Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Vaguely insulted

Posted by lpearle on 14 April 2010

Yesterday, as I was presenting “at” the Alabama Library Association’s conference, someone called me at work.  The message was there when I got back, and it was clear that it was a wrong number… ish.

The call was from a salesperson, and was for a James Smith.  Yet this salesperson had clearly listened to my voice mail message, as he started with “Hello, Laura” before launching into his spiel.  ooookay.  I chose not to respond, because I’m not James Smith.

Later in the afternoon, the salesperson called back.  After we’d established that I was not James Smith, nor did one work at Hackley at my exact phone number, he said “well, as long as I’ve got you on the phone…” At that point, I cut in and said that I’d heard his message earlier, that I was quite happy working in a school as the librarian and thank you very much.  He then said “well, perhaps you’re only a school librarian because you’re not an entrepreneur.”

First of all, duh.  I’m also a school librarian because I’m not a veterinarian, a lawyer or any other profession.  Second of all, “only”. ONLY????  That’s the part that insulted me (I admit to snippily saying ‘I find that offensive.  Good bye.”).  I’m not ONLY anything.  This is a choice that I made, and one that I’m very happy and content to have made.

No, I’m not making tons of money.  I think even Donald Trump and Bill Gates and their billionaire peers would like to make more.  And no, my job isn’t perfect, but then, whose is?  There are good days and bad days, and parts that I love and parts that, well, not so much.  Bottom line?  I wouldn’t trade it to be something else, and I’ve never felt like I’m only a librarian.

Still, it’s rankling.  There’s a part of me that would like to call him back and ask if he’s only an idiot phone salesman.


Posted in Rants | Leave a Comment »

Missing the point?

Posted by lpearle on 20 January 2010

During the ISS meeting during AASL’s All-Committee, the resolution on changing our title back to “school librarian” was read.  The entire table cheered  (although, as Kristin says, “It feels like a visit from Obviousman”).

So why are Diane and others upset?

I have no idea.  Seriously, you’d think they didn’t like the idea of reclaiming a title (and a space designation) that ties us in with every other MLS in our profession.  I mean, where was the Library Media Center of Congress*?  Go to any major university and find the Library Media Specialist on the faculty listing.  Go ahead. I’ll wait.


All those complaining that it brings us back to an old stereotype, that it reinforces our status as “staff” not “faculty”, blah blah whiny blah – get over it.  Talk with any tenured librarian at Harvard (or Penn State) and they’re not all angsty that they’re not “Professor”.  It’s up to each of us, in our buildings and with group advocacy, to make sure our schools, parents and students know our true worth.

Trust me, they’re applying old, outdated stereotypes to all of us, from law to corporate to archives to school to public.  It’s not about where, it’s about how.  Would being a “teacher-librarian” be better?  Only if we don’t want to have to spend time explaining that we aren’t a librarian for teachers only.  Only if we once again want to separate what we do from what others in our profession do.

Providing excellent service, being as forward thinking and moving as possible, keeping up with the profession (but remember, it’s ok to have an outside life, too), and creating links to the community so that you have their support during difficult times is the way to change those stereotypes.  I’m betting that in mk‘s school, or Liz‘s school, or Jen‘s school (and I could go on and on) there isn’t a population that thinks “librarian = bun, sensible shoes, lipstick on the teeth, sweaters and ill-fitting skirts”

Obsessing about a name change is missing the point.

Besides, it lessens the confusion when you look at a school’s website and find this.

(*sorry, can’t claim credit for that one, it’s been around for a while)

Posted in Professional organizations, Rants, School Libraries | 5 Comments »

Destination fatigue

Posted by lpearle on 27 November 2009

Teacher-Librarian Ning (one of the many nings I’m “supposed” to follow) is getting a makeover. I am… underwhelmed.

What I am overwhelmed with is destination fatigue. I “must” follow this blog… that twitterer… read this column/magazine/journal… participate in these forums/nings/discussions…

@erniec said “still figuring out how to make a portal to all my digital spaces – nings, twitter, FB, blogs – all of it in one place. What do I need?”

