Is your school library prepared for the 21st Century?

images1“Today’s librarian is part of a growing cadre of 21st-century multimedia specialists who help guide students through the digital ocean of information that confronts them. These new librarians believe that literacy includes, but also exceeds, books. The days of just reshelving a book are over, now it is the information age, and technology has brought out a whole new generation of practices,” as pointed out in a recent article in The New York Times.

The roles for school librarians and the part school libraries play in teaching and learning have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Many of the vital functions remain: the books are still there, story times are still a part of an elementary school experience, and reader’s advisory is still taking place, but nearly everything else has been revolutionized.

Today, students live and learn in a world that contains vast stores of information in a variety of formats. The way that kids seek and gain information has changed drastically. The librarian’s role has evolved to reflect the school’s changing learning requirements.

Early teaching sessions on library skills still focus on finding books and on fundamental research skills, but also include how to work in relevant databases linked to the library’s home page, how to decode Internet addresses and how to assess the quality of a Web site’s content.

21st century librarians teach children how to develop multimedia presentations or create online videos. Others get students to use social networking sites to debate topics from history, or to comment on classmates’ creative writing. They can assist teachers designing a classroom blog. Students write book reviews that are posted to the library’s online catalog. Librarians today combine traditional literacy skills and new technology.

The School librarian of today is an information coach and consultant for teachers and students, guiding them through the digital library. But they are still most valued as the reading guru of your child’s school. Instilling a love of reading, encouraging recreational reading, inspiring literacy and hosting student events to connect with authors and book talks. Their goal is to provide a warm, welcoming library conductive to bringing students and information, in all its formats, together, ensuring that the library remains a “cool” place to be and the heart of a learning environment.

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5 Responses to Is your school library prepared for the 21st Century?

  1. Karen says:

    I was amazed and saddened to read this blog on a school librarian. I was first unaware of all that a librarian can do and then grieved over the fact we may lose our librarians due to our state’s budget cuts. Whenever there is a list of programs at stake, and we the parents are asked to rank them in order of importance (which programs to save first), I always list the library as the second most important program at our school (class size reduction is number one for me). We currently have the accelerated reader program and my 1st grader can’t wait to get to school early to take his computer generated “test” to win prizes. At 6 he currently reads at third grade level. Without our librarian helping our children to learn to read and instilling a sense of fun which motivates them to develop a love for books, I fear many children will be left behind.

  2. Judy C. says:

    This is indeed a very relevant topic to think about. Librarians in schools are critical and your note reminds all of us of the skills and knowledge Librarians possess and how this role is evolving. Not only are these positions in schools at risk but also in our colleges and in our local community libraries. Time to stand up and support their work!

  3. Sara S. says:

    I blessed the gentleman librarian at our public library who took the time to talk to my adolescent son and connect him with a group of books that would beguile him. The librarian even lent him his personal copy of something he thought would spark my son’s interest. Having one child who reads indescriminately and another whose band of “acceptable” books is exceeding narrow, I was eternally grateful to this librarian for his counsel. To me, this is still the most important role for a librarian: capture and foster the student’s love of reading. May that role never, ever die! – at the hands of technology . . .

  4. Jeannie says:

    This is a wonderful article which I will share with our local surburban school librarians.

    Decreased library funding also threatens our nearby larger city libraries which serve many, many neighborhoods and various socio-economic groups in so many ways.

    Some of us grew up and used libraries as terrific research resources and also as community centers.

    In cities, libraries are often is the heart of the community (not nearby strip shopping centers or malls.) Some students must depend on the libraries for a quiet place to go to do homework while waiting for a parent. Other students need the library computers because they may not have computers or reliable internet access at home. Libraries often have extra sets of school textbooks and school required reading lists and books on file, so students do not have to carry large backpacks to and from school, or their schools may not provide enough textbooks due to expanding class sizes. There are generally quiet areas requiring various levels of conversational voice in the library environment. The librarians provide new English-speaking residents and their children valuable guidance to navigate materials and resources in the English language. Conversely, often libraries have foreign language books and a myriad of multi-media periodicals. Some learners thrive learning best from audio; others rely on visual materials. Libraries often have the same subjects in multiple media. While a lot is available via our fingertips, where else can any resident learn firsthand about the community’s history, pick up vital materials to file annual taxes, register to vote, use small private rooms for study groups, tutoring sessions or meetings, become part of a larger group activity or gathering in diverse subject areas from pre-school story hour, or watching a performances by a local chamber music group; all under one roof.

    To take a tag line from an old advertisement, “…it’s the latest, it’s the greatest, it’s the LIBRARY!”

  5. AASH says:

    Early in my working life, I was employed at a public library. Helping people with their research was a part of the job I liked most. Students now more than ever are going to need guidance in getting to the right sources. In my town, three school library aides have lost their jobs for the coming school year.

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