Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Be Led By Your Dreams

Today my friend and professional colleague, Buffy Hamilton, took library advocacy one step further. Rather than just promote current practice, Buffy has envisioned what our profession might (must?) become in order to best serve the needs of our students.

In It's Broken; Let's Fix It: The Traditional Model of School Librarianship, Buffy asks "Is it [the traditional] a model that makes sense for today’s culture of learning or for the culture of learning we want to foster in schools?" Her vision is for something different, an approach that is "bolder in scope and practice."

Library programs vary from district to district, state to state. Some librarians, particularly in an elementary setting, are tied to a fixed schedule. Others may find a significant portion of their time devoted to clerical tasks and various non-instructional duties.

There are many - myself included - who believe that the educational system in this country needs to be re-imagined and rebuilt, rather than patched or repaired.

The concept of "librarianship" also requires a radical overhaul. I am convinced that we need more than automated circulation, e-books, and the occasional collaborative project: we need more than a 20th century professional using 21st century tools.

Buffy imagines "a model of school librarianship that embeds us in the classroom whether it be the classroom of a teacher, our library space, or a learning space outside the traditional school building (such as virtual)." This team approach would ensure that librarians were available to "facilitate and support powerful learning experiences with teachers and students" throughout the day and throughout the school year.

I have often thought that a librarian-consultant model might work, with the teacher/librarian in charge of administrative decisions (collection development, budget allocation) but not tied to a fixed schedule or even a fixed location, free to interact and collaborate, providing instruction for students, teachers, and administrators. The librarian-consultant could also be a key member of the professional development team, serving as a conduit for information, empowered to learn and encouraged to be a risk-taker for the benefit of all.

When librarians are labeled "specials," it means that they are considered extras, add-ons. Not essential, they are, therefore, subject to downsizing or elimination. We don't want to be appendages; we want to be key players, THE key player, in education.

Buffy ends by saying,
"While it may seem like an impossible and improbable reality, effective and real change cannot begin unless we dare to challenge the status quo and to thoroughly interrogate our practice, our beliefs, and our stance on librarianship on a regular basis. Dr. Bob Fecho instilled in me the value of reflection and action through the simple question, 'Why are you doing this?'. When I think about this model of school librarianship, I can’t help but ask, 'Why aren’t we doing this?'"

Lack of funding isn't the entire problem: lack of vision is. How would you answer Buffy's question...Why aren't we doing this?

"Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams." -Anonymous

"Hope_in_a_better_future" by Massimo Valiani


Edventures said...

This is perfect D! I'm actually chairing the search for a new Library Media Specialist for my HS and these are the kinds of questions on my mind.

What is your vision of the most effective library for today's learners/teachers?

If you could totally redefine your role, what would it look like?

Interviews are next week. Hoping the answers are inspiring!

Mitch Weisburgh said...

I think of librarians as setting the environment, so that teachers and student can easily access the resources they need, when they need them. Part of the job is also being a consultant, to help the teachers and students to understand and articulate what they need.

At the ultimate level is what is being done by the Schools of One in NYC. They don't buy textbooks, they buy materials that teach and/or provide practice for particular competencies. Determining and finding those materials seems like a perfect job for librarians.

diane said...


I've done a follow-up posting for you re. interview questions for librarians. I love the ones you've already come up with!


I agree that librarians are uniquely qualified to select appropriate resources for diverse needs. We need to be universalists, Renaissance people. The consultant model would be my preference, given a choice.