For me, it’s not just about the portal (Netvibes would probably serve Ernie’s needs, ditto PageFlakes), it’s about how many I can follow, how many I (or anyone) can effectively follow. Even more important: how many can I effectively participate in? How many of us are in that same position?

It’s not about being bad for the profession, it’s about trying to constructively use my time and efforts. It’s about not wanting to start a conversation somewhere, realize that half the participants are somewhere else, and then have several threads going on in different places at the same time. Hardly efficient, is it?

The more we add, the less time we have for ourselves and for reflection and assessment. Is it more important to follow a new “guru” and add to my PLN, or is it more important to spend time with The Boys and recharge? Is this blog going to add to my practice, and if it is, what can I delete from my RSS feed? These are choices we all need to make, and I suspect the reason why more don’t participate.

My challenge to Ernie (and all the other urging me to join/follow/participate) is: what do I give up? Tell me that first, and why yours is better than what I have. Then we’ll talk.

Posted in Rants, School Libraries | 3 Comments »

Things I hate about conference (pre-2009 conference season edition)

Posted by lpearle on 10 September 2009

Ernie asked what great conference sessions we’ve recently been to – what worked for us. I responded that what doesn’t work – really doesn’t work – is the session that is supposedly geared to the masses, to librarians of all levels. Very few really can claim that (disaster preparation and Best New ??? are the only two that really spring to mind). Most try, but they end up catering to the lowest common attendee, the one that’s never heard of even basic tools and has no idea what to do with them.

There should be a basic assumption of competence. If a tool is older than one year, presenters should aim to show what’s a new, best practice use of the tool (and refuse to answer “how do you use it”-type questions). If a topic has been covered on any blog or professional article with in the past year, ditto. It’s our obligation as professionals to stay on top of current trends and tools; there are so many ways to build your PLN that to not have one is deriliction of duty.

When professional peers say “I don’t have time to keep up”, I wonder what they’d say to their doctor, dentist, lawyer, car mechanic or other professional that tried that. This isn’t to advocate for any one way – read journals, blogs, twitter posts, join local associations, whatever. Just keep up. Split the duty between you and a friend, you and a colleague. Just keep up.

The other thing that bothers me is the use of jargon. I read many proposals for the upcoming AASL conference – too many were couched in standards-speak and incomprehensible to the uninitiated. If I were running the proposal process, I’d insist on the following:

  • state your purpose in clear English that a non-librarian could easily understand (don’t you want your school colleagues to know what you’re doing at the conference?)
  • be realistic about your audience – are you trying to dance along the cutting edge or are you helping sweep the late adopters along?
  • any presenters that use the phrases “2.0” or “21st century skills” automatically get tossed (these are meaningless phrases – especially the latter when you think about 19th century skills)

Let’s see how the programs we’ll see at the SLJ Summit, AASL09, ALA, NECC and all the others stack up.

Posted in Conferences, Rants | Leave a Comment »

Things I hate about conferences

Posted by lpearle on 29 June 2009

For years, I’ve been hearing about the annual NECC conference: all the cool people went… it is the conference to go to for computers/education… you’re going to learn soooo much at NECC… etc. Unfortunately, the timing often competes with ALA’s Annual Conference, and many of us are forced to choose between the two (not to mention forced to try to convince our schools/districts/wallets that we can afford to go to two conferences in two cities so close together time-wise). This year, ALA is later than usual, and NECC is close enough to NYC that I decided to bite the bullet and attend. Expectation levels are, of course, very high… higher than it was for ISE2006.

