Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Way of the Dodo

"The phrase dead as a dodo means undoubtedly and unquestionably dead, whilst the phrase to go the way of the dodo means to become extinct or obsolete, to fall out of common usage or practice, or to become a thing of the past." -Wikipedia

The May 20, 2010 issue of New York Teacher (official newsletter of New York State United Teachers Union) contained the following survey results:

In New York, regulations state that
"Grades seven and eight are required to have the equivalent of one period a week of instruction in 'library and information skills.' Part 100.4 (c). Research shows that these lessons are most effective when integrated with classroom objectives and achieved through cooperative planning by the Library Media Specialist and the academic classroom teacher."

While the services of a SLMS are mandated for high school libraries, there is no such directive pertaining to elementary libraries.

A recent article in the Albany Times-Union begins with a startling statement, "Children may someday file school librarian with the dodo bird or Caspian tiger under extinction," then proceeds to explain why this is so.

The NY Teacher poll demonstrates the support of education professionals for elementary librarians.

Unfortunately, some members of the public might be more inclined to agree with the comment Devils Advocate left on the newspaper's webpage:

"While I fully appreciate the concern with losing a position in a school, I do believe that there are worse case scenarios. I do not mean to undercut the role of the librarian. However, public libraries and librarians are available to us free of charge. If we were to lose an art or music teacher we would have to self-fund our childrens lessons in these areas... I think we should prepare ourselves to be as objective as possible in these tight budget times and choose to take up the causes that are most relevant to our childrens overall educations."

...or wonder, like another reader,
"Why do elementary schools need separate librarians? Can’t each child’s teacher recommend books for the child to read?"

Hopefully, there are others like "Pat," who says,

"Let’s hope the children of Bethlehem will not be considered dodo birds when they are required to navigate the fast paced world of information. Wake up, Bethlehem BOE...library media teachers today are teaching children to find, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information to make decisions or solve problems and share their conclusions with others. Elementary children are not just sitting on the rug listening to stories. More likely they are using or creating podcasts, webpages, databases, and digital images as well as reading books and periodicals. The library media teacher is uniquely qualified to locate and purchase the best materials and encourage and support each student’s individual path to literacy. Shame on you Bethlehem!"

It would seem that those who encounter skilled teacher/librarians, effectively working with students and colleagues in a creative, collaborative program, understand and support school libraries.

Is the problem that there are too few SLMS cast in that model or that their efforts are too little known? What needs to happen to prevent school librarians from disappearing, like "the dodo bird or Caspian tiger"?

Once a species is extinct, it does not reappear.

"Dodo" by Ballista


Lord Dodo said...

I sincerely hope - in all seriousness - that the fate of the librarian nor the library nor books themselves do not go the way of the dodo. We produce a light-hearted range of engagement diaries and organizers - and have done so for almost 45 years. Despite the advent and development of technology our business is, thankfully, thriving. The written word - in print or by hand lives.

I hope the same can be said in the future for us all.

Sincere regards,

Lord Dodo

Jackie Ballarini said...

Timely post for me. Our librarian (high school) is retiring this year - and not being replaced. Her duties are being divided among other staff members. I'm not sure the position will ever come back to our building.

diane said...


That is our great fear: that what is lost will not be replaced.

In most schools, librarians interact across grade levels and subject areas. In a best case scenario, they function as tech integrationists as well as an transliteracy specialists.

Those who can't or won't adapt to the changing information landscape need to reconsider their professional orientation.