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Julie Nix's picture

Left behind, again?

Two things happened over the weekend that prompts this topic.  The first was receiving an email from a SLMS in AZ (where the term teacher-librarian [TL] is used.)  The other was listening to Arne Duncan, Sec. of USDOE, on a Sunday morning talk show.  "School libraries, staffed with accredited School Teacher/Librarians, form a basic foundation for all other types of libraries, yet advocating for school libraries appears to be lacking or to be ineffective.  In the state of Arizona, school district after school district is removing certified School Teacher/Librarians from public schools and replacing them with school secretaries or other office clerical help....In April of 2009, 32 K-6, K-8, and middle school Teacher/Librarians were returned to the regular classroom and replaced with secretaries from school offices.  The only remaining certified School Teacher/Librarians are in four of the district's five high schools.  This practice is becoming common in the state of Arizona" laments the TL from AZ.  Duncan's remarks repeated the well honed messages that are coming out of the USDOE.  The US must produce college and career ready graduates.  The status quo is unacceptable.  Between stimulus funds, Race to the Top, Innovation funds and the reauthorization of ESEA (the former NCLB), this administration is/will be pouring billions of dollars into public education over the next three years.  The TL from AZ reminds us that school library media programs and school librarians were completely left out of NCLB.  According to a prominent educational researcher, the school library field has a strong body of research on the impact of an effective SLM program.  Duncan consistently maintains that the USDOE is looking to fund scalable, sustainable, research-based programs.  What will it take to ensure that SLM programs are not left behind again?  If they are, how will SLMS view ALA (and AASL) in terms of impact and influence?   

 

Linda Braun's picture

There is definitely a disconnect between the research and the reality and it seems that that could be an issue of advocacy (school librarians having the skills needed to advocate for high quality programs) and training (both training of school librarians as well as training of teachers and administrators).

I sometimes wonder if a bold move is necessary as a way for librarians - in all types of settings - to demonstrate they are alive, valuable, and ready to do business.  Of course the news about Cushing Academy going bookless is a bold move on the part of the school administration but what about bold moves from library staff? If an administration cuts the school library budget is there a bold response the librarian can come back with that is based on research and suggests another way to go in order to support student learning and save funds?

As I write that I do think in the back of my mind, so many school librarians deal with issues of access where technology tools that are essential to student learning are blocked, so a bold move that suggested strong technology integration might be an impossibility.  Yet, it is this technology that provides school librarians with the perfect opportunity to be the center of the school. Who better to teach others about how to use resources available?

I guess what I'm saying is that maybe ALA/AASL could focus on supporting school librarian bold moves in order to demonstrate that they are a valuable part of the community.

Julie Nix's picture

·         What are the most significant changes you have seen in school libraries the past 3-5 years?

School library resources are going beyond the walls.  72% of school libraries have access to remote databases.  The mean number of computers inside the school networked to library resources increased by 15.2. 

·         Given those changes, what assumptions can we make about the next 3-5 years?

Access to digital resources will continue to increase.

·         What assumptions do you think will have the greatest impact on ALA in the next 3-5 years?

The intermediary role of the librarian will decrease in significance.

·         Are there any critical uncertainties that, if they occurred, could significantly impact the library profession in the next 3-5 years?

Digital products traditionally thought of as "library materials" will go directly into curriculum management systems and directly to teacher/student desktops.

Julie A. Walker

Executive Director

American Association of School Librarians

Mary Ghikas's picture

What are the most significant changes you have seen in school libraries the past 3-5 years?

School library resources are going beyond the walls.  72% of school libraries have access to remote databases.  The mean number of computers inside the school networked to library resources increased by 15.2.

The number of schools with school libraries has declined slightly, likely a combination of NCLB and economic pressures.  Additionally, there have been high-profile "assaults" on school libraries in a number of states.

 

Given those changes, what assumptions can we make about the next 3-5 years?

Access to digital resources will continue to increase.

With economic pressures/restructuring, pressures on funding for school libraries will continue to be severe.

 

What assumptions do you think will have the greatest impact on ALA in the next 3-5 years?

The intermediary role of the librarian will decrease in significance.

But, the role of the school librarian as a "learning coach" in an unwalled, networked environment may increase in significance.

 

Are there any critical uncertainties that, if they occurred, could significantly impact the library profession in the next 3-5 years?

Digital products traditionally thought of as "library materials" will go directly into curriculum management systems and directly to teacher/student desktops.

Mary Ghikas's picture

As I look back, one of the "threads" in the discussion about SLMCs has been the looming retirements and shortage of qualified SLMSs.  A recent study for ALA indicates the likelihood of 8,000+ retirements (not all SLMSs) by 2015 and another 7,000+ between 2015 and 2020.  At the same time, we know there is a substantial, and growing, cohort of library professionals in their 20s and 30s.

So, it seems to me that we're balancing assumptions about (a) the impact of the recession on retirement, (b) the numbers of currently un- or under-employed librarians, as well as the continuing stream of new graduates, and (c) the shape/size/specific growth pattern of the library field coming out of the recession.  If we expect substantial funding to flow to education, in general, how much to go into SLMCs in particular -- of how much of that into hiring SLMSs?  In balance, I see SLMSs -- teacher-librarians - as a likely growth area in librarianship.  That would make recruitment and development a continuing priority.

