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Impact of ubiquity, the importance of brand, and Doug’s warning

In Doug Johnson’s blog post today, he suggests that the enemy is us.

Doug’s recent interaction with two learning and technology coordinators from the International School in Bangkok led him to ask:

If we take an honest look at what we as librarians have done since technology has come into our buildings, as painful as it is to say, we have dropped the ball – big time. Why?

Why have school librarians not had a bigger impact on information and tech literacy integration?

Doug proposes that the reasons for our lack of impact may fit into three categories: sexism (the subtext here is obvious, though I haven’t personally met it); schitzophrenia (we divide ourselves into two camps–book people and information literacy people); and strategy (our collaborations with individual teachers may overwhelm the need to work systemically to integrate technology and literacies in a big picture way).

As I read Doug, I thought about two other issues very currently impacting our impact.

1. Ubiquity–ubiquity changes everything.  In one-to-one schools, students visit the library less frequently. In such environments, in all modern, truly relevant environments, library also be ubiquitous.  Library MUST be everywhere. Librarians must teach everywhere, in and outside of the library. And I think we need to redefine library.  We must be ready to scale our instructional voice, as well as our resources. And we must make libraries just for me, just in time, all the time.

Library must find a way to be a window on a students’ desktops.  We must present ourselves as a real adult who knows the students, their teachers, their learning and recreational needs, their curricula.  Library space, off- and online, is for the whole information fluency process; for displaying, for archiving the information and communication work of the whole school; for organizing collections that look far different from the ones I once collected.

2. Brand–The schitzophrenia Doug described, is in my mind, related to the shifting concept of brand.

What is the brand of the librarian?  I am not sure we clearly articulate our brand to our colleagues, our administrators, ourselves.  And I am not sure I have all the answers.

But, here’s what I am thinking:

Our schools are now far more crowded with faculty and supports. The reading coach also does books. The technology coach also does integration.  In our state, high school technology coaches are now funded (in part) by the Classrooms for the Future grant. Their training is impressively extensive and continual and I worry that librarians who choose not to seriously (and voluntarily) train or retool themselves in the same way, are doomed to obsolensce in relation to technology integration.  Technology integration is directly connected to integration of information and communication skills.

I work very well with our school’s technology coach, a good friend who was formerly an English teacher I worked with closely.  Despite the fact that we are both working on technology integration, there is enough work for both of us and we continue to learn from each other.  Nevertheless. I am now hearing scary stories from other schools, and I continue to worry about our own overlapping interests and duties.

But back to brand.

My brand, the library brand is connected to my philosophy–a library philosophy.  (In Yiddish, my mother would have called this a library kop, or head.)

At its most essential element, here’s what the teacher librarian brand means to me–I help learners learn; I help teachers teach.  But that is vague.  Other coaches, other teachers and administrators do that too.

The library brand is connected to intellectual freedom, and to translating that critical value to the online world. Ours may be the only voice that helps ensure fullest possible physical and intellectual access to online tools and resources, to advocate for equity, to promote open source alternatives, to prepare full pathfinders for information needs.

The library brand is about information ethics and intellectual property.  It is about respect for artists and creators. It is about understanding the copyright/copyleft and it is about interpreting fair use.  At a recent conference I attended, I asked the audience (95% school librarians) if they understood Creative Commons licences.  Shockingly few had even heard of Creative Commons.  They no longer own this part of the brand.

Information/media fluency is my mission, and my curriculum, and my brand.

I know that:

• Research is a process.
• Intervention is critical.  Learning is social. Students need guidance as they improve their skills in research and communication.
• Students must learn to evaluate information in all media formats through practice.  I know I can and must teach them to pushing quality to the top, to evaluate blogs, wikis, streamed media, whatever comes next.
• Collection looks different these days.  I must collect RSS feeds, and wikibooks, and ebooks, and streamed media.  I must help students find all of these resources.
• Communication is the end-product of research.  I know I need to teach learners how to communicate creatively and engagingly for new audiences. 

Please help me add to a new definition of brand in your comments. 

Why have school librarians not had a bigger impact on information and tech literacy integration? 

We should be able to answer Doug’s question or we should be able to tell him he is wrong.

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



    You have nailed it here-but I want to add, in quoting you–we provide a playground for patrons to play while they learn about 21st century tools, where we model best practice, ethical use of information, and critical evaluation of all sources, not just our books. We also model that learning is a two way street, and we seek as well as disseminate information. The teacher librarian who is a 21st Century Media specialist embodies what today’s learner looks like.

