I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years. I talk about it at conferences. And I use it myself. but I’ve never formally written about it.
I’d like to launch a little campaign, or merely make a little suggestion, for a very little edit that means a big deal to me.
It’s that sentence that stated the mission and goals of the school library program back in both versions of Information Power: Information Power: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs (1988) and Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (1998)
The mission of the library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.
Developing Visions for Learning (2009) lists AASL’s revised mission statement for the school library media program:
The mission of the school library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information. The school library media specialist (SLMS) empowers students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information by . . . AASL. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs. Chicago: ALA, 2009. 8
Each statement is further articulated in a series of bullet points. In bullet three of the 1998 mission, the word creator appears:
To provide learning experiences that encourage students and others to become discriminating consumers and skilled creators of information through comprehensive instruction related to the full range of communications media and technology.
The word producing appears in bullet point two of the current (2009) statement.
The school library media specialist (SLMS) empowers students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information by . . .
- instructing students and assisting educators in using, evaluating, and producing information and ideas through active use of a broad range of appropriate tools, resources, and information technologies . . . AASL. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs. Chicago: ALA, 2009. 8
- User (telecommunications), one who employs the services provided by a telecommunication system
- User (drug), one who uses drugs
- User (computing)
- End-user, one who uses a product in economics and commerce
Thesaurus.com lists the following synonyms for the word user: buyer, customer, end user, enjoyer, purchaser, shopper
For me, the word user carries additional connotations. When we say user-friendly, we suggest that a program, or app, or interface is appropriate for a novice. Many schools and businesses make a distinction between mere users and power users.
But most importantly, when I personally consider antonyms for the word user, the words creator and producer come to mind.
Building knowledge is not the end of the process. Learners not only use information to build knowledge, think critically and make decisions, they use information to create and produce.
Communication is the end-product of so many research efforts in school and outside of school. Communication and audience give work focus and meaning. We talk about building academic digital footprints.
Learners of all ages now have opportunities to tell and share and publish their stories, locally or globally. They have an array of new tools with which to create. An array of new tools with which to publish. An array of platforms on which to share.
If we limit our mission to using, we sell ourselves short. And we do not adequately describe the work so many of us currently engage in.
I’ve described my program as more kitchen than grocery store. It’s a space buzzing with the noise of creation and production and presentation. We circulate cameras and headsets and microphones and tripods, as well as books. Among the most visited areas of our library website, are the areas devoted to tools for production: copyright friendly media, digital storytelling, and digital publishing tools.
I suggest/propose that we move the word producer up to that opening sentence of the mission, the sentence people will read and remember. (The word creator would be just as good.)
The mission of the school library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users and producers of ideas and information.
What do you think, gang?