In the area of "critical uncertainties," what happens if the concept of teacher-librarian is increasingly separate from the concept of school library media center.  When I read the 2020 Forecast and other materials, I recall a charter school I visited in conjunction with an AASL National conference a few years ago.  They didn't have a SLMC; it was an urban campus and students had other library options. They did, however, have school library media specialists or teacher-librarians.  I was impressed by the extent to which they served as learning/research/discovery coaches for the students.  

 

 

Thom Barthelmess's picture

What are the most significant changes you have seen in school libraries the past 3-5 years?

shift in paradigm from "keeper of the stuff" to "information expert"

digital information and electronic access changing every aspect of practice (cataloging/classification (tagging), retrieval, delivery, acquisition)

young people collect and process information differently (hyper attention instead of deep attention)

Increased emphasis on NCLB, and pursuant focus of school librarians on curriculum support, at the expense of literary enrichment and information literacy

Given those changes, what assumptions can we make about the next 3-5 years?

Continued misunderstanding of school librarians' role as teacher

Need to balance roles as information experts and readers' advisor, with renewed emphasis on readers' advisor.

Technology will continue to change and remain a moving target that individual young people will assimilate more quickly than institutions can.

NCLB will continue, with increasing emphasis on empirical measures of success

Funding will come under increasing threat

What assumptions do you think will have the greatest impact on ALA in the next five years?

ALA needs to become (much) more nimble and virtual, and less deliberate and singular

If school library and school librarian funding continues to be under threat, recruiting and retaining strong school librarians will become increasingly difficult.

Are there any critical uncertainties that, if they occurred, could significantly impact the library profession in the next 3-5 years?

Young people will either embrace or dismiss the idea that an information expert or readers' advisor represents a useful and valuable supporter.

Advances in technology may assume responsibility for information vetting, making information expertise even more obsolete. Redefining ourselves as readers' advisors, a need we meet better than any other group, may make sense.

 

Linda Braun's picture

1) What are the most significant changes you have seen in school libraries the past 3-5 years

School librarians are challenged to define/re-define their role within the education infrastructure.  As new ways of accessing information come to the fore, school librarians need to demonstrate even more effectively, efficiently, and strongly how they are the staff members within the school who are best suited to helping members of the community use those resources.  It seems that what might have been taken for granted - in terms of what a school library is/houses/etc. (even if that was based on incorrect assumptions) - doesn't exist anymore.  Some see the school library as replaceable by technology and classroom teachers.

2) Given those changes, what assumptions can we make about the next 3-5 years?

The sense of being "misunderstood" will continue unless school librarians need to find new and effective ways of getting the message out about what they do and why they are important within a school community. Traditional forms of messaging may no longer work. And, perhaps even a re-envisioning of what we mean by school library needs to take place.  Current trends in k-12 education can provide opportunities for school librarians, those opportunities need to be embraced. 

3) What assumptions do you think will have the greatest impact on ALA in the next 3-5 years?

School librarians are replaceable.

4) Are there any critical uncertainties that, if they occurred, could significantly impact the library profession in the next 3-5 years?

The uncertainty is in how school librarians define their role.

Mary Ghikas's picture

Over the weekend, I spent some time contemplating the issues raised (for me, at least) by something else Julie posted -- the 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning.  I find the concepts of "distributed innovation," a learning "ecosystem," an "amplified" educator to be compelling arguments for a leadership role for school librarians -- in the learning community and in the broader library community.

It also reminded me of a talk at an ACRL some years ago -- Detroit? James Williams? -- to support school libraries and school librarians, for their own self-interest and the interest of those who would become academic library users. 

Perhaps we need to focus advocacy on the individual in this highly-distributed learning ecosystem -- and on the role of the "team of specialists" (school librarians, academic librarians, public librarians, other specialized librarians) in helping the individual negotiate that ecosystem successfully. 

James Rettig's picture

During my year as ALA president I often spoke about the importance of advocating for the entire library ecosystem since all of our libraries support lifelong learning.  The recession has demonstrated the importance of lifelong learning so that individuals can move from job to job--either form necessity or choice--and so that the United States can remain competitive in an increasingly competitve global marketplace.

See http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/advocacyuniversity/coalit...  and

http://www.jimrettig.org/content/initiatives/advocacy.htm  and 

http://www.jimrettig.org/content/columns/documents/August2008PDF.pdf  for more on the library ecosystem.

Jim Rettig

Retired Academic Library Administrator

Happily living in Williamsburg, Virgina

jimrettig.gm@gmail.com

Thom Barthelmess's picture

I think we need to find a way to present library spending as long-term investment. In the budget process, school libraries are competing with other lines that may feel more immediately pressing to administrators. Of course, it falls to us to make a case for our worth, and part of that case is the long-term payout of supporting a school institution proactively dedicated to curiosity and critical thinking and objective analysis, which in turn positively impacts classroom learning, extracurricular success, etc. All of the recent economic woes have generated lots of personal financial planning advice, and just about all of it emphasizes continuing to save, no matter how tight budgets become. Schools (and cities and universities, and every other place that weighs library service against other budgetary demands) ought to follow the same advice. The former Austin Chief of Police had been heard to say, about the cities budget process, "You can give the money to the library today, or give it to me tomorrow."