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Shift happened. The librarian divide

Yesterday I presented a session on teacher/librarian partnerships for the technology coaches at our state Classrooms for the Future Boot Camp.  Our high school is one of a growing number across the state included in the generous grant which will equip every classroom in the core subject areas–defined by the grant as English, Social Studies, Math, and Science–with laptops, interactive white boards, cameras, and more.

I feel attached to the CFF project. I brought the grant to the attention of my administrators.  I shared my own vision and I helped write the proposal.  And while I was personally excited about the potential all this access to technology would provide learners, to be completely honest, I was also a little worried.  

If most of our teachers had sets of laptops in their classrooms, would they be as motivated to book time with me and move their classes to the library?  And how would a newly-hired technology coach work with me, a committed 2.0 princess who sees emerging information and communication technology integration as a big part of her mission?  

My vison always included teaching virtually (through my site and my pathfinders and collaboratively planned lessons) as well as physically.  It included teaching and collaborating physically, both in the library and moving out into the classrooms. 

I am fortunate.  We hired our CFF coach from within.  Ken, is an English teacher–one who completely gets the collaboration thing, as well as the information fluency thing and the learning thing. We’ve worked together for eight years. In large part, we discovered 2.0 together.  For the past two years, it was our sandbox. Ken understands my role. And we both get that we can integrate technology into learning more powerfully together than each of us could do alone.

About our session yesterday . . .

We got some great response.  Some of those CFF tech coaches have come to live in their high school libraries.  It is where they meet classroom teachers. They consider their librarians critical partners in teaching and integration.  Some of those coaches are librarians themselves. Some coaches clearly see the value of double-teaming in this massive whole-school, whole-state initiative. I couldn’t do it alone.  These coaches cannot do it alone. They also need our information-/research-based perspectives in their work with teachers and learners. This collaboration simply makes sense.

But driving back from Harrisburg, I found myself intensely and newly worried.  

Among the other comments from those attending our sessions:  

My librarian doesn’t get it.  She is only interested in quiet and books.  She doesn’t let the kids work together. She could never create an online pathfinder.  She never told me about Creative Commons or open source. Does she even know about that stuff? My librarian won’t event let the kids use Wikipedia.  Help teachers with 2.0 applications? Are you kidding?  My librarian is afraid of blogs and podcasts and wikis.  

I am seeing a huge librarian divide between the 2.0-type library folks and those who are barely 1.0.  I am worried.

I am worried about many of the librarians across the state, and in programs like ours in other states.  What happens when the tech coach comes in new to the school?  What happens when the librarian finds him/herself far less trained for integration than the newly trained, newly empowered tech coach?  What happens when a librarian and a library program cannot even demonstrate awareness of the shifts in the information landscape? 

I know the good folks in Harrisburg are working on tech training for llibrarians.  It can’t happen fast enough.  If our librarains are not viewed as leaders in information and communication technologies, we will lose the opportunity to teach information fluency skills and effect thoughtful change in these new landcapes.  But, if our librarians wait for formal training and do not opt to train themselves, we will find ourselves irrelevant and optional. More important, learners will lose.  

Shift happened.  Our response is not optional.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Darcy Goshorn says:

    I learned a LOT in your breakout session during the CFF bootcamp. Thanks a lot for bringing your experience to a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and slightly overwhelmed bunch of instructional coaches. I have to confess that, while still listening to your presentation, I was excitedly e-mailing my librarian and asking her if we could meet to discuss collaboration. I definitely see her as one of the Librarian 2.0 group members, and I think that we’re going to really spark some change around the joint. Thanks again!

  2. Joyce,

    There are many of the “unshifted” throughout the country. Sometimes I worry that the uninitiated are intimidated by the cutting edge technologies mentioned in so many of the educational blogs.

    I’m “semi-shifted” myself, learning as I go, so although I yearn for excellence, I can certainly sympathize with ineptitude and uncertainty!


  3. joycevalenza says:

    You are wonderfully eager to learn! We cannot tolerate ineptitude in any profession. We all are in beta mode here. Perfection right out of the box is nearly impossible. This landscape requires a willingness to take risk, a disposition open to learning. A kind of playfulness.

  4. joycevalenza says:

    Thank you, Darcy! Your enthusiasm kept me smiling! I wish you the best and invite you and your librarian to collaborate with us at Springfield!

  5. No doubt that moving forward will be a rocky road and that it is integral the librarians1.0 get on board.

    As much as they need to motivate themselves, hopefully they will embrace collaboration and work with educators in their own buildings that may be able to provide some level of support.

    Or they should come and mirror you for a few days! That’s what I would recommend.

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  7. As many of us are concerned about this issue and looking for answers, is there a collection of ideas and strategies to support our efforts to reach those not ready to cross the divide?

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