Monday, March 31, 2014

The Digital Divide Series: Some Educational History and School Culture

An Educational Snapshot From The 1960’s & 1970’s

The digital divide has evolved over time. When I think about issues that affect us today I want to know about educational laws and philosophies that impact us now.  So I dusted off my World Book Year Books from 1965-1972 and dug up some history.

Higher Education Act of 1965: purpose of the act is to hasten the popularization of higher education and address social problems.

1966 Revolutions: Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965: each section of law provided special money for some special phase of the school program that is a special interest to some special interest lobbying group in Washington, D.C.

1966: The year of the merger...mergers between electronic and publishing firms will greatly affect U.S. education.

1969: 1 out of every 4 U.S. students was having a serious reading difficulties in school work...proposal that all Americans should be literate by the end of 1970s shocked those who felt that that goal had already been reached.

1970: Through “accountability” the idea was to stop measuring inputs into the educational system and to start measuring outputs: student accomplishment.

1971: The schools’ financial problems of 1971 may lead to changes in the way America’s commitment to education for all is carried out-and also in the way that it is paid for.

Essential Questions Based On These Laws and Events 

What is the the definition of education inequality?

What does educational inequality mean to us?

How can we measure educational inequality?  Is it based on student performance as a result of learning outcomes?

School Cultures...We Need a Variety of Cultures To Conquer The Digital Divide

School librarians desire to connect with school culture.  We want to integrate library practices into our schools successfully by collectively collaborate and as leaders. But how will we promote a culture of learning and measure success? First of all I think that our educational communities need to believe that learning is a culture.  I am aware of my environment and we have a lot of room for improvement in this area. So for districts like us I propose looking into the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model where both teacher and learners behaviors are responsible for learning. I think that it could be as simple as showing them, helping them, and letting them.

School libraries are the heart of the school and we value cultures of learning.  We advocate for all to have the opportunity to learn.  Below are listings and descriptions of various types of cultures that I think should be represented in our schools so they can participate in a democratic society.

Culture of Accountability

Superintendent Sam Miller spoke at the  IASL/ABC CLIO Leadership Academy in June of 2013.  His central theme was schools representing a culture of accountability.  He stated that it is a, “willingness to accept responsibility.”  He believes strongly that schools must create a balance to keep things running smoothly.  Also he talked about getting feedback from students and that it is a gift and that we need to survey what students think about or feel about and/or like in a library. He advised if a library is a in bind, he suggested changing the culture to reflect a positive environment first and then to work on accountability within the school.  He mentioned that during the process it is important to share your insights with others.

Culture of Collaboration...Recommended Readings

Jean Donham and Corey Williams Green "Developing a Culture of Collaboration: Librarian as Consultant."

Smith, Barbara Leigh, and and Jean T. MacGregor."What Is Collaborative Learning?"

Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning

Notes from….Advocating For School Librarian
Stripling, Barbara K. "Advocating for School Librarians." Knowledge Quest 42.2 (2013): 6.

Culture of Literacy

Individual reading guidance and support curriculum nurture love for reading.  New literacy skills

Culture of Inquiry

All students to be independent and lifelong learners.

Social and Emotional Growth
School library safe space for discovery and collaboration, dispositions

Creativity and Imagination
School libraries offer liberating experiences

Thoughtful Use of Technology
School librarians teach students and teachers how to use the latest technology

We need all types of cultures to be represented in our schools to make it work.  

Coming up on the digital divide series are the topics inactive vs. active librarians and access to technology.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Your Hidden Asset: Teacher Librarians and the Common Core

Be sure to share this article from Scholastic Administrator with your Principal, School Board members, etc! 

It's short, to the point, and draws clear connections between what the Teacher Librarian is trained to do and what the Common Core demands.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Digital Divide Series: An Introduction

I started working in a school library five years ago oblivious of the realities of the digital divide.  I thought that I was equipped to save libraryland but there have been drastic changes in my library space in a very short period of time. My firsthand experiences have taught me that the not so good consequences of the digital divide are very real.  I can’t ignore what is happening and despite my determination, I question if this library can be saved. Even Batman knows that Gotham is incurable and Batman knows that he will move on but Gotham may not.  Batman struggles with the idea that Gotham is incurable.

Changing The Conversation

I think that all of our professional futures hinge on the consequences of the digital divide. defines the digital divide as “the socioeconomic and other disparities between those people who have opportunities and skills enabling them to benefit from digital resources, especially the Internet, and those who do not have these opportunities or skills.”