  2. Carol Koechlin says:

    Why have school librarians not had a bigger impact on information and tech literacy integration?
    I actually think we have made remarkable contributions to these areas, that is not the problem. The problem is that many teacher-librarians do not gather evidence of their successes and take their stories to where the ‘power’ and ‘money’ is. Like all players in the education business we are about improving student achievement. We actually add double value to the school community by also improving teaching.
    We have to stop beating ourselves up and start the movement to change whole school culture around all the pedagogy and strategies that we know work with kids like inquiry learning, critical and creative thinking, social networking etc. School library is not just a place as Joyce reminds us. School libraries are transformational. Teacher-librarians have the potential to lead schools into 21st century learning literacies that have yet to be realized but first we have to demonstrate just how what we do impacts on teaching and learning and how the school library program can help knit together a whole school approach to meet the needs of learning today and in the future.

  3. Carolyn Foote says:

    I think it’s also important that leaders in our field are helping change that “brand” for new teachers and for principals as well.

    If we aren’t speaking at principal’s conferences, or if we aren’t working with new teacher training programs to be sure that information literacy and library collaboration is part of their training, then we are missing the boat.

    We cannot change things, of course, by talking to one another….

    I do agree that libraries are everywhere, and 24/7 because libraries are about connections.

    And I think that we need to work on our partnerships with our technology departments and they also need to work on their partnerships with us, as ALL of our roles are changing to meet the needs of 21st century education.

  4. Wow! There is a lot to think about here. Much of this goes back to the Manifesto you asked us all to contribute to a few months ago, Joyce. What IS the role of a 21st century teacher-librarian? How do we get everyone in our profession on the “same page”? How do we make not only our own T-L colleagues understand what is expected of us in our role, but also classroom teacher colleagues, tech coordinators/specialists and our admin? I think your manifesto is ideally our brand, but I’m not sure how to get all the stakeholders to buy it.

  5. Bianca Brown says:

    I am a third year Education major and found your blog to be quite interesting. I agree that the “library should be a window on students desk”. If technology coordinators, administrators, faculty etc. all work together this could be achieved much easier obviously. Many school libraries clearly still lack the updates to the meet the many advancements in technology linked with reading and research. In the book entitled Chalkbored by Jeremy Schneider, a true advocate for education closely linked with technology, he suggested a concept of distributing e-books to children to have a traveling library of personal and class required reading with them at all times. This would truly make libraries “..just for me, just in time, all the time.” Technology centered ideas such as these coupled with yours should long have been in place toward such a generation of tech savvy children.

  6. Michael D. says:

    I think one key thing to remember, is that while there are other technology supports in the building, at the heart of our job is communication, we provide a link between people and sources, people and people, educating people how to build those links themselves. In the 21st century EVERYTHING is about communication, in multiple forms whether it’s a blog, podcast, wiki, social bookmark, voicethread, twitter, tumblr, aggregated information, the list goes on.

    An important key to remaining relevant in the 21st century is going to be doing something we’ve always done: Personalizing and tailoring instruction to patron’s individual needs.

    All Web 2.0 tools have in common is that they encourage user independence which seems antithetical to what we do. Our role is that we enable people to maximize their independent learning by packaging the tools in ways they will understand them and use them.

    Sure a technology coach can do a podcast, google apps, or wiki lesson…can they make the link back from these new forms of technology to other sources of information?

    I think part of what is happening is we are being looped into this idea that the web is the end-all be-all and it is inevitable. There will always be information that exists offline, even if it’s connecting one person to another person. We regulate that flow and provide the tools and skills so that people can be wiser, happier, more efficient, and confident in their ability to find and organize information on their own. There is some wisdom in the masses, but not always when it comes to highly specialized information, or controversial information. We are self limiting ourselves if we buy into the hype that google and wikipedia will meet the world’s information needs. There are information needs still, people aren’t aware of what they need though (why we have the reference interview), and when it comes to the internet, they aren’t aware of what they don’t know. So we go out, bring back relevant information, and tailor it to our populations needs. We just need to re-brand ourselves and cast off the idea that books are our only domain. They are important, but there are so many other sources to include now.

  7. One reason school librarians may not have made the impact they wanted is that technology is changing so very rapidly while the school bureaucracy is not. School librarians are trying to turn around the school administration cruise ship and in the meantime the latest technology has already turned its speedboat around and is going in a new direction.

  8. One reason school librarians may not have made the impact they wanted is that technology is changing so very rapidly while the school bureaucracy is not. School librarians are trying to turn around the school administration cruise ship and in the meantime the latest technology has already turned its speedboat around and is going in a new direction.

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