Monday, December 15, 2014

Future Of Librarianship: Who Are We? How Can We Connect?

Neil Gaiman weighs in about libraries

As 2014 comes to a close and we begin another chapter in 2015, I think about school libraries in terms of accessibility, adaptability, and spaces opening so it reflects a participatory culture. 
"I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally."-Neil Gaiman
"I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories – they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service."-Neil Gaiman
"In the last few years, we've moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That's about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need."-Neil Gaiman
"Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world."-Neil Gaiman
What does your future hold in the school library or school libraries you work in? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Coding + Librarians: Why it makes perfect sense.

Why are so many Teacher Librarians interested in the Hour of Code?  What role does the library play in the world of computer programming?  What is this coding junk anyway?



I've been thinking a lot about programming lately, and why so many of us are interested in the idea of getting our students involved in coding.  I'm realizing there are so many connections to our main library mission, it's no wonder so many of us have grabbed onto the idea as soon as we heard about it.

Access
Librarians are all about access.  Access to information, access to ideas, and access to knowledge. We know that "Information is Power" in every sense - and making sure our patrons, our students, have access to that information and that power is essential to our mission. As computer programming becomes more and more a language of power, it becomes our duty to ensure that students have access to that power. Programs like the Hour of Code and the multitude of learn-to-code websites and apps available now mean it is easier than ever for us to make computer programming accessible for our students.

Literacy
Computer programming languages are a "new" form of literacy.  Sure, they've been around for decades, but now these languages are pervasive and easier than ever to learn. We want our students to be literate readers, researchers, media consumers, and creators. Coding becomes a new part of their literacy.

From Consumers to Creators

As President Obama mentions in the video below, our society as a whole is moving away from simply consuming knowledge and moving towards more people creating and adding to the body of knowledge in the world.


As Librarians, we understand perfectly what it means to not just locate, evaluate, and use information, but how to encourage students to take that information, make something new and meaningful from it, and share it with a wider audience. We are always working to take students from "reporting" facts to the next level of creating new knowledge.  It's the ultimate democratic idea.


Technology Integration
Perhaps the most obvious connection between coding and Teacher Librarians is that coding sits firmly in our technology realm. In most schools, the Teacher Librarian is the tech expert, the tech support, and the tech integrationist. We help teachers find the right tools to solve their instructional needs, and help students use technology to enhance their learning. Coding has become another tool available for teachers and students.


Still not convinced?  
Visit Code.org to see how unexpectedly easy it is to get started teaching your students how to code.  I promise, you don't have to know ANYTHING about coding except what was in that first video above before you start. 

Code.org has even developed a FREE 20-hour coding curriculum for K-5 that takes students through the steps of learning to code with videos, tutorials, and games. The first levels don't even require students to be able to read, so Kinders and other early readers can still learn. 

Through the curriculum and games, students will learn vocabulary, problem solving, logic, and persistence. Oh yeah, and how to code.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Student Centered Learning: Teacher Librarians Are Ready to Rock!

School libraries are centered around students and learning

A recent article in the Atlantic inspired this blog post What Happens When Students Control Their Own Education.

Student Centered Learning

Sometimes ideas and practices come full circle. Call me crazy but I have supported this notion all along working as a teacher librarian. While I listen to others at educational meetings, I frequently  want to shout out, what about personal responsibility and independent learning?!

A slik-12 conversation about the TLC grant process reminds me how our unique positions can support student centered learning regardless if we are considered top and/or leadership positions in the eyes of our peers.

Connecting Academic Learning to Real World Experiences

It's about engagement....what's your motivation?

Kristen Swanson provides insight about this concept and touches on the importance of dispositions with the blog post Only 1:3 Students Are Hopeful, Engaged, and Well -It's NOT Enough

I Think That We Have It Covered

  

The Vision for Iowa's School Libraries covers the gamut to assist with student centered learning. Our spaces are ready to receive and support student centered learning environments. Some us are just waiting for the school community at large to embrace us!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Teacher Librarians as Teacher Leaders

An email on the Iowa Teacher Librarian listserv asked:

To those of you in a district that received a TLC grant for 2014-2015, are you in a leadership position in your district? If you are - what position are you in? If you are not in a leadership position - was this by personal choice or lack of positions that you felt that you fit into?  

That was a good question, and a great discussion ensued.  One librarian wrote that she'd asked a state contact person about the TLC grant and about the possibility of using it to replace a TL position that was cut from 1.0 to 0.2.  The reply:

I am not sure a library position would ever work under the guidelines of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation legislation. The bigger issue in your scenario is that I am not sure I see how a Teacher-Librarian would work with classroom teachers to improve their instructional practice which is the intent of the legislation.

Obviously, that was troubling to the great TLs of our state!  It's clear that this "state leader" has not met many teacher librarians if he couldn't imagine TLs helping classroom teachers to improve instructional practice.  Is he even aware that we are, in fact, licensed teachers?  That we are "uniquely prepared and strategically positioned to . . . collaborate with the school community to design and enact rigorous learning experiences"? (from the Vision for Iowa's School Libraries, found here.)

I started to write a lengthy response, but then realized that this is what blogs are for!  Here it is:

Run me out on a rail if you want to, but I have a few thoughts on this.

I have to ask myself, why do we as a job category have this stereotype of the keeper of the books, the shusher of the stacks, the old stick-in-the-mud who is easily replaceable?

