Not So Distant Future

technology, libraries, and schools

Not So Distant Future

Librarians–shifting the paradigm

December 11, 2010 · 4 Comments · Web 2.0

draperlisteningflickr A common thread of discussion among wired librarians is the struggle they face in getting recognized for how technologically connected they are and how students rely on their services for assistance.

In most high schools, particularly, the library itself is fairly “wired”–outfitted with computers and devices of all kinds for multimedia productions and research uses, online catalogs and databases, scanners, etc.   To librarians, these are ubiquitous tools that are just in a day’s work.  Recently I was asked on an application to explain the ways I used technology in the library.  I had a difficult time separating out how I use technology, because as a librarian, I don’t “use” technology–it’s just embedded into everything we do.

Yet, often, the fact that many of a librarian’s daily activities rely on their proficiency with technology can be overlooked both at the administrative level and in the public at large.  And too often librarians find themselves struggling to get the resources they need, or being treated like second class technological users within their schools, or discounted by policy makers,  instead of recognized as the strong, tech savvy leaders for students that they are, and can be.

The Speak up 2009 National survey by Project Tomorrow paints a picture of the strong role librarians play in schools regarding technology use in student learning. The survey showed that in all but two of 9 categories, librarian use of technology far exceeds that of teachers and even students(as reported in Knowledge Quest November/December 2010).

Just a few of the numbers tell the tale–according to the survey, thirty-four percent  of librarians used a social network to seek help, 33% posted to a blog (compared to 18% of teachers surveyed), 25% found other experts online to assist them , and 22% started a wiki or blog (compared to 10% of teachers surveyed).   Students bested librarians only in the categories of playing online games and finding an online tutor.

On social networks, another example of librarians’  leadership with technology is evidenced by the number of nominations librarians received for the recent Edublog Awards in every different category.

The point is, librarians are out there on the “social network” in a big way.  Sure, not all of them, but a significant and growing percentage of librarians are providing leadership on their campuses by using technology in embedded ways.   It’s about the students they are helping, leading, sharing with and teaching.

Librarians bring a great deal to the table–as quasi “social scientists” they witness students’ and teachers’ information gathering and technology use behaviors first hand;  they have an “across the curriculum view”, they are creative,  they understand filtering issues from a “student freedom of information” issue, they are copyright experts, they are strategic planners trying to look down the road and provide vision, they are collaborative and they are willing to share, both within their buildings and 24/7 on social networks.

Maybe it’s time that the story being told about libraries and librarians reflects what libraries really look like.  We’re not reframing by using technology to “stay vital” as articles so often suggest–we’re reframing because that’s what our students and teachers need.  And that’s who we are there for.

It’s time the paradigm changed.  Because we did.

photo credit: Darren Draper

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