Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Professional organizations’ Category

Fitting in

Posted by lpearle on 5 May 2015

The NEAISL15 conference is over, and it seemed like everyone had a good time and got a lot out of it (whew!).  Several members were heading to Tampa for AISL15, a conference I haven’t attended since 2001’s Library Space Odyssey (don’t ask).  In two months, I’ll be in San Francisco for ALA Annual, but in between I could to ACRL NEC.  Looking ahead, there are AASL, YALSA and other conferences, symposia and workshops I could be considering… but beyond having limited professional development funds and not wanting to be away from “home” all the time, what conferences (and what organizations) are really going to give me and my school the most bang for the buck?

When I first started my library life, it was clear that joining AASL was necessary.  After all, working in a school library = joining the national school librarian’s association, right? Imagine my surprise when many of my colleagues didn’t belong!  They were members of other ALA divisions, or only joined the state organization, or only the local one.  Did.Not.Compute.  But as time has passed, I, too, have dropped or changed memberships based on what I need and what the organization is giving me.

This is one of those “where do I fit in” moments for me: who will give me the greatest learning opportunities?  where can I make a difference?  That’s not to say that there needs to be a clear path to leadership on a committee or overall, but can I contribute in some way?  Even more important is the learning.  I stopped going to one conference because it was too much money for too little learning.  As a newbie, it was great but in the middle phase of my professional life, too much was geared to those newbies, or to people who weren’t reading blogs and professional magazines and keeping up with trends and tools.  One conference session touted iPhones as the Next Great Thing (remember when Palm Pilots were?), but two years after they’d been introduced. Granted, conference proposals are due so far in advance that sometimes things are outdated, but maybe then the presenters should have upped the game, shown new things and not given a basic intro?  All too frequently, the sessions are geared for the newbies, the beginners, and there are few that are for “advanced” people.

Which leads me to continue to ask, “where do I fit in?”  AASL doesn’t speak to me any longer, YALSA is – after a few years of seeming like a home – really more interested in public librarians than schools, ALSC is for a population younger than I serve.  Reaching up to ACRL makes sense, as does continuing with AISL because of our shared independent status, and then there’s RUSA for reference and RA.  And maybe, after years of joining and joining, that’s enough…

How many of you are feeling the same?  What are you doing about it?

Posted in Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

Don’t let me be misunderstood

Posted by lpearle on 2 March 2015

In my last post, I said that I was a failure – except, not really.  My programs are strong and by any standards other than those insisted on by the leaders in my profession a great success.  Which is why I’m not sure that the national association supposed to speak to and for me actually does… but that’s another post.

What upsets me is the rabid insistence (and it is rabid: there’s no discussion, no middle ground, just this way and no other) that the effective library program is one that promotes deep inquiry and co-teaching by technology/instructional leaders in the school, and if others wander in or want to schedule time, well… maybe you’ll give them some crumbs, while reminding them that you really only work in co-teaching situations.  That working on a fixed schedule is somehow akin to living in a dictatorship against which you should rebel, rather than trying to work  to still provide a great program. And that the only “real” school librarian is the one who is “certified” (I much prefer “credentialed”, but perhaps that’s because I don’t have state certification – and many librarians I know who do have it run bad programs).

It’s like the “I’m a librarian, I don’t do clerical work” crap I hear at times.  But I digress.

Here’s an example (one of many) that lets me know that my program is not only aspirational, but effective, and possibly great:

Several years ago, I was working with middle school classes on a fixed schedule.  This was less than ideal, as we met twice in a seven day cycle, and sometimes there were long – and I do mean long – gaps between classes.  Even better, this was only half of the class for one semester; I saw the other half earlier in the year.  It made for awkward integration into their research project, as I could go over things in class with only half of them.  Anyway, we worked on how to do research (I prefer FLIP-IT to Big 6, but whatever works for your students is best, right?), evaluating sites and so forth.  Then, towards the end, inspiration hit.

