have the “pop-up” library.

So, here we have a perfect example of a writer – “Financial Expert and Economic Commentator” to be exact – labeling an unemployed librarian and an out of work architect giving away books left over from an Occupy Wall Street event as “There you have the “pop-up” library.” Seriously? Talk about misleading and fact distorting headlines. Mack goes on to finish a story about two enterprising and laudable people who are trying to improve peoples’ lives, not make a library.

They admit to “activating the space”, “engaging the community” and just trying to help people out – but their self labeled “pop-up library” has such an appealing label that it was too tempting for Mack to pass up and just write a factual headline that stated “Enterprising Citizens Helping Neighbors”. Their books came from the Occupy Wall Street event – which was another NOT LIBRARY.

The Pop-Up fad is becoming popular, so why not label this a “pop-up” library? Everybody wants attention! Mack hopes it goes viral, I’m sure the young people on the street do also, and stuff like this often does. But at what cost to REAL libraries? What will this fad accomplish for making libraries relevant to the community?

I know – let’s associate the vital information services that a real LIBRARY provides with a fad – they can both fade when the novelty of the fad is gone.

A fad is any form of behavior that develops among a large population and is collectively followed with enthusiasm for some period, generally as a result of the behavior’s being perceived as novel in some way. A fad is said to “catch on” when the number of people adopting it begins to increase rapidly. The behavior will normally fade quickly once the perception of novelty is gone. Wikipedia

To me there are two forces at work here.

First, the media who is always looking for a story to make headlines because that is there business. That’s who they are. That’s how they make money. They are not going to change any time soon, so we just have to deal with that – which is why the Partnership for 21st Century Skills is trying to educate young people with Media Literacy.

Second is the lack of leadership within the profession to give direction and give a believable and understandable answer to that nagging question “Why do we need libraries in the 21st Century?” At a recent state library association conference, ALA President Molly Raphael stated that she still gets this question far too often, but she didn’t offer an answer.

Seems to me like if the profession came up with a good answer for that question, we could put it to rest. Did our 20th Century predecessors get asked why libraries were needed? Not during the first 90% of that century. So, we’ve had a couple of decades to create an answer – but I haven’t seen or heard it. Instead we’re having Oxford style debates to make light of the issues.


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Curation – A New 21st Century Librarianship Skill?

Curation is the act of individuals with a passion for a content area to find, contextualize, and organize information. Curators provide a consistent update regarding what’s interesting, happening, and cool in their focus. Curators tend to have a unique and consistent point of view–providing a reliable context for the content that they discover and organize.

So writes Expert Blogger Steven Rosenbaum in his Fast Company post last Monday – Content Curators Are The New Superheros Of The Web. He goes on to write that;

Yesterday, 250 million photos were uploaded to Facebook, 864,000 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube, and 294 BILLION emails were sent. And that’s not counting all the check-ins, friend requests, Yelp reviews and Amazon posts, and pins on Pintrest.

The volume of information being created is growing faster than your software is able to sort it out. As a result, you’re often unable to determine the difference between a fake LinkedIn friend request, and a picture from your best friend in college of his new baby. Even with good metadata, it’s still all “data”- whether raw unfiltered, or tagged and sourced, it’s all treated like another input to your digital inbox.

Rosenbaum’s description of curation struck me as a 21st Century version of the librarian’s historic role as the “gate keeper” of information. In 21st Century Librarianship vs. The 1876 Special Report, I wrote;

Librarians for too long have taken the “gate keeper” / “guide, philosopher, and friend” role too literally. And, although there seems to be no source for the attribution to Melvil Dewey that; “The librarian must be the librarian militant before he can be the librarian triumphant.”, my personal opinion is that, if Dewey said that, he was operating from the same premise expressed in the 1876 Report, and that “library militant” referred to dictating what people should read, along with an abundant amount of SHUSHing! Neither of which are compatible with 21st Century librarianship.

Our former role as information gatekeeper was traditionally the exclusive skill of librarianship, but it is eroding away under the flood of Millennial library patrons armed with advancing technology (with which they are already more competent than most librarians) who are becoming their own gate keeper. Librarianship has always been about facilitating access to information.

While I recognize that information is becoming too vast for the average individual to digest adequately, and that librarians still tend to be the “go to” person for many people seeking information, there is significant danger in the librarian attempting to hold tight to the old “gate keeper” role when they should be acting as facilitators. The old Chinese proverb (at least the Chinese get credit for this axiom) that “If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime.” is monumentally applicable to librarians today. Teaching library customers information literacy is as much a new role of 21st Century librarianship as developing business acumen.

