Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Librarians, Media Specialists and New Tech

Today I confirmed what I long suspected...I am the only Library/Media Specialist at the New Tech Network training in 2011. This is very worrisome to me. Most of all, I am concerned about what this says about the library profession.

I'm personally very invested in this profession and I've called myself a librarian for a full decade now. I've always bought into the idea of a librarian as a leader in teaching 21st Century skills. There are many of us that play this role and I'm proud of many of my colleagues, but the writing is on the wall. Not enough librarians are making the leap into the 21st Century.

Many of the people from New Tech Schools that I have spoken with recently cut their library positions after their librarians retired. Others have librarians, but they have not made themselves critical to the mission of the school. One person said that it took 3 years for the administration to figure out the librarians role in their New Tech school. That is so sad.

I am not just concerned about the profession, but our entire culture. Libraries represent so much that is critical for the continuation of Democracy. I don't think the Internet by itself is a substitute. I believe the future needs reflective people that understand complexity and the many perspectives of different people and cultures; people read widely and deeply. Nicholas Carr has called the human mind of the Internet era "The Shallows." I think he's correct. I'm concerned that there won't be enough people capable of deep and abstract thought to sustain this great country as a bastion of freedom. Ignorant people are prone to tyranny.

The New Tech model of teaching is wonderful, but I think every New Tech school needs a library (even if it is called the Media Center or the Learning Commons). The library is nothing without a passionate and skilled librarian. Without such a person, who will advocate for students to read full-length books in the course of their high school careers? Who will teach how to find and process quality information in the vast sea of propaganda and who will man the information hub of our schools? It's possible that teachers can fill this void, but it is equally possible that no one will do so.

I'm proud to be a part of the New Schools Network, and I don't blame anyone within the organization for the state of affairs in public education and school libraries. I simply urge more of my librarian colleagues to get involved and be a part of the future of education.

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