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Too controversial? What do you think?

After some discussion, we decided a recent comment to Connie’s great post (“Does Your Principal Know How You Are Affecting Student Achievement”)should be elevated to a regular post – because “too controversial to sign” raises some good points, however we prefer that people stand by their statements and sign their names! We wanted to give our readers a chance to mull this over and respond.  Here is the comment:

“Do you realize that the bookshelf is the information source of last resort? That circulation statistics are the trappings of an age when information was contained in discreet containers that required careful management, cataloging and funding-allocation? Do you realize that age is passing? By all means, communicate with your principal, but I question whether circulation statistics matter to anyone anymore. I’d suggest you focus on student work, student achievement and community relations rather than the size of your collection, the frequency students come to you or the age of your print materials. These are now in danger of becoming irrelevant… if they haven’t already. ”

So readers…do you agree or disagree?  Why?


4 Responses

  1. While I usually delete unsigned posts in my blogs, I can understand your decision to put this out there. I appreciate your decision to tackle the tough questions.

    While I think everyone knows I am a big supporter of libraries, I can see the point being made here. As I have been working on my EdD at the University of Northern Colorado, I have yet to set foot in the library… yet I use the library databases constantly! So I don’t agree that libraries are irrelevant, I do think that the emphasis of the library is changing. That emphasis is from that of books to information.

    This 21st Century of ours is forcing everyone to rethink what we do and how we do it. I’m drawn to the kids at Arapahoe High School reading A Whole New Mind, by Dan Pink (you can find their work at http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com). In an age influenced by Automation, Abundance and Asia, nobody’s paradigm is safe.

    Kudos to the Colorado library community for facing the challenge of reinvention. Good luck!

    -Dan Maas, CIO Littleton Public Schools and President of CASE

  2. In several of my recent presentations, I have been talking to Teacher-Librarians about the importance of having a positive, public voice and making sure administrators, teachers, and parents know who you are and what skills you bring to the learning community. It is still important to tell administrators how often students and teachers come to the Teacher-Librarian as an Information Specialist, and to take it a step further and note the skills or standards being addressed during the interactions; not just the number of library visits.

    Many students obtain “information” from online databases and websites so we know it is more important than ever to make sure students are being taught how to access and evaluate information. But I am not sure if educators, principals, and parents are aware of what certified Teacher-Librarians teach unless they are in the same room with us. We need to share our strategies with them. How many schools are using research models or inquiry-based questioning techniques to promote critical thinking skills among their students? — Do we share these models with parents? Do they know how to extend the learning at home? Regardless of how the students contact the librarian (e.g. email, IM, chat, Skype, or in-person), the interaction is still a key piece to student achievement. Keep letting your principal know about your interactions with students and teachers! Give them reasons to keep you as a valued employee. We can’t leave any stone unturned right now because our jobs are on the line. Positive, insightful working relationships with our colleagues, administrators, and students help motivate transfer of knowledge and teach self-direction.

    As for the comment about still reporting the age of the book collection, this too is still important to report. It looks pathetic at a national level to have the average age of books in Colorado collections at over 15 years old. Books are not going away any time soon. There are different learning styles to address and books meet the needs of many individuals. Also, how often do our students still print what they read online? We still have a need for print-based materials. Also, when we go to book stores (more popular than ever) do we want current books or out-of-date books to read? It is the same principle. If we want students in our space — called the library — The potential “Learning Hub of the School,” we need to attract them with a current collection.

    Speaking personally, even though I am an online learning advocate and have a Ph.D. in that area, I still buy books all the time. I choose to have several books in an electronic and print-based edition so that I can access the information in different ways depending on my current need and location. Several reference vendors are offering copies of the same book in both print and electronic forms. Give students the choice.

    And the sad truth that we cannot ignore is that NOT all students have access to computers, let alone internet connectivity, and not all students can get to a public library in the evening. We still need to address the inequity issues surrounding information access. What are we doing to promote access of information for all students? This is a whole other topic of conversation. 🙂

    While you may not agree on what to tell your administrators, my hope is that you are at least talking to your administrators and colleagues, providing the data and the evidence, and making sure they know your value!

    – Laura L. Summers, Ph.D.
    University of Colorado Denver; Director of School Library Program

  3. Got to agree with the comment in some part – our non-fiction collection is gathering dust, but our fiction continues to fly off the shelves (Secondary school library in Melbourne Australia) We’re trying to become the driving force in terms of Web 2.0 adoption and are actively creating wikis to replace pathfinders – our strategic planning is focused on how we as a Library adapt to our 21st Century world – if we don’t adapt we risk losing relevance.
    Jenny Luca.
    Head of Information Services
    Toorak College, Melbourne, Australia.

  4. I think gathering a full range of statistics is important to reflect the variety of ways we interact with students as teacher/librarians.

    How many students visit our website, use our databases, ask us reference questions, check out a book, make a recommendation, email us a question, etc.? How many classes do we teach in the library or computer lab areas? How often do we go to a classroom to work with students? What committees are we part of that are part of school leadership? All important areas for evaluating.

    (While I think our nonfiction use is declining moderately, students are still highly engaged in reading literature and fiction. And we see more “in house” use of nonfiction.)

    And just as most of us would want a bookstore to carry the most current items, students would want our libraries to.

    However, I agree that we need to be showing a wide variety of information on our statistics to reflect our current best practices.

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