Libraries are Changing to Become a Tech Source for Schools

Image via Pedagogy

Image via Pedagogy

In many parts of the country, school librarians are an endangered species, with their numbers dwindling near extinction in districts such as Philadelphia and Chicago. In fact, about a decade ago, Traci Chun’s district in Vancouver, Washington was on the verge of letting a slew of librarian jobs stay vacant in the wake of staff retirements. A coalition of teachers, parents and community members intervened to save the jobs, including Ray, a school librarian at the time, who convinced district leaders to repurpose librarians to make them more relevant.

That effort began by having Vancouver’s librarians get trained in new software purchased by the district, so that they could train their school colleagues in turn. Teacher-librarians such as Chun have since expanded that tech-integration role. Teaming up with instructional technology and early-adopting teachers, Chun frequently demonstrates new tech tools at the school’s teacher-led professional development meetings.

A key theme of Future Ready Librarians, which last year published a framework to revamp the bookish role, is that districts pouring money into hardware and software need people to shepherd these tools into classrooms and to curate these burgeoning digital resources.

The Beaverton school district, west of Portland, Oregon, is a case in point. In 2012, budget shortfalls led Beaverton to axe more than 40 school librarian positions. But two years ago, embarking on a bond-funded technology push that included a computer for every student, the district had a change of heart. They created a new position called Library Instructional Technology Teacher (LITT), and have since hired more than two dozen of them.

LITT regularly visit classrooms to brainstorm with teachers about enhancing upcoming lessons with technology, or to co-teach a class using a new online database, learning app or digital media production tool.

That could be giving social-studies students a tutorial on research skills; showing a French class how to make stop-action animation, short videos, or websites for presentations on Francophone countries; or helping a math teacher free up class time by creating sharable videos of introductory explanations and sample problems for students.

They’re losing some shelves in libraries, too. But librarians insist that their commitment to books and reading is as strong as ever. Several schools in the district have added small, pleasure-reading libraries to ELA classrooms, for instance. And libraries can make a lot of room just by thinning out their old, out-of-date reference sections.

One librarian said that the idea is to create an inviting space where kids can come in to work and explore the cool stuff they have in the library. So far in schools that have implemented it, it seems to be working.

(Story via the Tech Advocate)