Despite being pressed for time and resources, librarians can serve as change agents in their schools’ digital transformation
Recently, as I was serving on a panel at the Texas Library Association’s 2015 Annual Conference, one attendee explained to us how she is trying to keep up with the new technologies coming into her school. How, she asked, could she implement them successfully while continuing to provide the same services for which her library is known?
It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s one that the panel—part of Follett’s Project Connect, which is aimed at shedding light on how librarians can be a solution to the many challenges that arise from a digital transformation—was well-poised to answer. Based on my experiences as director of library media services for Nebraska’s Lincoln Public Schools, I was able to come up with two suggestions.
First, pace yourself and determine what is coming off your plate. We need to continually re-think why we are doing what we are doing. Yes, we feel we need superhuman powers because our jobs are getting busier, but in order to sustain ourselves, school librarians really do need to determine which pieces of our work can no longer be priorities, and then let them go.
Next page: The most important question to ask yourself
Second, and this is the big question to keep in mind, what’s best for the kids? We need to keep this at the forefront of our thinking. What do our students really need to help them become informationally and digitally literate? What will be most helpful for students to know and be able to do to be successful consumers and creators of information? How will we empower teachers to best serve our students?
In my district, our information-rich environment is now getting even stronger with our CLASS (Connected Learning for the Achievement of Students and Staff) Plan, which puts devices into the hands of each of our students, grades three through twelve, and in classroom learning centers in K-2. Our librarians have taken the lead in aligning our digital and print resources. While we have had digital resources, such as online periodicals, encyclopedias and databases for many years, these rich resources will now be accessible to all of our students on a daily basis.
We’ve also looked at how we share our resources. We have worked very hard to establish an online presence throughout the district. Each of our 56 schools has a school library web page, the portal to the wealth of information available to our families, with links our online catalog and purchased digital content. However, the best way we are addressing the needs of our students and staff is by providing curated packages of the resources aligned to the curriculum—by unit and by lesson.
Curating resources may take a great deal of our time but we realize the importance of analyzing the curriculum and determining where essential questions and inquiry lessons with deep, guiding questions are woven into the content areas. It’s also essential to locate the most developmentally appropriate resources, both print and digital, and to put those resources into a framework for ease of access. This is how we build bridges and form partnerships with classroom teachers and curriculum specialists.
Just as we pored over our professional review sources to choose the best print resources for the students, our librarians are now selecting the best online resources and guiding students to that content through our Library Media Services online presence. Whether curating your resources using LibGuides or LiveBinders, or purchasing a product such as Follett Shelf Classroom Connections and WebPath Express, your students will be choosing their resources from the most appropriate content available.
Today, whenever we are asked why the digital conversion is so important, we have a solid response: We have the opportunity to open the world of learning, questioning, and thinking to our students in ways we have never had the capacity to do before.
It is exciting. It is challenging. It is transformative. Every child must succeed, and they will if we continue to determine the resources most important to that task, and if we continually ask ourselves: What’s best for the kids?
Mary Reiman is the director of library media services for Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska.
[Ed. note: In addition to Mary Reiman, the TLA’s “Librarians as Change Agents” panel presentation featured Jennifer Boudrye, director of library programs, District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) Public Schools; Mark Ray, director of instructional technology and library services, Vancouver (Wash.) Public Schools; and Scott S. Smith, chief technology officer, Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District. The entire panel presentation is available by clicking on these links: Part 1; Part 2.]