One of my nieces was on the trip to Mexico that brought back Mexican/swine/H1N1 flu to the US, and was actually quarantined (another digression: is it really quarantine if you’re attending baseball games? and by “baseball game” I mean the NY Mets, in Shea Stadium?).  Then a school nearby said it was closing for two weeks as a sort of self-quarantine.  My mother got worried about me, about how I would do since I have some autoimmune issues.  The next day I walked in to class and said, here’s the project: we’re going to research this flu and the end product will either be me telling my mother than I’m a (then) 45-year-old woman who can make her own decisions OR she’ll write a note to the Head of School excusing me from work because of the flu.  The students loved it!  Rather than a project they had to do because the teacher wanted them to, when they really didn’t care about the topic, here was something they were concerned about and heard about at home.

Two years later, when these students were in Upper School, I was leaving and a candidate came in to teach a sample class.  He asked about how one started to do research and one boy – you know, that boy, the one sitting in the back and never quite paying attention – raised his hands.  He remembered the acronym, remembered the steps but didn’t quite have the wording right.  So, here was a class totally separated from the curriculum, on a fixed schedule, not really doing “deep inquiry” and two years later that boy remembered what he’d learned to do.

That’s not the first, nor the last, time something similar has happened. Could working with this group on a flexible schedule, with deep integration into their class, have had that effect? I don’t know.  I suspect the answer is “no” because no matter how deep and rich the project is, if it doesn’t capture the student’s interest, they just won’t care.  And in a K-12 institution, very little comes from a student’s deep interest in a topic, and far too much from the teacher’s need to have a research project or the curricular requirements.

We, as a profession, need to celebrate these little victories while aspiring to move our programs further.  We need to stop making people working in the trenches, in conditions that are not ideal (multiple buildings, unfair student:librarian ratios, fixed schedules, no budgets, etc.) feel shamed about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.  If the library is used – as is one I know of – as a study hall and the librarians supervise “credit recovery” let’s not shame them for not fighting for more.  Perhaps they already are.  Perhaps they know that if they do, they’ll have even bigger problems in their school.  Perhaps they have already gotten as much concession as they can and are happy to have survived that fight.

Shame on the shamers.  It’s one thing to say (implicitly or explicitly), “here’s to what you should aspire” and quite another to say, “shame on you for not doing a better job”.  We need to reach out, to provide tips and tricks and support.  It’s shaming when we say there’s only one way to be effective, it’s shaming when we say that if you don’t follow a prescriptive set of standards, you’re not being a good school librarian.  We need to be less rabid and more open-minded to the different ways programs are effective, to encourage aspirational dreams and confer greatness on more of our peers because they’re doing good work, just maybe not the “effective” work AASL envisions.

 

Posted in Musings, Professional organizations | 1 Comment »

Aspirational Librarianship

Posted by lpearle on 27 February 2015

In the September/October issue of Knowledge Quest, Buffy and Kristin coauthored an article that suggested that there was a widening gap between the standards and expectations AASL promotes and the reality many of us face in our schools (even those of us in well-funded independent schools not tied into e-rate funding/filtering, with 1:1 iPad programs and not required to undergo state testing).  As I read it, my head nodded as I recognized challenges that I and others have experienced.

Let’s look at the first question they pose, “What does it mean to be great?”  By AASL’s standards, the programs I’ve worked with are failures.  Collaboration and co-teaching with every teacher hasn’t taken place.  Even worse, I don’t insist that teachers work with me on every project!  Of course I’m open – but if they can’t, or if a project gets cancelled (for example, due to too many snow days) or truncated, I do the best I can and move on.  Those projects may not be as deep and inquiry rich as they’re supposed to be.  Sometimes students graduate without having done any deep research at all.  And then there are the non-integrated information/research skills classes, ones that may tie in with an ongoing project but are fix-scheduled and year-long, so the content doesn’t always have a curricular match. I take on non-library related work (like overseeing the online bookstore set-up, or proctoring lunch in the cafeteria while leaving the library unattended).  Leadership in tech?  That might step on our computer science teachers and tech integrators toes, let alone the Director of IT’s position on where the school is going.

Do I feel like a failure? No.  I aspire to what AASL considers “excellence”, keeping that as a potential goal while looking at the reality of the situation on the ground.  Only one or two projects that go further than a 3-5 page paper with bibliography?  Great.  Bring it.  I can work with that and aspire to building a stronger connection with others in that department or in the school that lead to deeper inquiry.  Need me to take on a fixed scheduled class?  Ok.  Let’s see what I can do to bring skills into the class even if there’s nothing curricular to work with, like evaluating information about current events or finding credible resources on topics of personal interest.  I can aspire to moving to a flexible schedule, or to integrating (slowly) with what the classroom teachers are doing.

