Saturday, May 23, 2009

Job Description


Our 8th grade students are required to complete a career project. If one of them had done a keyword search for Librarian - Job Description, they might have read this:
Maintains collections of books, serial publications, documents, audiovisual, and other materials, and assists groups and individuals in locating and obtaining materials: Furnishes information on library activities, facilities, rules, and services. Explains and assists in use of reference sources, such as card or book catalog or book and periodical indexes to locate information. Describes or demonstrates procedures for searching catalog files. Searches catalog files and shelves to locate information. Issues and receives materials for circulation or for use in library. Assembles and arranges displays of books and other library materials. Maintains reference and circulation materials. Answers correspondence on special reference subjects. May compile list of library materials according to subject or interests, using computer. May select, order, catalog, and classify materials. May prepare or assist in preparation of budget. May plan and direct or carry out special projects involving library promotion and outreach activity... -Career Planner

Although the above profile might have been accurate when I received my MLS - in 1973 - it hardly reflects the nature and scope of our profession in today's world.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about libraries and librarians.

Doug Johnson explores The Essential Question on his Blue Skunk Blog: "
Does a school need a library when information can be accessed from the classroom using Internet connected laptops?" He offers no easy solutions, reminding library professionals that "The new question is uncomfortable, messy, and incredibly important and not restricted by any means to one particular school. It is one to which all library people need a clear and compelling answer."

In Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians, Joyce Valenza asks
"What does a 21st Century librarian look like?" then draws the portrait of an effective education leader who models modern information tools and techniques for both students and staff members.

Which brings me to a discussion that's been occurring in my area of New York State. Some of my fellow School Library Media Specialists view library skills as separate from technology. They advocate teaching a foundation of "basic literacy skills" before utilizing "extras" like blogs, social networking sites, etc.

They know my viewpoint:

"As Information Specialists, we MUST be familiar with new tools so that we can help our students and staff communicate, collaborate, and create in our increasingly connected world. Library walls are coming down. We need to keep up or we'll become obsolete."

Few of them share it.

Karl Fisch, Darren Draper, and a number of other interested parties recently conducted a Twitter conversation about the role of librarians. The question was asked, "What's the point of having a media specialist if they aren't specialists in the media forms of the day?"

As school districts look to trim budgets in a time of reduced funding, the answer to this query becomes increasingly important. Library Media Specials who can't articulate their value and relevance may find their careers in jeopardy, their positions "covered" by technology teachers and clerks.

There is a social technographics ladder, shared by Cathy Nelson. She asks, "Where are you on this ladder?"

Joyce Valenza puts it bluntly, "In my mind, if you are not an expert in new information and communication tools, you are NOT a media specialist for today."

Carolyn Foote advises "as we each sort out the answers to those 'essential questions,' as Doug calls them, we should post our answers on our doors and windows for the school to see... We should let everyone know what we consider our core mission to be in simple, concise terms. And then we should live that mission daily in our policies and practices and purchases."

It's time to update that job description.


"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." -George Bernard Shaw





"ARCHIMBOLDO, Guiseppe The Librarian c. 1566" by carulmare


10 comments:

Cathy Nelson said...

WOW you did a fab job with this post! We sound absolutely amazing!

M Coleman said...

Thanks for sharing an important compilation of considerations here! We all - librarians/media specialists and all other professionals - need to constantly re-examine our roles in the ever changing world. It is vital if we are truly going to not just survive, but thrive!

diane said...

Cathy, We ARE amazing!

Marie,

I agree that we need to constantly evaluate and, when necessary, reinvent ourselves. This is a conversation that will continue and broaden. The nature of education, the value of schooling, is very much in the public eye these days.

Librareanne said...

Thank you Diane for such a well articulated post and for drawing all the thread together! Inspiring stuff.
My question is how do we reach those who are not reading these wonderful blog posts and twitter discussions - those on the bottom rung of the 'ladder'? Can we help them to move up the ladder and hence help our profession move forward?

diane said...

Librareanne,

I did engage in some dialog via our BOCES School Library System ListServ. It's difficult, though not impossible, to convince veteran librarians that it's time to retool.

I believe that change needs to come via our LMS education courses. A generation of new media specialists who understand and embrace embedded technology, combined with experienced librarians who receive enhanced PD, would result in a strong, vital force for progress.

It's not age, it's mindset.

Elaine said...

Diane...you are a librarian's librarian. I think many of us, such as myself, who don't have other librarians in their districts tend to think of our libraries as our little empires because no one else really understands what we're doing. You are a wonderful example of how to combat that and connect us with the world outside our doors.

Paige Jaeger said...

Diane -- So poignant. Perhaps you should send the posting to Career Planner. Their the ones who need to be notified that they are "misinforming" our youth....
Paige

Amy said...

Diane-
Thanks for articulating this so well. I've been mulling our list-serv (and on-going Twitter) discussion all week and am formulating a response right now. I agree with Elaine that we are often an island unto ourselves. Certainly having a good foundation is important, but if we as a profession are left behind, focusing on that foundation to the exclusion of that which is new and fresh, our "houses" may be left with no budget for maintenence nor a caretaker to maintain (to continue the metaphor). While I believe that reading professional journals is important, the information there is not and cannot be as current as that accessible via professional blogs and other social networks. There is a certain personal connection and interaction to be made through these networks that is not available through the one-way reading of even the best professional journal.

diane said...

Elaine, Paige, Amy,

It's nice to hear from some of my RL colleagues as well as my online PLN.

In our area most LMS are physically isolated from fellow librarians as well as from the rest of the staff in our own districts. I love the independence, but have come to realize that being connected to other professionals is important.

I'm constantly amazed, enlightened, and empowered by the example of other teacher/librarians. It's also nice to communicate with classroom teachers, information technologists, and administrators, and non-educators.

Well-rounded, well-prepared students, need well-rounded, well-prepared teachers!

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