Yesterday was the opening event, the Member Welcome/Conference Orientation. I’d found Kristin Fontichario as I was heading in to register, and we decided to check the event out together. Luckily, we think a lot alike, so the following reflects one’s comments/thoughts as amplified by the other:

  • The set-up for the room was auditorium-style, with a Big Screen up front. On the screen was an Oscar-style card and Oscar-style music was blaring from the speakers. K and I wondered if ISTE had paid for the rights to all that… and wondered again when a StarWars theme appeared (the music, the opening crawl, the MC dressed as Darth Vader). We weren’t just being cranks, it was honest concern about copyright and fair use and the conviction that we, as leaders in our schools, should be doing the right thing, not the convenient thing. (sorry, Doug, but that’s just how I feel).
  • Unfortunately, the space was not large enough for the crowd, and the Twitter feed had a number of comments from people that were turned away at the door. This has happened at a number of different conferences and I just don’t get it. An opening event, a popular speaker, an information session for newbies (not to mention ticketed events with pre-sold tickets): how do you not plan for overflow crowds??? Organizers, listen up – you’re creating bad will from the get-go when you do that stuff.
  • One of the goals of this event was to introduce ISTE’s leadership. Great! Would it have been too much to ask that these leaders spent a little time looking at their speeches, so as to not appear to be haltlingly reading from their scripts? Or that someone coordinate the scripts so that the same information wasn’t repeated over and over redundantly? It’s a quick, easy way to lose audience interest.
  • We kept hearing about the great ISTE presence on social networking sites – but nothing that made it easy to find them. How easy it would have been to say “we’re ISTECONNECTS on Twitter”, etc.. And there was an over-heavy, over-promotion of Second Life and the ISTE Ning. Now, I’m not opposed to either of those social sites, but I’m not going to go there, either. Why? Because at some point, you have to say “enough”. I read a lot of blogs and other professional literature. I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I’m involved in my local and national associations, and I’m keeping up with the help of a great PLN. And I just don’t have time, energy or desire to add different Nings to that mix (I can think of four that I’m “supposed” to be active on, including this one). There are only so many hours in a day, and I’ve allocated all I can to this thing I call being a school librarian. If that makes me a bad person, if that means I’m not one of the cool kids, well… I’m totally ok with that.
  • While I understand that many attending a conference may not have the same comfort level that I do with technology, that they may be newbies to the conference, and that they may need a little hand-holding, there are certain limits. One basic expectation should be – must be that attendees can read and follow directions. (And don’t throw ADA at me, ok, I’m talking about the vast majority of attendees and not the few that have legitimate problems). If a group of teachers, administrators, technology personnel and librarians cannot be expected to read what’s on a slide, well, I just give up. Kill me now, ok? Yet time and time again, that’s what happens. At this event, to increase audience participation, they had remote voting devices and at several times the MC would say “pick up your response card and vote for…” and then read the words on the Big Screen Overhead. Maybe it’s me, but if the majority of people in that room couldn’t read, education is just doomed.
  • Finally, and perhaps most important, there was a lot of talk about past-tech and future-tech (eg., a few minutes spent comparing StarTrek’s technology to the stuff we used today, or asking how many remembered Atari). But there was nothing – nothing – about assessing technology, reflecting on its use. Technology is not a goal, it’s a tool. Our role is to help evaluate the tools, deciding which will work best in our particular circumstances (Kristin, for example, works with elementary students and her needs are vastly different from those of my Upper School students). To celebrate technology “just because” is doing us all a great disservice.

Ok, that’s a pretty long rant/tirade. My hopes and dreams are that the sessions I’ve planned to attend are filled with interesting ideas, provocative thinking and inspiration. One opening session does not a conference make, right?

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Things I Hate About Conferences (part nine, I think)

Posted by lpearle on 24 June 2009

It’s conference season, and for the first time I’m off to NECC and ALA (usually the overlap and the timing is just wrong). Yes, I’m excited to see friends/colleagues and to have the opportunity to learn from experts and share with peers.