A few weeks ago, I was at the SLJ Summit in St. Paul and was chatting amiably with a professor of school librarianship at an out-of-state college.  In talking about my libraries, I mentioned that I transitioned most of the elementary collection to the bookstore model, doing away completely with Dewey Decimal.  She was horrified.  She said, "What do your students do when they go to high school?"  I replied happily, "Oh, I did it at the high school too!" She said, "Well, what about when they go to the public library?"  I said, "Well, that's not really my problem, is it?"  I do teach DDCS under the auspices of teaching outlining, but I asked her, how many lessons would I need to do to teach students Dewey Decimal so they really know it?  Please.  I have better things to do with my time - and theirs!  (And honestly - then the question should be, why don't we teach Library of Congress, if we're trying to get them college ready?)   

To which, she huffed, "Well, my students still have to learn Dewey Decimal!"  - she also is a TL at a small elementary school.  I worry for her graduate students.

Melvil-Dewey
http://www.brooklynexpedition.org/structures/infomania/dewey/images/dewey_6.gif

Then yesterday, I was cleaning out an office within the library to use as our Makerspace.  The district's professional book collection was housed there, and although I've done a nice job weeding the regular education professional books, the average year of my books about library science is surprisingly 1993.  (Yes, I did just spend twenty minutes figuring out the average age the old-fashioned way!)  I say surprisingly because I have some beauties of retro books.  (I collect retro books, cookbooks and library science titles being my favorite.)



Aren't these marvelous?
From Adventures on Library Shelves by Muriel Ringstad, illustrated by Jeanne and Charles Pearson, OBDO Publishing, 1968.
When I looked through these books to find some laughable out-of-date lessons, I was a little humbled.  Because you know what?  My students would be better if they were able to read an atlas or an almanac expertly.  It is not that librarians of yesteryear were teaching ridiculous things.  They weren't.  But we aren't librarians of yesteryear.  We need to teach the skills necessary today, and Dewey Decimal isn't one of them.

Okay this seems a little ridiculous, doesn't it?
So listen people.

This year, I made two decisions - one, I don't bring my work home.  I was getting really burned out, and that's not good for anyone.  And two, I am focusing on one building level, in my case, elementary.  Because if I do a great job here (and I do think I am making a difference), I can say, "Isn't it sad that all I do at the high school is buy books?  Can you imagine what two of me could do?  We need a full time teacher librarian at both school buildings."  Yes, I'm a K-12 librarian.  Yes, I have to serve the needs of all students.  But. I. Can't. That makes me really sad, because two of my children plus my foreign exchange student from China are at the high school! But I'm doing what I can.  (And for the record, I do plenty more than just buy books at the high school, but not as much as I should be doing.)  

We have to be more than our stereotype.  When we are more, then of course our administrators would think of us as being Teacher Leaders - although, they probably should say we are irreplaceable, they can't imagine putting us somewhere else, and we already are building leaders.  

 Read Iowa's Vision for School Libraries - I don't know about you, but I can't find teaching the Dewey Decimal System in there.

The thing is, this is about more than eschewing Dewey Decimal. There isn’t a bulleted list of programming that you can mark off to prove you are a great TL because every situation is different.  But, I like lists (Workflowy is my favorite app), so I’ll make one:
  • Are you seen as a change agent in your school?
  • Are some people uncomfortable with your library program?

If the answers to those two questions are yes, then you are probably on the right track.

One last thing.  My first day of class with Becky Pasco at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, she asked everyone why they were or wanted to be librarians (most of the students were working TLs, getting their endorsement).  One person said, "I was a science teacher my whole career, and I just want to do something easier as I get to retirement."  Any of you who know Dr. Pasco can imagine her reply.  She waited a bit, not to embarrass the woman and others who said something similar, because there were, but when everyone was done, she said, "Any of you who think that being a teacher librarian is a job that you can just skate through your career, that it's an easy way to go to retirement, there's the door.  Being a teacher librarian is the hardest job in the school.  Our field has a shortage, but we don't need you if you think that this is an easy job."  (My god I love that woman.)

Take a look at yourself, at your position, at your career.  Are you skating to retirement?  Or are you challenging yourself every single day?  

What have you done lately that makes you proud?  Which of the tasks below are you really good at, and which needs your attention?  (I know I need to work on connecting communities of learners.)

I'd love to hear your comments!  



Monday, December 1, 2014

STEM/STEAM Series: How School Libraries Support Females Interested in Science

Groups are making efforts to increase the number of females participating in STEM/STEAM careers.  How can school libraries manage to highlight STEM/STEAM possibilities to females?

Can *TEEN' Engages Girls with STEM
YALSA STEM_Resources

Symbaloo/Girls-Women Representation

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving IASL Blog Readers!

School Libraries Connect All Learners!

Source: Biblio

Despite some educational leaders dismissing our vital presence and valuable contributions to our schools, we will continue to build strong school library programs to the best of our abilities with what we have to work with. Anything is possible since we want to grow and expand our services.  Enjoy break!  Thank you for all you do! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

STEM/STEAM Series: Viewpoints How School Libraries Support

Provide Informational Pathways for Developing Science Career Interests 


School libraries are positioned to become essential partners with the STEM/STEAM movement. Some of us are ready to step up and contribute with our services, skills and knowledge to help increase the number of students interested in STEM/STEAM. 

In order to motivate people participating in STEM, teacher librarians advocate, provide materials, and open library spaces to accommodate student/staff needs.  We also can organize informational pathways to guide students inquiring about various topics encouraging them to discover careers in STEM/STEAM.  

There are places to learn more about STEM information at the national, state, and local levels. 

National

State 

Local 

Here is the November 2014 issue of STEM magazine to find out the latest developments.