Sunday, September 4, 2011

What is it like for a New Tech HS Media Specialist?

The big questions I have been trying to answer in my new position are the same as the Library/Media specialist profession as a whole. How does a library and librarian figure into the future of education? Will we have jobs in the future? How will our roles evolve?

The good news for the more traditional librarian, is that my new state of the art high school has a print library and it opened for business at the end of the first week of school. So far approximately 10% of the student body has checked out an old-fashioned book during the first week of operations. That's with absolutely no effort on my part; no marketing, no book talks, no classes, just placing the books out on display.

The bad news for the more traditional librarian is that 90% of my time has been spent on duties completely unrelated to the print library, and I have been very busy. Part of the reason I was hired for this job in the first place was my willingness to serve outside of the normal capacity of a librarian. It's doubtful that this campus would have a librarian if he/she were unwilling to also take on the responsibility of Technology Manager. My role as Technology Manager, though somewhat unrelated to library services is completely vital to a New Tech High School. In this capacity I have helped set up user accounts in our Echo learning management system and our Google Apps. Since the staff is completely new and few have had any prior experience with these systems, it has been up to me to anticipate and identify problems and help teachers get up and running during the critical first week of school.

The upside of my service as Technology Manager from a library perspective, is that I have learned the names of many students, been a visible presence in the classroom and developed collaborative partnerships with teachers and students. As someone with an inside view of how the students are using the social features of our technology systems, I have also gathered vital intelligence for future lessons and discussions on digital citizenship and and cyber-ethics. These are certainly aspects of a 21st Century Librarian's job, so in a sense the Tech Manager role is not entirely separate.

The most exciting aspects of my job are in fact related to library services. Though the print library is in place with over 1,000 volumes for 140 students, the rest of the library program and facility is still in the incubation and planning stages. Our New Tech HS is a community just 2 weeks old, and amidst all of the flurry of activity in this startup period, I have managed to make progress in the following areas:

  1. Ordered Nooks and Ipads for periodical reading and library system access. The periodical collection will be mostly print-free! These devices will be replace print magazines and also lead library services in an exciting new direction.
  2. Planned the implementation of the new Media Cast system. The Media Cast platform will completely replace the VHS/DVD collection and put all video on demand, including local and cable TV programming. The system is capable of live broadcasts and has a Kiosk feature that will control screens around the campus. These Kiosks will disseminate school information including library programming ads, book trailers and other forms of literacy promotions.
  3. Started the online learning commons an established productive online relationships with students. The chess club and anime club are now library programs with a student-driven online presence!
  4. Met with architect to plan remodel of facility, including spacious and technology rich teaching space and relaxed area based on the coffee shop model.
Yes, there is a lot on my plate, but I wouldn't have it any other way. When asked how my new job, I give the same answer; "The student population I serve is only one-tenth of my previous schools, but I'm at least 3-times as busy." In short, my role as library/media specialist within the traditional comprehensive high school was limited by campus culture and the teacher's comfort-level with technology and the Internet. At New Tech High School the campus culture propels me towards innovation and challenges me daily to learn and apply new skills. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity at this stage of my career and I sincerely wish others in the library profession will have the same opportunity.