As a follow up to the School Libraries Research Studies IASL blog post from last month, I would like to state that I fully support studying and learning from quality school libraries. But sometimes I can’t relate to these highly successful reports from elementary, middle and high school libraries. After I read these types of articles that are extremely informative, I feel like I need a different type of guidance. I would like to see more mainstream research conducted about school libraries that exist and are wanting to participate as strong library programs but are unable to due to the digital divide.  I yearn for more accessible and widely known resources that addresses issues like “Please help I am stuck with a tech director that thinks all you need for research is Google!"  When I read the subject lines on slik-12 varying from uggggg to reader’s theater I wonder if it is possible to organize teams of teacher librarians matching people needing serious help with librarians in well established school districts?  I am grateful that we have UNI’s slik-12 to support each other but I believe I think a team of mentors to help guide people who are struggling and desire to improve their circumstances would help morale.  Can we a create a teacher librarian mentoring system that is more explicit to bring out everyone's best performances?  I envision an enormous potential for learning opportunities with these types of partnerships.  I know that IASL is a strong organization but I think that if we don’t have tangible interventions based on the digital divide sooner rather than later with measurable results, down the road it could be very tough for all of us.

The theme of our upcoming IASL conference leading, connecting, and learning will provide content and relationship building opportunities that benefit all of us.  I believe that in order to ease the digital divide we need to take a closer look at the differences as well as the commonalities between the successful and not so successful school libraries. To me sometimes it seems like we don’t talk to each other but talk about each other.  I think that increased interactions between the haves and the have nots teacher librarians through an open a forum could allow us to grow together and/or possibly even the playing field a little bit. I hope that because of the digital divide we will become a stronger unit instead of wondering what happened or how did this happen?

Questions Lead To More Questions

I was inspired by  IASL’s Vice President Dixie Forcht’s question from an IASL meeting, “are people ditching libraries for the Internet?”  My initial response is that I think some people are simply content with the Google mobile and truly believe they can find EVERYTHING on Google themselves.  As information seekers they are taking the easy street and they don’t seem to want to change.  This type of environment where change is not exercised, encouraged, or realistic based on demands makes it difficult to incorporate information literacy skills into the curriculum. Since technology is changing so rapidly information literacy and technology skills are needed but not always wanted.  So then what? Small steps? But how long is that feasible before that digital divide gap is wide open? That is why establishing a culture of learning that involves AASL standards for the 21st century learner is so important.

What’s Your Mantra?

My mantra is I hope that freedom of educational opportunities can prevail in our democratic society.  I will not be stuck in my beliefs. I will…

  • Focus on the needs of students
  • Deal With Bias Towards Action
  • Be Hopeful About Radical Collaboration

Consequences...Push The Pause Button Please

I think that we need to slow down a bit before we move forward.  Technology is changing and changing fast and the gap between the haves and the have nots is growing very, very, very quickly in terms of access to software, hardware, and effective instructional practices.  We are advocating our expectations in school libraries according to our standards to achieve success. I think that we need a game plan that matches up mentor and mentees in libraryland just like teachers have when they start teaching in Iowa.  I am so grateful to those on the front line working tirelessly to save teacher library positions but I think this could be another way to keep us working together.  
What I Want To Know….What Are The Underlying Issues?

  • What would an action plan look like where mentoring and team building occurs between librarians with varying backgrounds and needs? What would the evaluations measuring progress look like?
  • How can teacher librarians stay motivated despite the digital divide to bring services to their patrons? Matching up our teacher educational philosophies I think will become increasingly more difficult over time with our disparities in types of services and environments that reflect very different places.  To me it is almost like it we are getting to the point that we need two different playbooks.
  • Since technology is changing so quickly, how are learners going to adapt and create projects with various tools if they are not exposed to them? How can the most people possible embrace varying and new technologies over time? How can administrators and teachers feel comfortable asking us for help?

From ALA...Equality and Equity of Access: What's the Difference?

Equal interest
Equal motivation
Equal inquiry
Equal desire to dig deeper and learn more
Equal talking and listening
Equal opportunity


Why am I investigating the digital divide? Because I think that it needs to be done. The digital divide is complex, overwhelming, and comes with many consequences for our educational system and life in a global society.  When I think about potential solutions for the digital divide I believe we need to hold on to imagination, ask questions, and value curiosity and innovation.  I think that digging deeper into digital divide will not be easy.  However I think presenting these ideas and opinions in a straightforward manner may shed some light on the state of school libraries.  Over the next few months a series of related posts about the digital divide are my attempts to explore, examine, and simplify the varying aspects of the issue.

Next time on the digital divide series I will talk about the history of education and school culture.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Juggling Popularity and Quality: Literary Excellence vs. Popular Culture

Today’s students can tell us about their likes on social media (that may change at a moments notice) but sometimes it is a challenge for them to communicate what they like about literature so we can collaborate finding the right book at the right time. That is why knowing our collections and social media trends is imperative so our patrons make meaningful connections to literature in a world that is increasingly competing with the likes of Snapchat.  To guide book purchases in the near future, I plan on rereading Barbara Genco’s article Juggling Popularity and Quality: Literary Excellence vs. Popular Culture.

What is the benefit of popular books like series and formula fiction? Do all books have to award-winning quality? Is there a balance? What do I think is the appeal of popular fiction? What would I like to see ideally in my library?

Just when you think you have enough criteria to consider.

Are my selections reflecting multiculturalism, diversity, social Justice, and progressiveness?

“Popular literature is defined as primarily that which has first appeared as part of a television show, cartoon series, or film” (Geno). 