So, my words of caution to 21st Century librarians is that we should tread lightly around this new 21st Century Librarianship skill of curation, lest it be our undoing.


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The Art of……the Comic?

Yes, from SmarterComics. How cool!

[Click to view on YouTube]

Being a military man in my former life, Sun Tzu was always a favorite read for me. And, getting a degree in management helped me determine that Sun Tzu was not really a manager, didn’t offer management advice, and was solely a war lord. But, people like to transpose ideas, so what the heck.

The adaptation of Sun Tzu’s classic is a bit simplistic, hits the high points of his axioms on war, and uses some current day scenarios to attempt to put them into a modern context. It works on a simplistic level for that comic book audience. It was a good effort, and I think indicative of another side of future publishing.

Even more impressive is that Harper Perennial will be publishing a true graphic novel, different from the SmarterComics comic but based on the Sun Tzu classic. “Kelly Roman’s graphic novel is an epic narrative (328 pages) that takes place in the near future when China is the world’s dominant economy and Wall Street is militarized.” THE ART OF WAR hits the market next May.

These latest reincarnations of the old master are just another glimpse into the future of Generation Z, or Screen Gen, or whatever the pre-adult generation is now – and your local library. Are you ready?

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A New Taxonomy in Education

Many times since August, 2010 I have reiterated what Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services, wrote in the IMLS 2010 publication The Future of Museums and Libraries: A Discussion Guide that, “… the delivery of library … services will be impacted by technology, education reform, and societal … changes …”
A statement of the challenges facing public libraries does not get much more succinct than that – technology, education reform, and societal changes.

Many tend to think 21st Century Skills is the major movement in education to transition from the industrial model to the information age model for schools. I just became aware that there is another significant theory shift for education, one that moves beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy of the 1950s, and toward a new cognition of a new generation that no longer fits that industrial mold.

Quick review – according to our friends at Wikipedia,

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education proposed in 1956 by a committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Bloom who also edited the first volume of the standard text,

It refers to a classification of the different objectives that educators set for students (learning objectives). Bloom’s Taxonomy divides educational objectives into three “domains”: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor (sometimes loosely described as knowing/head, feeling/heart and doing/hands respectively). Within the domains, learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. A goal of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains, creating a more holistic form of education. [Emphasis added.]


Robert Marzano, a highly respected educational researcher, has published The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

Audio overview by Marzano.

Developed to respond to the shortcomings of the widely used Bloom’s Taxonomy and the current environment of syllabus guidelines-based instruction, Marzano’s model of thinking skills incorporates a wider range of factors that affect how students think and provides a more research-based theory to help teachers improve their students’ thinking.

Marzano’s New Taxonomy is made up of three systems and the Knowledge Domain, all of which are important for thinking and learning. The three systems are the Self-System, the Metacognitive System, and the Cognitive System. When faced with the option of starting a new task, the Self-System decides whether to continue the current behavior or engage in the new activity; the Metacognitive System sets goals and keeps track of how well they are being achieved; the Cognitive System processes all the necessary information, and the Knowledge Domain provides the content.

One of the numerous tenets of Marzano’s New Taxonomy includes Knowledge Utilization. As an example of a new theory of education;

The final level of cognitive processes addresses the use of knowledge. … The processes of using knowledge are especially important components of thinking for project-based learning since they include processes used by people when they want to accomplish a specific task. Decision-making, a cognitive process involves the weighing of options to determine the most appropriate course of action. Problem-solving occurs when an obstacle is encountered on the way to achieving a goal. Sub-skills for this process include identification of and analysis of the problem. Experimental inquiry involves generating hypotheses about physical or psychological phenomena, creating experiments, and analyzing the results. Third graders designing bean plant experiments and analyzing ideal conditions for growth are conducting experimental inquiry. For more information on this project, see the Unit Plan, The Great Bean Race. [Emphasis added.]

Make no mistake about it – education reform is progressing! Education reform, in combination with technology advances and societal changes, will change the environment of the library and thus librarianship in terms of the customer who seeks – or doesn’t seek – library services. If you’re not ready to embrace the changes of the 21st Century Library………

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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.

AnyQuestions.co.nz (and its companion sites UiaNgāPātai.co.nz and ManyAnswers.co.nz) 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 AnyQuestions.co.nz 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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