But, of course, there are downsides. Here are three recent you’re kidding me moments:

  • From a vendor wanting my business: As you may know, we are offering free access to any academic subscription database throughout the summer months when you order by June 30! The sooner you subscribe, the longer your students, faculty and staff can enjoy unlimited, multi-user access courtesy of [vendor]. You won’t be invoiced for your renewal until August 2010. Great! I’m… undewhelmed. Why? Because my faculty and students won’t be available until September. So this wondeful summer freebie isn’t helpful. At. All.
  • From one of the divisions, trying to grab members’ interest: If you’re in a session, liveblogging provides a great back channel for audience participation. Missed a great line from the speaker? Someone else in the room could be tweeting it right now. Wish you could see the video that just got mentioned in passing? Oh, look–one of the editors just plugged it into the liveblog. Thanks, but no. For me, liveblogging doesn’t work. As I said to @wsstephens, “ok – call me a Luddite – I’d rather read one good, summative post w/analysis than a bunch of in-session tweets!”
  • And from other divisions, there are book awards and summer reading programs to excite students about great new books. The problem? School librarians can’t participate. Why? Because the programs aren’t ready to go in time for most of us to start getting the word out, and they end too close to the start of school for us to really rally the troops. A great opportunity lost, if you ask me. But another example of school librarians being the redheaded stepchild at ALA.

Posted in Conferences, Rants | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

What’s in a name?

Posted by lpearle on 8 April 2009

A lot, if you’re a librarian. You see, those of us that work in schools are (per AASL official language) not librarians, we’re school library media specialists. That this comes from the American Association of School Librarians is, to me, a little suspect. We don’t have a Library Media Center of Congress, and I know no academic library media specialists.

Recently, on LM_NET, I read the subject line “media cuts” – I honestly thought that we were talking about the problems the real media (newspapers, television) were having given the increase in on-line media content. No, they were talking about staffing in librarieslibrary media centers.

From Merriam-Webster:
Main Entry: 2media
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural me·di·as
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: plural of medium
Date: 1923

1: a medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression ; especially : medium 2b2 a singular or plural in construction : mass media
b plural : members of the mass media
usage The singular media and its plural medias seem to have originated in the field of advertising over 70 years ago; they are apparently still so used without stigma in that specialized field. In most other applications media is used as a plural of medium. The great popularity of the word in references to the agencies of mass communication is leading to the formation of a mass noun, construed as a singular [there’s no basis for it. You know, the news media gets on to something — Edwin Meese 3d] [the media is less interested in the party’s policies — James Lewis, Guardian Weekly]. This use is not as well established as the mass-noun use of data and is likely to incur criticism especially in writing.

Outside our division of ALA, no one reads or hears “media” and leaps to “library”. So let’s just rejoin the other divisions, ok? After all, Rutgers isn’t dropping “media” from the name of their school.

Posted in Professional organizations, Rants, School Libraries | 4 Comments »

Back to The Future

Posted by lpearle on 23 March 2009

I’ve been reading a number of blog posts and articles talking about The Future. The Future of libraries. The Future of education. The Future of reading. Many of them start by talking about The Future as a post-literate society

Excuse me? A what?

What does “post-literate” mean? We’re all telepaths? No, apparently it means that we’re so wired, so technologically ept, so multimedia oriented that reading is, well, unnecessary (or something). Sorry, but to me that sounds like an illiterate society. It sounds like the society we read about in The Handmaid’s Tale, or what we’re trying to save those poor third-worlders from. And we this this is a good thing, why???

In Not So Distant Future and At ACRL, One Librarian Looks to the Very, Very, Distant Future (þ: Buffy) there are two different views of this Future.

In the first article, the loss of physical print is mourned – and I agree. In part it’s a health issue: we all know that computer screens refresh every so often, and that it’s done so quickly that we don’t “see” it, but it’s not the same as fixed print. Yet with more and more text going digital, we’re exposing our eyes to this and we have no idea what the long-term effects are going to be. It’s understandable why some magazines and newspapers are going out of print/out of business: the ad revenue is not there. On-line makes business sense. But this great experiment with all things digital may end up badly. Unless you’re an optometrist, in which case you’ll do quite nicely.

It’s not just a health question, it’s a digital divide question. There are those that cannot afford high-speed access at home, and who live in school districts with limited computers and limited access, and where the public libraries are either faced with budget/hour cuts or are so crowded that it’s impossible to get to their computers. How do these people stay current? Via tv only?

