"Huge Discussion" Triage

Submitted by AndyW on Mon, 10/26/2009 - 21:04

Through my Google Reader, there is a “huge discussion” among school librarians that has been brought to my attention. (Starts here, goes here and here, and onwards to here, and a nice summary of it all here). In talking with Buffy (The Unquiet Librarian) about it, I am now going to probably stick my nose into a debate I probably shouldn't get involved in. However, I hope this offers the participants an objective third party assessment of the discussion.

I think the one thing that both sides of the argument should do is concede to two specific certain points.

First, there are school librarians who will (for whatever reason) not incorporate technology into their instruction and library environment. Their passion for books and their profession is not without merit, but it is not valid rationale in the current school library setting. It does not behoove the present educational parameters of teachers nor prepare students for their academic research future. They do their more technological colleagues no service by continuing to carry their educational Luddite ways. These librarians should take it upon themselves to find other library employment or be gently bumped from the field.

I’m sure some people will read this point as harsh and, well, it is. I’m sorry, but the people who hold this concept of school librarianship are in the wrong library field. School librarians have instructional access to students in their academic formative years, a crucial time in this information technology age, and it cannot (and should not) be wasted. It is not the unusual request of any parent that their child receive an education that prepares them for the world, including web tools and computer based research techniques. Today, such knowledge is a life skill of modern civilization.
(For those still not convinced, let me ask this same issue another way: exactly how out of date would you like the treatments and techniques of your personal health care professionals to be at any given point in time? I’m going to guess they don’t all have to be cutting edge, but there is an expectation that they at least stay current.)

Second, there are school librarians who are ready and willing to learn but have not been able. Despite the vast amount of contact points (e.g. training, online, social sites, list servs, etc.), they have not been able to connect to the resources. Call it bad luck, bad karma, bad timing, missed chances, no opportunity to take advantage, lack of funding, lack of support; it just has not happened for these individuals. There might be some incredulity to such an assertion, but there must be a willingness to accept that these individuals have been lagging behind through no fault of their own. (From Blue Skunk Blog, I know there are people who are just trying to maintain order, nevermind teaching anything. My heart goes out to them and suggest they take a page from Joe Clark.)  In order to reach these librarians, it will involve a continuously widening publicity net and the unconditioned acceptance of these 'lost sheep' librarians. Bring them in, get them going with toolkits and how-to guides, and guide them through to the 2.0 promised land.

Now that we've eliminated the top and bottom groups in this conversation, the real debate for the center begins. This middle group of librarians, in various states of acceptance of training, technology, and implementation, are truly the ones at stake in this discussion. These are the librarians where the majority effort needs to be placed; and they also raise the most important questions in the discussion. Such as:

  • What will it take to get these middle people on board?
  • What will it take to get those board to be able to train, use, and instruct 2.0?
  • Do they have the support (“the buy-in”) from administration and faculty to make it work?
  • How can I encourage them to go the next step and use [insert whatever 2.0 thing]?
  • Is there an acceptable level of 2.0 use? (In other words, what’s a reasonable amount of web tools and resources that a school librarian should be offering to students.)
  • What is a fair amount of time for school librarians to catch up? (You can’t do this forever. There has to be a cutoff point.

(This last portion of questioning is more artfully covered by Carolyn Foote’s post, but I have the sinister ‘dooms day’ question at the end.)

AndyW