This hit my PLN recently, and I must confess it excited me too. My initial thought was wow–something to show the uninformed! I also celebrated that its creator is from Winthrop University (and I am a 1986 alumni), and really close to my hometown here in the great state of South Carolina
Darren Draper challenged us to recreate it–to rewrite it and PROVE that school libraries and librarians are really a necessary part of the landscpae of schools today. This challenge comes very timely as I learn from a member of my PLN today that her librarian position in her school has come to an end–this position is a budget cut for the upcoming school year.
There has been some less than positive adulation of the Ten Reasons picture above. I celebrate it as it does tend to educate the uninformed (like school board members and school leaders who are faced with making these tough decisions about programs, and which get funded, which get the boot.)
It wasn’t long before another in my PLN, Darren Draper, Director of Technology in Canyons School District, Salt Lake City, Utah challenged school librarians on it.
So, no disrespect to the originator of the image above, I have borrowed and reworded the list of ten to make it work for my position as a school librarian.
Ten Reasons a School Library/Librarian is Vital to Schools.
- The free world wide web is vast, but solid research is not free. Your library offers valid online resources through DISCUS, Ebscohost, and an array of other subscription services to help learners and researchers sift through innocuous information often found in the vast ocean known as the world wide web.
- The needle (a search) in the haystack (free world wide web) - searching the free world wide web requires lots of time for one to sift through the gazillions of links. Try our pathfinders instead, or use smart searching strategies you have learned from your librarians. Use the subscription databases that not only steer you towards a more reliable set of resources, but also guarantees free access from the school’s filtered content.
- A school library with a certified librarian ensures quality control. As patrons use the Internet, they are taught and reminded to remember to evaluate each and every site for the world wide web. Remember how the librarian has talked about questioning reliability, accuracy, details, currency, authority, and bias before using that site in your research! This is true for any site, including those indexed in DISCUS, Ebscohost, and even our pathfinders.
- What you don’t know really does hurt you. Ignoring the evaluation tricks can lead your research down a treacherous path. Be sure to apply the search strategies your librarian has taught.
- The internet does not replace having books in the library. In pathfinders for projects, we strive to include print resources as well as web links to enhance the project. These are supplemental to instruction, and nothing more. The missing reference here is WHO built them and how they were built (meaning pathfinders and books added to a collection.)
- Ebooks are much easier to access via the web. While ebooks are a growing trend, there are still many issues with format and cost. And they still have to meet selection criteria to be a part of the library. This is definitely an evolving issue and its too early to rely strictly on Ebooks at this time, especially in our school libraries with shrinking budgets. Yeah, cost is in issue. Check your school’s collection of Ebooks. They are probably specifically chosen to meet research needs in your school. Oh and remember a certified teacher librarian worked with teachers to determine what needed to be added to the collection. Their selection did not just happen magically, but rather with purpose and strategic planning to enhance the library’s ability to meet the needs of the school community.
- Schools can be successful even if “library-less” now that the Internet is widely available. Not true. The role of the library and the librarian is much more than physical space and books. We are instructional partners, collaborators, research and information specialists, and we strive to ensure our students are getting their needs met by educating the school community on best practice in terms of instruction AND resources/collection development. Collection development now includes pulling together path finders of online resources. We are the Google of our schools. An added bonus–a school library is not just a place to offer Internet access or books. It is a place designed for learning, either self-directed or collaboratively. School libraries of today are places where students can come to read for pleasure, study, research independently or with classes, and even delve into being a creator of information. School libraries programs of today strive to be a space in the building that offers flexibility to the school community, a place that can be made into a space that works for the needs of the learners. There is even a trend today to rename library media centers “learning commons” as the space evolves to meet the needs of today’s learners. A school librarian ensures the evolution of the program continues to support the needs of the learners in the “learning commons.”
- But a Virtual Library ensures continued service, no? A virtual library (online resources) is just one facet of a program. What is lost? Lost is the total instructional component of this picture. Who exposes students and teachers to new virtual library resources? Often these resources are complex, confusing, and just plain messy. Vital to their use is a library program that ensures the entire school community understands how to use them. In a way they are similar to the world wide web, and anyone can get lost or quickly frustrated with the search results. And to top it off, many “virtual libraries” are moving towards a simplified “Google” look. Search results are wide and plentiful. Students must be taught the purpose and search functionality of resources found in a virtual library as well so they can be successful in their quest for information.
- The Internet: a mile wide and an inch (or less) deep. Yes relatively speaking, the Internet is young and not fully developed. And much of what is available free is shallow. To gain more research worthy information, you will have to seek out sources that are provided by experts in the respective fields of research. Librarians are trained to select print an online resources that meet the needs of the curriculum in their school. Librarians work hand in hand with curriculum specialists and teachers to ensure they are providing access to the resources that will meet the research needs to the depth that various projects call for. Without the librarian in the picture, resources are just added in spray/mist mode like a lawn hose pipe. No real soaking of a section of need, but instead just a sprinkling of wetness to appear damp and refreshed. This is true for online as well as print resources, and it is called collection development. A professionally trained school librarian fully understands this concept, and works tirelessly to ensure the needs of the school community are met–often on a shoestring budget.
- The Internet is ubiquitous, but books are portable. Many true readers prefer hard copies of books to an electronic site, device, or gadget. This has not changed despite the Internet becoming a major part of a school library program. School libraries are beginning to dabble in ebook devices, which is breathing new life into programs, true, but this is still a significantly uncharted territory for school libraries that have little to no budgets. Comparing the Internet to hard copy books does not make sense. In our school libraries, we must work in tandem with both. Different likes for different types, and to remain relevant to our school community, it makes no sense to embrace one and ignore the other. Our goal as librarian is to evolve our programs as time changes while new methods and resources change the landscape of today’s libraries. Critical to a library being able to evolve is a library steward–a certified librarian who is keen to current trends in research, engaged learning, and the wants, desires, and needs of the school community of today. We will continue to offer books as well as electronic solutions. They are both necessary.
Now I’m sure some of my very best library friends can create a better list than I have done. Actually I hope others will!! Thanks for the challenge Dr. Draper!
Herring, M. Y. (2001). 10 Reasons the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library. American Libraries, 32(4), 76-78. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.