A.B.You've written extensively about the role of the Library Media Specialist in school libraries. Given their current obstacles, (one being budget cuts) are there any realistic solutions that could remedy these problems? What's their biggest challenge?
L.P. The biggest challenge I see for school library media specialists is the same issue I see with most problems: communication. We have some great things going on in schools and school libraries, with research to back it up, but we can’t seem to break that ‘glass ceiling’ and get the word out to those that should be listening and could influence change: community leaders, parents, politicians, school boards, administrators, and fellow teachers. We, national and local library leadership and those of us in our individual roles in the profession, need to actively seek out opportunities to promote the positive role of an effective library media program in a child’s educational experience.
A.B. What are some "words of wisdom" you would share with a new librarian, just coming out of school?
L.P. "There is so much I wish somebody had told me when I was new! A few "Words of Wisdom" for a new school library media specialist:
~Get involved with your state professional organization. Surround yourself with other library media specialist that are doing good work – borrow their great ideas.
~Always make your patronage your number one priority. If you had plan to spend your time processing in new material, but students or staff need your help or want to talk, always stop whatever your doing to help them or listen to them.
~Keep a smile on your face and don’t get caught up with the negative school gossipers.
~Always remember that you are often the only library media specialist that your parents, teachers and students experience, so their experience with you will often be their impression of all libraries, school libraries and library media specialists. What you do within your program and how you deal with people could have a far-reaching impact on library programs and funding in your area, positive or negative.
A.B. There is a longstanding debate as to what role technology should play in education. Some would even say that computers are the "bad guys" forcing librarians to take on more, on their "already full plates." What's your reaction to this notion?
L.P. "I, along with most people, do often feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities that continue to be added to our job description, but as any job does in a modern world, we must continue to evolve and re-invent ourselves with the times in which we live. Personally and professionally, I am mostly thankful for technology. We have to admit that it has made our lives in the library media center easier with the on-line circulation, inventory, OPACs, email, ordering, processing, grant writing, reports, action research & data collection, etc. Since it has made difficult work we must do easier, how could we ignore it & say that it’s bad? Helping students and staff develop effective technology skills is important for maintaining an effective workforce in a modern society. It is a juggling act at times as we deal with our traditional role and the addition of new responsibilities, but we have to examine how our time is spent and manage our time as effectively as possible to incorporate the ever-evolving technology onto our plate. And as we do this, continue to positively promote our library media program with positive PR and bombard our administrators and school board with data necessary to defend the need for more staffing, etc. to deal with the expanding role of the library media program."