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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Future of Librarians, What is the

David Warlick shared the following the other day:
While at the National School Boards Association Conference the other day, more than one school board member came up to me, a tech guy, and asked, “We’re trying desperately to find ways to deal with budget crunches. With all of these computers and access to online information, do we really need librarians or libraries any more?”

In the past, I have always viewed librarians as "gatekeepers" of information. I now view them (probably because I am one) more as "lifeguards" of information.

Do we need librarians now? I think more than ever! With so much information available, someone must be able to organize, maintain, update the information which is changing faster than ever before. Teachers simply do not have time to manage the information.

So what's the answer? I think a name change that means something. Like when stewardesses became flight attendants (and the title fit). Librarians have become "media specialists" but the name does not fit. Just because there are VHS tapes, DVDs, cassette tapes, CDs, and the players to make them work, does not mean that the librarian has become a specialist of the media. Computers can run media, but with all the different levels of restrictions (bandwidth and/or filtering) we are not ready to become Library 2.0 people either...if we are honest anyway.

Most librarians do not have a natural background in technology; so why thrust the media title on them (which relates more to technology). Most school librarians come from the classroom. They understand instruction, curriculum, and know how to find, manage, and utilize information that can be valuable in the classroom. I think a more accurate term for most (at least in our district) media specialist would be information specialists. To me, that is the power of the library/media center.

There are many forms of information. Some people prefer (or are more comfortable with) paper-based products (books, encyclopedias, etc.) Great! Others are more comfortable with online resources, and hope to see schools move to a Web 2.0/Library 2.0 world in the near future. Schools need a BOTH/AND approach not an either/or dichotomy. Regardless of the preference, the true value of the people who work in the big room with all the books and computers, is that they are trained to find, organize, utilize, and share information. To me the big issue is how to convince teachers that we exist for more than the reading teachers.

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