I think that libraries benefit when popular books attract users but where do we draw the line to reach all levels and interests of readers? Geno refers to the "Reluctant Librarian" who cuts off access to popular books by not incorporating popular culture (Geno).  I am at the point where I am trying to maintain the library as an interesting place. How can librarians compete with media, lackluster budgets and still meet curricular needs? Can we have it all with multiple formats to choose from? Who is steering the ship? The reader, the librarian or both?

Geno makes a reference to the "good" librarian with only "good" books. I want a balanced collection that consists of both award and popular books. I want a high school student to look at the books Twilight (which has not won an individual award) and The Giver and declare, “both of these books are good”! Or better yet celebrate what John Green has accomplished since his book Looking For Alaska this week is number three on the Young Adult New York Times bestseller list and won the Printz Award in 2006. 

Both award and popular books have something substantial to offer in terms of quality and records of pop culture yet a new generation of readers speak the language of popular media while some of us are holding on to mostly housing award winning books.  Do we give readers what they want or give them what we think they need? Figuring out the formula to "sell" both popular and award books will mean learning more about media literacy and cooperative collection development strategies involving my patrons.


Genco, Barbara A., Eleanor K. MacDonald, and Betsy Hearne. "Juggling Popularity and Quality: Literary Excellence vs. Popular Culture." School Library Journal 37.3 (March 1991): 115-19.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Award Books...Honoring Experiences And Expressions Via Literature

As we vote statewide for Iowa Award books and order new titles for our collections, I am thinking about the process and impact of award books.

Questions about the process…

Any guarantee that the best book of the year gets the award?
Is there such thing as the best book of the year?
What effect does an award have on the life and circulation of a book?
What effect does an award have on collection development policies, collections, and the reading life of students?
Members of award committees have control on nominations and winners? How do they get it? Should they have it?

What is an award and what does it mean?

Like the Oscars I think that all nominations are worthy to some extent.  However I do not think that an award necessarily represents the best book of the year.  Awards have criteria but biases still exist. Politics come into play and authors have reputations.  We are never going to fully  agree on what the best book since committees and individuals perceive literature differently based on their own reading experiences.  

The effect of an award gives a perceived value and with that comes with additional attention. Students see the award posters and we highlight the importance of award books.  The prominent display of the award books keeps circulation high.  We want to supply readers with the must have books.  I like how we organize our IASL book awards with a combination of adult and student input. Having diverse librarian representation on our award committees ensures that we will continue to provide titles sharing numerous writing and art experiences that represent diversity.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Freedom of Information Day - March 16, 2014

*Taken directly from the American Library Association advocacy and legislation website. 

"Freedom of Information (FOI) Day is an annual event on or near March 16, the birthday of James Madison, who is widely regarded as the Father of the Constitution and as the foremost advocate for openness in government. Each year, the James Madison Award and the Eileen Cooke State & Local Madison Award are presented by the American Library Association Washington (DC) Office on Freedom of Information Day to recognize those individuals or groups that have championed, protected, and promoted public access to government information and the public's right to know."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Miranda Kral: Where the Wonders of Learning Never Cease

In 75-100 words, tell us who you are
I am Miranda Kral and I’m in my third year as district teacher librarian at Mid-Prairie Community Schools and Keota Community Schools.  I grew up west of North Liberty, IA and attended Clear Creek Amana Schools.  I received my BA in Elementary Education from UNI in 2010 and my MA in School Library studies from UNI in 2012.  I participated in the IASL Leadership Academy this past summer and am the Exhibitor contact for the 2014 IASL conference.
     Your current job 
      How do you set priorities, especially if assigned to multiple buildings?
I am responsible for seven libraries.  Priorities are a challenge to establish with the quantity of libraries I work in.  My focus, as well as every other educator, is on our students.  I am going to try something out next month by working primarily with fourth and fifth grade students at Mid-Prairie to expand their information literacy skills – something that doesn’t happen now.  We’ll see how it goes and hopefully show the need of expansion in my position.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?
One of the most challenging parts of my job is getting to know students and their interests.  Not being present in each library on a weekly basis makes that relationship/connection a challenge.  Another challenge is collection development of each library – knowing what we have and what we need is difficult to keep straight.

Advice and Inspiration 
What advice do you have for current and future librarians?
For those in multiple building positions, start small – meaning don’t think you can improve       everything right away.  Some library collections I work in need big time collection               development.  We are slowly working towards weeding and then rebuilding the collection in both print and electronic resources.  Another thing that I’m slowly working towards is making the transition from the more traditional library into a library of the 21st century.

What is the best part about attending conferences? Any tips to enhance the experience?Bringing the teacher librarian role back into perspective and knowing what I am continuously working towards.  Knowing that there are others doing what I do and learning from them is also something I enjoy.

Just for Fun
What fictional character would you most like to be for a day?
I make a connection, on some level, with many characters in books I read.  If I could be one for a day I’d choose to be Tris from Divergent.  I think having such strong character and being known as a leader towards change would be a good experience.

Contact Information

Library Website
Twitter: @MirandaKral

-Thanks to Diane Brown for organizing the interview!