Seth Godin on libraries – take heed

Seth Godin has written a brief, but pretty accurate in my view, summation of the future of libraries. I’ll post it in it’s entirity here, but make sure you start reading Seth. I do nearly every day.

The future of the library

What should libraries do to become relevant in the digital age?

They can’t survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don’t want to own (or for reference books we can’t afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That’s not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.

Here’s my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.

Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.

It’s that final sentence that holds the key to survival of the Library profession, and it’s up to Library professionals to understand this and skill themselves up so that they are up to the challenge. If you’re a Librarian right now and you don’t know what Diigo or Delicious are, or how you use Twitter for real time search, or how to go about trying to find the experts out there who may be able to answer the questions your students are posing, then you better start rethinking what it is you are doing. Libraries are not going to be about the book collection forever; they’re not about that now in my opinion. They are about being a connective space; a space where reading, discussion and discovery take place. The professionals in those spaces need to be the information sherpa enabling new understandings of how we go about finding out what it is we need. It means letting go of knowledge and giving it up to empower others. Don’t see that as a threat, view it as an opportunity. If we don’t, the information sherpas in our school are not going to be emanating from the school library. Instead, they’ll be the educational technologists out there who will rise to the fore. Missed opportunities could mean a lost profession.

Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson and Scott McLeod have all posted responses to Seth’s post. Make sure you visit these for their insights.

You a Teacher-Librarian or Ed Tech facilitator ? – then read this

Kim Cofino is a 21st Century Literacy Specialist at the International School of Bangkok. She wrote a really interesting post last week that was mentioned on Jeff Utecht’s SOS podcast about Teacher-Librarians and their connection with Educational Technology facilitators and vice-versa. It was called  Libraries & EdTech: Like Peanut Butter and Jelly! Kim attended the ECIS Librarian’s Conference in Berlin and was obviously impressed by what she saw and heard. I’ve been following Kim on Twitter, and noticed many updates during her time at the conference, with her musing on the ideas being presented. One of the presenters was Ross Todd. TLs in Australia will know Ross as will many others in countries around the world as he is an international presenter. Last year he addressed a Victorian SLAV conference and presented fabulous ideas to help us promote guided inquiry in our libraries and classrooms. I particularly like the way he used the term ‘zones of intervention’ to describe how TLs should be thinking of teaching information literacy in our schools. It resonated with how I see our role – rather than trying to structure information literacy into classrooms or having students come to the library to learn how to ‘do stuff’, we should be targeting specific zones of intervention that present themselves as students work on projects in differing curriculum areas. It is this point of need teaching that has the most impact – when you need to know something you go about learning how to do it – we can all apply this to our own learning so why don’t we try and target information literacy teaching the same way. Don’t believe that in any way I’m having massive success in my school achieving this – like anything, it requires relationship building with teachers so that you can work together on curriculum initiatives.  Chip, chip, chip away!

I suppose the article held appeal because I feel like my role is merging between being a TL and an Ed Tech facilitator. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a tug of war and I don’t know which side is going to win out! Kim took a different view and one that I like. She made the peanut butter and jelly analogy for the following reasons;

  • both peanut butter and jelly are fabulous on their own, but wow, when you put the two together, you get something extra special.
  • peanut butter and jelly both have distinct qualities – they are definitely different, and both are definitely valuable outside of the time they spend together (jelly on toast, peanut butter with chocolate, etc).
  • a pb&j sandwich is really at is best when enveloped by some exceptionally good bread, in this case, I’m thinking the bread is the curriculum – the foundation of the sandwich.

The ideal is to have a TL with a working knowledge of Web 2.0 – this is where information is heading and a head in the sand approach just isn’t going to cut it I’m afraid. If schools had the budgets to appoint Ed Tech facilitators this would be an added bonus. Not happening where I work at the moment. International schools seem streets ahead of us on this front. Better yet, let’s seriously look at something that Jeff UTecht broached in a document he wrote that I posted two months ago. He called the role the Literacy/Media Specialist in a document called ‘Planning for 21st Century Technologies.’

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As a profession, Teacher-Librarians need to seriously look at what is happening in relation to the way our students interact with the internet to find, create and collaborate when learning. We need to skill ourselves well to embrace the future and we need to be working very closely with Ed Tech facilitators. If they’re not in our schools then maybe it’s us who need to take the reins and guide our teachers and students forward. To my way of thinking, this is how we keep our profession relevant and it’s the best kind of advocacy we can present to convince our school administrations of the need for qualified TL’s in School Libraries.  Take a read of Kim’s post and see what you think.