This takes me to the second article. In it, this post-reading society is lauded. Want to learn a language? Take a pill. This isn’t a Great Step Forward, though, is it? It’s a Great Leap Backward, to the days of Plato and hieroglyphs. An oral-based culture seems to be where we’ll head… and here’s the problem: if we rely on current trends to get us there, we’re in deep, deep trouble.

We all know that continuous partial attention is problematic. Jerry Ford famously couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time; more seriously, students cannot watch tv, text and do homework at the same time. Something (or all things) get less attention, less sinks in, less is internalized. Memorizing and internalizing information (by the now ill-favored By Rote method or otherwise) doesn’t happen if you’re continually changing your focus to another source of sensory input.

After the push to create a literate society, do we really want to go post literate?

Posted in Pedagogy, Rants, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

It’s just a piece of paper

Posted by lpearle on 17 October 2008

On Facebook, a friend noted that she thought McCain had said something about not requiring teacher certification. This is one of those Hot Button edbiz issues: to certify or not to certify.

Me? I’m all for appropriate training and credentials, but state certification is not one of those. I’m not a state certified librarian, and neither are the majority of my independent school library friends… or my independent school teacher friends. According to the narrow-minded thinking of the “certification or leave” people, that somehow means that we do not run good programs, that we’re incapable of giving the same quality education and having good pedagogy as our certified peers.

Nonsense. It’s just a piece of paper. In my many years of learning/working in schools, I’ve seen as many great non-certified teachers as I’ve seen bad. It’s just a piece of paper. State certification does not mean that you’re going to continue to learn and grow, to bring new ideas and methods to your work, to engage your brain as well as those of your students. It doesn’t hold magical powers… except in a public school environment, where it can lead to employment (and then difficulties, thanks to union regulations and contracts, getting rid of those that passed but simply cannot teach).

At MPOW I work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I’ve listened to their students talk about their classes and I know that these students are lucky to have the opportunity to learn from these people. I felt the same way about several of my teachers “back when”. Yes, they could get state certification. But why? It’s just a piece of paper.

Posted in Rants, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 2 Comments »

Filtering Focus (part two)

Posted by lpearle on 19 June 2008

When people in my world talk about filtering, they generally mean filtering internet sites (as mandated by silly government legislation like CIPA). Recently, however, a new form of filtering has been creating a fuss: age banding.

Say what?

Age banding. It’s when you designate a specific appropriate age (or age range) for books. People are protesting (for example, here and here), but I’m confused. Many of the reviews I read, in such august publications as School Library Journal, already give an age range. Harry Potter #1 was considered appropriate for Ages 8-12 by Publisher’s Weekly. We librarians rely on this type of comment when we purchase books all the time, so how is this new “banding” different?

I’m not sure I understand.

I do know that there are issues with programs like Accelerated Reader, where students are tested and given an “appropriate reading level” from which to choose books. I hated this sort of limitation when I was in school. There were days I’d want to read Nancy Drew, and days when I read Victoria Holt, and I was in sixth grade. Being told I could only read “appropriate reading level” books would have driven me nuts! However, my parents were well aware of what I was reading and could, had they wanted, suggested I stop. It wasn’t some outsider making that decision.

There are school librarians I know that do limit their students reading to “appropriate reading level” books. If you’re in second grade, you should only be reading books like Frog and Toad, their thinking goes. Nonsense. If the child is able to read above level, and the parents are ok with them encountering material that is, perhaps, above them, fine. Let them.

And then there’s the whole genre label issue. ALA is against it, yet many of us do it. Now, I do get frustrated when a book falls into several categories (mystery and sci-fi and humor, a la Dirk Gently), but I still think there’s value to it. I don’t think it’s filtering to say “this is Christian fiction” or “this is a mystery”, although there are some that do.

Part of my job really does involve “filtering”, however gently. Collection development involves choices: which books are appropriate for my school based on interest, content, curricular connections, and myriad other considerations? Selecting Agatha Christie over Ellery Queen is, to some extent, filtering. Choosing to not purchase Academy X or V for Vendetta – filtering.

It’s a dilemma, isn’t it? On the one hand, I’m against filtering resources. On the other…

Posted in Books, Collection Development, Rants, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »