There has been a pretty interesting discussion about the role of the Library Media Specialist, thanks to this post by Darren Draper. The comments to the post are pretty interesting, with many library media specialists tossing about their ideas. Please, read it.

There's no doubt the library of today isn't what it was in the past. The technology has changed the way the library functions and librarians have had to move with the changes. Some have moved along quickly, like the hare, while others are trudging along the like tortoise. The good news, is that most are moving in the right direction. Those of us in the library field understand what's needed to keep our libraries successful, important parts of our schools. We need to get students thinking globally, communicating with others outside of the school walls, and to become better problem solvers. We need to collaborate with the classroom teachers, stay current in trends related to our position, and continuously learn.

To me, much of what's discussed regarding the students seems to be easier to implement at the high school level, not the elementary. It's a different ballgame in a K-5 building barely meeting AYP. While I'd like to completely overhaul how my services are delivered and how I interact with the students and teachers, many of the restrictions are beyond my control. Here's what I can't control:

1. A fixed schedule (Contractually, I provide prep time for teachers)
2. Certain attitudes about what I do on a daily basis (from teachers)
3. The physical layout of my space - lack of $$$ prevents me from changing a lot
4. Lack of technology - one computer lab for almost 400 students.
5. Time - I see each class for "technology" no more than 45 minutes a week.

I understand that with the exception of #1, secondary libraries struggle with the same problems. Perhaps the fixed schedule is the largest of my issues. However, since teachers have prep time when their students are with me, it's going to be very hard to change that. In addition, there are many in my department who don't want that change made because it provides us with job stability. I agree, but if a flexible schedule was implemented correctly, teachers might feel a greater need for the library and the media specialist. In my district, that's not going to happen anytime soon. In addition, it seems there's so much to cover in a little bit of time. Since we really don't have a technology curriculum broken down by grade level, I'm having a hard time figuring out what to teach when. I know I need to talk about internet safety, proper web searching techniques, etc. But when? At what grade? With a limited time frame, and students struggling with basic skills, I see our students spending a lot of their time working on basic skills in the lab - phonics activities, basic math facts practice, keyboarding for 4th grade. These are all important, but there's so much more that could be done if....

I need some guidance getting from point A to point B. I'm not at the starting line anymore and I can see where point B is, I'm just struggling with how to get there.


  1. Cathy Nelson // June 4, 2009 at 7:22 PM  

    Chad, schools in SC that are under-performing according to high stakes testing over a set number of years have state department of education interventionists who take over and reorganize and intensely train professional staff, from classroom teachers to "specials" to administrators. Every school that has had intervention has had their library taken out of the special/exploratory rotation so that the professional LMS can become a strategic part of collaborative teaching and learning with other adults in the building. Our SDE recognizes that our library and information literacy standards are meaningless in a fixed schedule. I feel your frustration. For years I was in a semi fixed schedule in an elementary school, and worked hard to show how my schedule, even semi flexible was not conducive to the potential for truly higher order teaching/learning and student engagement. For my open time, I worked hard to get classes in the library through collaborative planning and co-teaching in project based learning. Our test scores were not awful, but not great either, so we were never at risk of being taken over. Each year when I had my end of the year summary/evaluation, I begged for a fully flexible schedule. I took in alternate schedules for teachers to get their planning, etc to no avail. One time when I referred back to what I wasn't able to do because of the part of my schedule that was scheduled weekly, and tried to explain what could be if principal shrugged it off and exclaimed "But look at what you have accomplished in the current schedule!" The straw that broke the camel's back for me was when we hired a drama teacher. I was celebrating the sixth "exploratory" falsely thinking finally there was a class that could take my place in the planning rotation for teachers. Imagine my shock and dismay when the drama teacher was given a totally flexible schedule so that teachers could "collaborate and seamlessly integrate the arts into their curriculum." It was enough for me to resign and take a job 3 hours away, where I have been since. The sad part of this story is that I loved my school, my staff, the kids, and more. I thought I would stay and retire there. But the refusal to even consider that I made a difference or had so much more to offer finally caused me to leave and start over in a middle school.

    Sorry for the soapbox storytelling. After I left I had a realization. I could have talked, begged, cried, pleaded, and more all I wanted. Until those classroom teachers made the demand for the media center and me to be more available, it would stay the way it is. The key is to get buy in from the entire school community--including students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Until all value the program enough to make the demand for a change, you are wasting your time dwelling on it or making yourself unhappy. I know...I've been there. Oh, and don't wait for your tests scores to consistently bomb either to get the change. (But at least SC has an advocate for open and flexible libraries on the state level, so as schools are taken over, best practices are implemented, and that includes and open and flexible library staffed by a certifed LMS.)

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