Then I read Judy Moreillon’s response to the article. I think she missed the point.  My reading of the article wasn’t, “let’s get rid of the standards and the expectations and the high bar, instead let’s focus on how to help librarians in schools do the best possible job with their situation.” She’s dead right about the fact that for some, meeting with every class, every student for deep inquiry-based projects is simply impossible due to the student/librarian ratio (at my school, it’s 160:1; at my cousin’s selective high school, it’s 450:1; and at another NYC highly selective high school, it’s 1506:1).  But this paragraph made me cringe:

Working with these educators and students should be a priority for school librarians who will continue to serve other students on an as needed basis and work with teachers who engage in cooperative planning and schedule the library in open times that are not being used for in-depth learning. (If the library is large enough, multiple classes can use the library space at one time, but only those teachers who have planned with the librarian and scheduled the librarian’s time as well will have the benefit of her/his expertise.)

Really?  Maybe in a public school where the union can protect you but at my school?  If I told teachers that they could come in, but I was only going to work with the ones who have collaborated with me beforehand on the project creation?  I’d be looking for a new job, not to mention having an incredibly empty library space as the teachers stayed away in droves.  Last year we had one week where we had 10-13 classes in every day (there are only 7 periods in a day) and we worked with every one of them as the teacher needed – none of them did the level of collaboration that I aspire to, but hey, maybe next year.  Let me build the relationship, slowly showing them how I can add value to their projects and becoming a partner with them.  I’d rather be overwhelmed with students asking me questions despite a lack of integration into the class than sitting there at the information desk listening to the crickets.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Here’s the thing about aspirational librarianship: we know where the goal posts are, and we hope to some day get there.  But for now, in the real world in which we work, we need help and guidance on how to do our jobs better without alienating teachers and without insisting that if we’re not adhering to what AASL says we should be doing/being we’re just not being valued or doing a good job.  To my mind, it feels like the equivalent of being the old-fashioned shh’er: my way and only my way in my library.   Thank you Buffy and Kristin for raising the question.

So, what answers do you have?  To what do you aspire?

 

Posted in Musings, Professional organizations, School Libraries | 8 Comments »

#YALSA and the badging program – #ALAMW14

Posted by lpearle on 3 February 2014

Linda Braun made it clear – this is a work in progress: testers are needed.  Just go to yalsabadges.ala.org

So what do we need to know beyond that?  Badges are a serious learning process, more about the learning than about the badge.  These are tied in to YALSA’s Core Competencies, with the idea that they will help people get the skills they need to be successful.  The following are about YALSA’s badges (my thoughts on this and some badging takeaways will follow):

  • These badges are “crowdsourced” – once someone has completed the work, it becomes open to the public, who can then comment and either approve (“thumbs up”) or disapprove (“thumbs down”) for their work.  In other words, earning the badge is contingent not only on completing the various steps and requirements but on peer approval of the work you’ve done.
  • The exact number of thumbs up is unknown, it’s based on an algorithm.  There is the danger of someone doing the work and then waiting… and waiting… and waiting… for approval.  Community buy-in is critical, as is community participation.
  • The system is (as of right now) a Pass/Fail system, so you could be 100% on several steps but still not “badge worthy”; once you do get approval, you cannot lose it.
  • Badges can be exported to Mozilla’s Backpack, which will enable people to show a variety of professional development badges as part of their online portfolio/resume.
  • Obtaining badges demonstrating competency is gaining acceptance in the military and at colleges.  They demonstrate actual skills, much more clearly than a grade on a test does.

They are still working on the badges, with only three available right now.  The format for each is Overview -> Goals -> Technology Requirements -> Steps (what you need to do) -> Rubric and screencasts on how to do things like set up a Google Form are included.  An online forum may be set up so that those working towards their badge can communicate with others in the same position as well as with people either already badged or those who are experts/mentors.  Notifications for new content need to be created so that people don’t have to log in daily (and see nothing there).

Linda stressed that this is a soft opening, reminding us that Gmail was in beta for five years (but YALSA’s working on a faster timeframe than Google).  She also recognized that there is work to be done on providing administrators and supervisors with information on the rigor required and the skills learned, so that people recognize this as a credential.

