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Librarians Are From Venus

Librarians Are From Venus; Technologists Are From Mars
Head for the Edge, Technology Connection, May 1998

While it has not quite reached the proportions of the famous feuds between the cattle ranchers and sheepherders, there is definitely tension in many schools between the librarians and the technologists. In case you need help, I’ve developed a short field guide to help you tell the difference between the species:
I expect you can add to this brief (facetious) list. The folks I’ve known on whom these descriptions are based are rapidly disappearing from schools. In some schools, their places aren’t be refilled. Classroom teachers, clerks, technicians, or contracted services are doing the daily work that they once did just to keep libraries open and computers working. These are usually cold, benighted places where small children sit in stock still straight lines, waiting in quiet desperation for the next set of worksheets or computer drill. There is little progress being made toward making these schools places where more children are being taught more important skills in more effective ways.

But in other more enlightened schools, a new professional has arisen. Education has not yet established a commonly agreed upon name for this hybrid breed which has taken the best, most professional tasks from the practices of library science and technology. But I’ve these folks in action. For the sake of this little piece, let’s use the name “Educator X.” A field guide for this rare bird might read:
These folks bring to the educational table critical knowledge of the issues of copyright, intellectual freedom, and information literacy. They contribute an understanding of the use and potential uses of networks, educational software, and computerized productivity tools. Educator X has a “whole school” view and works to see that information technologies are integrated into all curricular areas.

These folks don’t just magically appear. They are grown (or migrate!) to habitats that have some of these characteristics:
  1. The institutions in which they work actually have a desire for change.
  2. Their institutions provide Educator X with time to work and learn. That means they do not provide teacher prep time or baby-sit studyhalls. It means that they do not teach six classes and have an “extra” prep time to do technology or library work. Integrating information technologies into the school is their FULL TIME JOB.
  3. Educator X environments provide clerical and technical support. Books must be reshelved, software must be loaded, and equipment must be checked out if the school’s daily activities are to continue. If paid support staff is not available, the professional usually winds up doing those tasks rather than the planning, teaching and supervising ones. Fact of nature.
  4. These schools understand that Educator X needs staff development opportunities above and beyond those offered to the classroom teacher. Their schools find resources to send them to conferences, workshops, and planning meetings dealing not just with technology or libraries, but also assessment, graduation standards, and other areas of curricular reform with which libraries and technology might assist. Educator X then becomes the in-house support person for broad reform initiatives.
  5. The people who do the hiring of all school personnel look at “people” skills first and “technical” skills second when hiring for such positions. Little things like the ability to write and speak clearly, respond to others with empathy, to handle conflict, and supervise others are viewed as more important than being able to catalog a videotape or install a network card.
  6. Schools in which Educator X thrives have high expectations of all their staff, but especially of their leaders. Their governing boards expect plans, goals, timelines, and reports. They expect clear and regular communication with parents and publics. They expect responsible, visionary leadership.
The names don’t really matter much. I have know Educator X’s who are called librarians, technology directors, media specialists, information specialists, computer coordinators, information literacy teacher, teacher librarians, etc. Those of you who fill the Educator X role know you are. Those of you who want to become an Educator X or want to hire one know the habitats in which they thrive.
Posted on Saturday, July 7, 2007 at 07:49AM by Registered CommenterDoug Johnson in | CommentsPost a Comment

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