Monday, May 25, 2009

Why DO We Need Libraries in Schools?

Doug Johnson asks, (and I agree here with David Warlick) "one of the most interesting questions in education today,"~ "Why do we need libraries when virtually all of the information we need on a daily basis is only a mouse-click away?" I'd like to pose another question: Why is it that school librarians have to constantly justify their importance? We don't ask, "Why do we need classrooms when virtually all of the information we need on a daily basis is only a mouse-click away?" I suppose the quick answer is that in many places librarians are not mandated by the state, so, we see ourselves as dispensable unless we constantly advocate for ourselves. I know that here in NY, we are not mandated at the elementary level. It's incredibly frustrating that we always have to prove our worth. It's incredibly frustrating that with budget cuts, librarians are often on the chopping block. What are administrators thinking??? Why is there STILL that perception that we are nothing more than babysitters? There was a second grade teacher who once said to me, "Just read books to them, dear, that's what they really want." (I still cringe when I think of that!). Not that books aren't important! But our main focus now is on teaching students how to participate (safely) in this remix culture we live in, where they can produce and reshape information in a myriad of ways. We are information specialists - whether that information originates in books or online in both textual and visual formats. I know that in my library media center, I am having a ball showing my students different ways to express what they learn using various web 2.0 tools, connecting them to other classrooms via skype, and (usually without them knowing it) teaching them the skills to find, sort, sift, remix, and express knowledge. As David and Doug both say, this is such an exciting time to be a librarian. I know I'm having a great time...and so are my students!