So, my thoughts about these badges specifically:

  • The skills skew heavily to the public librarians and their needs; school librarians might not be able to see a need or value to the work needed to complete a badge.  School librarians have the NBPTS for Library Media/Early Childhood Through Young Adulthood and AASL’s NSLPY Award to help them focus their programs and skills. YALSA is going to have to make a really strong case for the school librarian contingent to make this a valuable professional development tool.
  • There’s a w whiff of “checking in” here, like Foursquare or Get Glue.  This may skew the process towards younger librarians, or those who want to become a librarian, while those in the middle or further in their careers will not see them as necessary.
  • Many school librarians are required to get CEU’s and without getting state buy-in to make a badge the equivalent of a certain number of hours of learning, again, there won’t be as much buy-in from school librarians.  Some states won’t accept CEUs from outside their state, again limiting the desirability of this program.
  • While I understand why YALSA feels the need to provide interesting ways to provide professional development tools, particularly those that allow for self-paced, reflective learning, this feels as though YALSA is trying to be LITA Jr.  Perhaps a partnership with LITA to create badges for all ALA members would work better?
  • At Midwinter, the Board approved the creation of a badge for Literary Evaluation.  One supposes that this is so that the President-Elect has better information when considering appointments to the various selection and awards committees – but murmurs I’ve heard are fears that this won’t be objective, that people “on the outs” with YALSA’s Board or VIPs won’t get fair treatment even if they have the badge.
  • The badge that was used as an example, Leadership and Professionalism, struck me as problematic on two levels.  The first was that there are suggestions of library and related twitter feeds to follow – granted, I didn’t ask how that list could be updated by people, but I suspect that newbies might only follow the ones already listed and thus lead to a privileged echo chamber while interesting, outsider voices go unheard.  The second was that once the badge is earned, what mechanism is in place to ensure that the badgee(?) continues to keep up with this newfound PLN?  Maybe I’m jaded from working with students who tend to forget things quickly after the test, but…

On the other hand, the idea of badging is one that has interested me for a while.  I love the idea of creating skills-based badges so that students can demonstrate their ability to do things like cite a source, find information in our catalog or a database, and format a paper.  Teachers planning to do a research paper could mandate that the students complete certain badges by a specific time so that they (and the librarians) know what, if anything, is needed in the way of instruction on basic skills.  There were several things mentioned in this session that were very helpful as I think about how best to create a badging program:

  • Make the look of the badge simple – not childlike, just simple
  • Beware of complexity (perhaps break up a larger piece into smaller elements) and the time it will take (boredom or frustration can prevent completion
  • Start small, figuring out what’s most important/needed now and then build
  • The LMS needs to be really, really robust (YALSA is using Drupal) and that you have lots of tech support and training on how to use it
  • Test, test, test and retest
  • Ask the community experts how to assess the “win” and provide peer review

I’ve done one badge on information literacy and it was time-consuming and kludgy.  Not to mention the fact that there were two questions I got right but were marked wrong by the system (luckily I took screenshots of the “wrong” answers and successfully got the grade changed). I can only imagine the work it must take to keep them up-to-date and smooth-running so that students don’t have technoangst on top of everything else!

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

I’m looking through you… or maybe not

Posted by lpearle on 20 January 2014

“Transparency” is one of those terms that’s tossed around a whole lot these days, particularly when it comes to governance.  There’s a lot to be said for it, and most of all when a governing body makes some sort of change.  As Karen says in her brilliant take on ALA’s new Code of Conduct, some quiet calls and conversations could have gone a long way towards buy-in, even if the process didn’t seem to be transparent.  So perhaps we should add “common courtesy and sense” to “transparency” as ideals?

What follows may – or may not – apply to a few situations that have bubbled up in my worlds recently.  What I mean is, some of the things below happened longer ago than one might think but could also be taken for current events.  In every case, transparency and what Quakers call plain dealing were sorely missing.

