Thursday, October 24, 2013

Forward thinking in school librarianship...

*This post was written by Meg Brooke, Supervisor of School Librarians for Jefferson County. 

Twenty three years ago I interviewed for a library position in the system where I was moving my family. In preparing for the interview, I got my interview outfit ready (Ok…hate to say it, but this was my first thought!). I knew that I needed to get my mind and interview skills ready, and so I prepped by doing lots of reading on what was new in library theory as well as  in technology, and I talked to several practicing librarian friends. The CD-ROM was just starting to be used, and I memorized what the letters stood for and learned about information that was available on the CD-ROMS. I had a MacIntosh computer that I could use at home, and I felt prepared. But, whoa, Nellie! 

Dr. Robert Mitchell, superintendent of the system at the time, interviewed me, and I was amazed!!! This was 1990, and Dr. Mitchell was envisioning students being able to access our school library from their homes. Wow!  My finite mind could never have dreamed that big…everyone having a computer at home and being able to retrieve information from our school library…. but I’m thankful that others have minds to be able to see what possibilities lie ahead. 

Remember: computers were just appearing in schools around that time, and the library where I was hired to work had no computers….ZERO.  It took a few decades to get there, but his vision did become reality. (a side note…..Dr. Mitchell was a hero to me in several ways, but I’d love to add that he left the system a year after I was there and started the first daycare in the area that had cameras so that parents could log in and see what their children were doing whenever they had a chance to do that. A real forward thinker!)

Dreams of what our libraries will become must move from the ideas that many were taught and have practiced, too, if we are to move toward the vision of the library that our students will need.  In Harland’s The Learning Commons: Seven Simple Steps to Transform Your Library, we are given some questions to ask ourselves as we think about the future of our particular library. 

Ponder these:
  • ·         Does your school need a library when most information can be accessed in the classroom using the Internet? (This is a question that we need to be able to answer!!!)
  • ·         What is it that your library offers to your users in addition to accessing information?
  • ·         Are you doing it well?  Could you do it better?
  • ·         How can you increase and improve services?
  • ·         Could you make a shift in your service?

We’ve heard the term libraries without walls, and we’re there. Dr. Mitchell got it right!  Our students can access Atriuum, Nettrekker, the AVL, and many ebooks outside of the school library. One leadership session at the upcoming AASL conference and one that was recently presented in a webinar entitled A Library in your Pocket is a reality NOW!  

High schools are without walls, providing online courses for students via ACCESS now. Our buildings are seeing changes as methods of teaching are moving toward more technology, and our library spaces will need to follow suit as well.  No longer are we just protecting what we have…our books, our AV, our equipment, but we are morphing into being the promoters of how to use what we have so that our students and teachers can easily access and use that information. 

This is just a smidgen of food for thought that you’ll find in The Learning Commons by Pamela Harland.  I hope you’ll check it out if you’re interested in moving your library forward into one that will meet your students’ needs.  

Be the “Dr. Mitchell” in the lives around you!