  • In a hiring situation, opinions are solicited from a variety of members of the community – yet it’s clear that the final decision takes none of those opinions into account.
  • Management asked the office manager how to deal with an employee who clearly had addiction issues and then ignored that advice, continuing to give advances on salary and time off; the office manager was reprimanded for “attitude” when making the recommendation to stop both.
  • Someone working for a number of years on a professional publication was told – via e-mail – that their “contract” was not being renewed, while another person was given the courtesy of a conversation (they weren’t working on the same publication but knew each other).
  • Changes in organizational direction and focus are opened for “discussion” but that discussion will not lead to anything other than what the management wants the organization to do, damn the constituencies – full speed ahead!

Does any of that sound familiar?  Believe it or not, some those happened over twenty years ago.  Yet, as Wendy’s blog post points out, nothing’s changed except the names and places.  And I’m seeing it in more than just her example. Primarily, it seems to me, we have a failure to communicate.   Management needs to communicate what the agenda really is (“give me permission to keep this employee on” or “I only want to hear love for this new initiative”) rather than allowing people to give advice that is, ultimately, not going to be taken.

Another communication failure?  When, for some reason, management feels that the organization needs to shift focus or direction and the rest of us don’t.  I’ve been on both sides of that and it’s never easy.  Some times it’s because plans change – suddenly.  Trust me, nothing makes you shift direction and focus faster than having your place of work burn down.   The methodology around rebuilding the program and collection might have made for an interesting conversation but sometimes it’s just easier to say “here’s what we’re doing and how”.   What I’m seeing in a few areas is change not born of crisis but of disconnect, disconnect between management and the people on the ground, working hard at making the organization’s work happen.  What the people want is ignored, or discarded, by those in charge.  Why?  Because.  Because they can, because they have another agenda, and just because they don’t have to care about what the others want.

Just look at politicians who promise something and fail to deliver.  Of course there’s a reason (usually either they had no real power to have made that promise, or they weren’t fully informed about the situation and implications).  But is it ever explained by that person?  Did President Bush ever say, “yeah, about that No New Taxes pledge… well, here’s why there actually are going to be some”?  No.

It’s demoralizing.  It’s annoying.  Even worse, it’s treating the people without whom the organization won’t function at all as children.

As one of the many, not one of the elite, it’s difficult to know what to do to ameliorate things.  I know people who are planning to voice their opinion(s) Loudly.  Some already have, and yet… nothing changes.  Is the solution to start a new organization (that’s happened before)?  Can one work from within so that we, the people, have more say and the them, the management, is more transparent about why and how?

Thoughts to ponder as I (and you) prepare for ALA Midwinter, and the many conversations about transparency (or lack thereof) within that organization.

Posted in Ethics, Musings, Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

Where does the money go?

Posted by lpearle on 6 January 2014

In November I had to prepare my AY15 budget. Yes, you read that correctly: November 2013.  The budget won’t be finalized for several months yet, but it was an instructive exercize to consider what I’d be spending the school’s money on from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.  What was the proper amount for print resources (books and periodicals)?  Which databases were we going to keep?  Could I build in some fudge money so if a great new database came along we’d have the ability to purchase it in AY15, not AY16?

One line item gave me real pause: the professional training/conferences line.  A number of years ago, Doug wrote a great post about his expectations for presenters. Now, in my nearly two decades of doing this school librarian thing, I’ve only had real support for my conference going for eight of those years and even then I was careful to only have the school pay for registration, transportation (if I didn’t drive) and the hotel, plus shipping of books/materials back to school – meals and other stuff were on me.  In part it’s because I didn’t want to take advantage, but in part it’s because I truly believe that having some skin in the game is important.  So as I prepared my budget, I thought about the upcoming year’s conferences and which I might want to attend.  It’s not like I’m starved for choice: ALA Annual and Midwinter, YALSA’s Literature Symposium, AASL’s Fall Forum, SLJ’s Leadership Summit, NECC, NCTE/ALAN, NYSAIS’ NEIT Conference and many more.  The question for me is, “which experience will give my school (and me) the biggest bang for our bucks?”

The Little Professor has a post about attending MLA that I think has great application for ALA (and divisions).  While some may argue that 3000 (AASL13) vs 25000 (ALA Annual, average) is manageable, the question about the types of presentations arises.  I like to stray outside the box, seeing what other divisions are up to and learning from them because there’s often a lot I can apply to my situation.   The Literature Symposium vs NCTE/ALAN is another conundrum, because they’re very different experiences.  As I work more with training teachers and students on technology, would missing ALA Annual in favor of NECC be the better choice (although here, again, there’s a scale issue)?

So many questions to answer, and in November 2013 I have no idea what the answer was going to be come registration time in late 2014.  Where will you be putting your money?

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

Hartford here I come…

Posted by lpearle on 13 November 2013

It’s not that far down the road (or perhaps slightly up? slightly east?) from where I am now, making it one of the very few conferences I’ve been able to attend while sleeping in my own bed.

Besides vendors, the opportunity to meet with friends and like-minded colleagues will be refreshing.  Not that the teachers here are a problem, but they’re not librarians so having certain discussions is not an option.  Nearly three months in I’ve got a decent grasp of what needs to happen and what the future could be both in terms of students and teacher training, resources and technology, print and digital, etc..

Over the next few days, I’m looking for solutions and suggestions to help manage that change.  Stay tuned!

Posted in Professional organizations | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

I wish it were this easy!

Posted by lpearle on 30 October 2013

In a few weeks many school librarians will be congregating in Hartford (CT) for the biennial AASL National Conference.  I’ve been faithfully going since 1997 (Portland OR) but this time I was on the fence about attending.  That it’s now about 10 miles from where I work made the decision easier, ditto the fact that it’s a new school and thus a renewed need to meet with vendors to see the Neat! New! products they have on offer.

As has happened at more than one conference I’ve attended in the past few years, there’s a One Book/One Conference event.  Last time it was Quiet and after reading it I had a few reservations but overall, it seemed a good thing for us to at least have a familiarity with.  This time it’s 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done and I have even more reservations.  Granted, I haven’t read it but I have to ask:  who in the conference committee thought this was the best read for us?  The author writes a column for the Harvard Business Review and probably has never had a schedule quite like the ones I’ve had since making the move from corporate life to school life (in my per-librarian days I attended a few of the GTD-type programs and they do work… in that world.  not in this one).  Just look at the Library Day in the Life Project and ask yourself, how many of these people can truly plan their days?

The days I find easiest to plan are those where I have classes booked in all day.  Then I know it’s Africa periods 1 and 5a, International Human Rights period 3, Foundations of Western Civ periods 2, 4, 5b and 7, and Economics period 6.  From 3:20-5:30, I may be able to get to the other stuff (cataloging new items, shelving, ordering, dealing with e-mail, planning a new project with a colleague, update LibGuides and check student bibliographies and notes on Noodletools).  Maybe.  That’s if someone doesn’t come in and ask for personal time with me.  If I don’t have classes scheduled, well… the time does get frittered away, what with helping students and colleagues, meetings with administrators, and all the other stuff (see above).   One of those famous management tricks is to schedule when you’ll check e-mail.  I could do that.  I could also miss a colleague asking for help finding a resource five minutes before their class begins, or a student asking for help with their research project, or a request for Inter-Library Loan, or an invitation to a meeting that will plan a new curricular initiative.  Should I tell a tutor or someone searching for the computer science teachers not to bother me, I have to focus?

Librarians with fixed schedules may wonder why I’m ranting, but I suspect those with flexible (or fix/flex) understand what I’m saying.  I work in a two-story space, and the other librarian and I change floors daily.  That much I can plan.  And yes, 18 minutes could probably get carved out of my day so I can focus on “actionable” tasks (although taking anyone who uses “actionable” in any sense other than legal risks not being taken seriously).  The problem isn’t that we’re supposed to now treat our work in a school library the way I used to treat my work as an executive recruiter, it’s that the book so clearly lacks real relevance to our lives (at least we weren’t asked to read From Great to Good!) and the committee, rather than choosing something that might enrich my practice has chosen something that is one more indication that a group of non-building-level librarians (as Wendy calls them, “school librarian types“) is running the school librarian’s association.

Posted in Professional organizations, Rants, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

A tale of two divisions

Posted by lpearle on 16 July 2013

There’s a lot of talk about replacing qualified librarians with volunteers or paraprofessional staff.  In part this is due to budget cuts, in part it’s due to a lack of understanding about what libraries can and should be, and in part it’s just silliness.  Silliness that affects people’s lives and livelihoods, but silliness nonetheless.  It’s been very interesting watching two divisions response to this situation, and very instructive.

School librarians (most of whom are  AASL members) take the approach that the only appropriate person in a library space is a certified librarian (and by “certified” they often mean “someone who has an MLS and who has jumped through the state’s hoops to get certification”, thus cutting out anyone in an independent school, as most librarians there do have an MLS but don’t have state certification, or anyone who has state certification but an NCATE accredited degree) .  Their response to the idea is usually one of shock and dismay, as well as “how can the school do this to the students?” and “look at all the evidence that schools with strong library programs are better than other schools”.  Some refuse to help or work with those in another library, because they have a degree that says they know all about cataloging, or collection development, or programming – and to train an aide or someone else somehow devalues that training.    Now, I’ve met fabulous librarians who run incredible programs but who don’t have an MLS… and I’ve met people with an MLS who couldn’t catalog to save their lives and who run really poor programs.  So AASL’s stance seems to value a piece of paper over quality, and please, whatever you do, don’t help the poor person trying to do their best for the students because they don’t have that piece of paper.

I compare that to YALSA, where in a meeting at ALA the idea of creating a database of resources for paras and others who are not young adult librarians (those who work with young adults, not young adults working as librarians!) .  The goal?  Give the people the best possible services – with the hope and goal that the professional position can be restored.  Granted, public librarians often have fewer duties (no cataloging, no instruction, no lunch supervision) but still, the change in attitude is striking.

The idea that if there’s a semi-competent  (or fully competent) para or aide working in a library leads to the permanent loss of a professional position is one I understand.    And it’s realistic to be concerned that without a qualified person in a position, the quality and standard of the program will sink.  I just worry that by digging our heels in, by being adamant that without us a school will fail (when there’s no evidence – state studies to the contrary – that will, in fact, happen) and by ignoring the fact that in many places, something needs to change (due to budget cuts or current, qualified librarians who are either old-fashioned or incompetent) we’re doing ourselves more harm than good.

Why not try to help the poor person thrown into the library, giving them instruction and training while making it clear to the administration that without that instruction and training, things would be going less well?  Why not as a division reach out to these people and work with them?  It can only help both our standing and our students.

Posted in Professional organizations, School Libraries | 2 Comments »

Quick thoughts on #ALA2013

Posted by lpearle on 1 July 2013

There are things to love about an ALA Conference, and things to, well, not love quite so much.

For example:

  • Love that the hotels had free wifi for conference attendees, but hate that it wasn’t promoted beforehand (had to convince someone this morning that yes, I’d seen tweets about it so she could argue with her hotel – one day before she leaves)
  • Love that ALA made discount arrangements with Go Express, hate that I didn’t hear about it until after I made arrangements (where’s the Welcome to Conference e-mail with all that good information?  this year’s e-mail was sparse!)
  • Love that Chicago is so walkable, that the shuttle service works so well, but hate that last night there were no cabs out of the convention center (huh?!)
  • Love all the sessions, but hate that so many good ones are cross-scheduled.  Also really hate the ones that claim to be for everyone, but are only geared to the LCD in the audience (where’s the stuff for those of us mid- or late-career?)
  • Love that 99% of sessions were at the convention center but hate hate hate the really bad signage.  C’mon ALA – no signs in the main convention space leading to Hall A meeting rooms?  Surely librarians can do better than this.
  • Love (and so grateful for) the publishers and vendors giving us previews of programs, books, etc., but hate the logjam that is Publishers Row on the exhibit floor.  Maybe separate them or move them so there’s more space in the aisle?
  • Love the “app” for navigating ALA, but hate that it’s wifi dependent and that you can’t e-mail sessions to people.
  • Love the options, hate the guilt about choosing self-care (aka midday nap or sleeping in) over three-four days of 7am-11pm rushing around.

And a perennial hate: registration.  We’re told to bring photo id – but no one looks at it.  We’re told we must (MUST!) use the badge holders they provide, when many of us are using sustainable reusable ones that include pockets/pen holders.  We’re handed a big, thick booklet, 90% of which end up ripped up and tossed before the attendee leaves the registration area!  I’ll bet if they printed a separate map/schedule list and then the Big Thick session description part, people would choose the former.

What happened to going green, ALA?

Thoughts on sessions and summer reading when I get home and have digested.

Posted in Professional organizations | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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