School Library 2.0

Christopher Harris suggests a rethinking of school libraries along Web 2.0 lines. Following Tim O'Reilly's W2 fundamentals, Harris offers the foundations of SL2.
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School libraries are in danger of being cut out of existence. Christopher Harris suggests a rethinking of school libraries along Web 2.0 lines. Following Tim O'Reilly's W2 fundamentals, Harris offers the foundations of School Library 2.0. Such a revisioning would make libraries not expendable but the central hub of the school's functions. And boards could no more defund libraries than corporations could IT departments.

  1. The SCHOOL LIBRARY as a Platform: This is about finding ways for the library to make things happen. I shudder to use the word “enable”, but really that is what this is about. For instance, the libraries of a district or region can enable the reading programs to better track the books they are using for their program.
  2. Harnessing Collective STUDENT and TEACHER Intelligence: The SL2.0 can also be a platform for a school’s adoption of some Web2.0 tools. Podcast booktalks from yourself and students. This can very easily be done on a local server or even just a desktop in the library. See if you can get a voicemail box that converts to MP3 so students can leave podcast messages from their cell phones. New books coming in? Have students submit blog reviews about them and then use Feed2JS to build a simple Javascript from the blogs RSS feed that your web person can stick on the school/district homepage. Things may not always run smoothly, but Robert Eiffert’s student review blog shows how student blogging can be a growth experience. Book reviews on boards in the library are powerful, but I am sitting in New York reading book reviews from a middle school in Vancouver, Washington. That is SL2.0 power. [And yes, the feed is in my aggregator -I love YA fiction, and they know what is worth reading.]
  3. SCHOOL LIBRARIES are the Next Intel Inside: School libraries need to better at marketing what they do. Using some Web2.0 tools could help with this. The key is to show how the library is the “Intel Inside” of the school - the central hub of information processing. Not to say that information doesn’t happen without the library, but I really do believe that “School Libraries Work!” I feel very strongly that teachers can teach art, music, and PE. I have done all three in my time as a classroom teacher and not too horribly given a diverse background shared by many in elementary education. I feel just as strongly that I could NOT have taught library skills back then. Remember, the real intent here is to spread out the influence of the library - and especially the librarian - beyond the “room of books.” A great way to do that is for the School Librarian 2.0 to stand up and take credit for a professional job being done. And maybe the idea of slapping “Librarian Powered!” on everything isn’t such a bad idea!

    One concrete example of this is a new Testing Blog I have set up for the BOCES where I work. In response to a need for rapid delivery of updates and answers to questions about the NY State tests, along with a longer-term need for an information repository on the subject, the BOCES naturally turned to the libraries. After all, information storage, retrieval, and routing is what we do. The librarians were already familiar with the blog layout as we had been using it for about a year to communicate amongst ourselves, and now that expertise has been extended out to support the rest of the school.

  4. End of the SCHOOL LIBRARY Release Cycle: With SL2.0, don’t just keep a calendar, consider keeping a web-based calendar on an intranet. Then you can include links from your lesson plans into your intranet wiki where you keep your digital pathfinders and resource guides. The idea is to work towards the library being the “Intel Inside” but not always “InYourPresence.” You can plan to be a part of lessons without being in the physical location. Consider screencasting a quick how-to on a database to support a teacher’s use in the classroom. Read on quickly to the next point, though, before you think to far about this, though.

    The key, you will remember, is to break out of a release cycle to provide resources many different times at many different locations. Within a large district or a region, maybe it would be possible to set up a shared School IM Reference service. Remember with about 20 librarians, you are only “online” about once a month. Is 2-3 hours a month, about one day a year worth having your library be seen as the place for information?

  5. Lightweight SCHOOL LIBRARY Programming: There are tools available now that make it very easy to create on-demand resource guides. The last point mentioned screencasting a how-to that would help a classroom teacher teach a reminder lesson on how to use a database. I am not talking about a canned screencast, but rather a custom developed movie that would be particular to that classes research needs. What is the point of having a how-to about apples when they are going to be researching oranges? If you aren’t familiar with tools like del.icio.us and suprglu.com you might want to go check them out. Del.icio.us allow you to quickly colocate web resources into an annotated and tagged (subject cataloged) listing. If you would prefer, you can also download a similar open source framework called Scuttle that will run on a desktop PC webserver using EasyPHP. Now we are talking not only lightweight resource guides, but dynamic as well! Then you add Suprglu as a way to pull together the RSS feeds from multiple dynamic lists to a single page for presentation - such as the Infomancy Suprglu page that combines a couple of other sites and my tagged links.

    Another way to see this involves my getting started back for another semester of classes for my MLS and my Educational Administration programs. I remember way back in undergrad when the first day of classes was usually taken up with introductions and giving out the syllabus and other housekeeping items. Now, though, all of these items are often taken care of online using a course management system like Blackboard. Is your time as a highly trained, expert librarian any less valuable? By breaking out of the traditional cycle and employing some of the new tools of lightweight programming SL2.0 can front-load library visits more than ever. Then the time with the librarian can be weighted towards the more abstract skills like resource evaluation.

  6. SCHOOL LIBRARIES Above the Level of a Single CLASSROOM: In the end, we need to move SL2.0 beyond the level of a single classroom. School libraries are much more than a room of books, and much of that additional power is best seen in the school librarian. So what does this mean in practice? One thing I see for SL2.o is moving into non-traditional educational spaces. In our BOCES, we are looking at adding libraries to our educational centers to support Career and Technical and Alternative Education programs. What does a library that serves culinary arts and automotive technology programs look like? If the SL2.0 is going to be the “Intel Inside” of the school, a great way to do this is to move into some new curriculum areas like math and to support other programs. There is some great math (database science, information evaluation, logic, etc.) found in libraries. SL2.0 can also rise above the level of a single classroom by providing overarching support for learning within the school. This can include acting as a consultant teacher-librarian to help with the development of pedagogy and curriculum support.
  7. Rich SCHOOL LIBRARY Experience: All of the above seek to help school libraries continue to provide a rich experience within a changing educational world. Many of the ideas are not new, but I think there are some subtle changes that reflect how SL2.0 needs to work within the current school setting. In the end, failure is not an option. For many students, a rich school library experience may be their only library experience. For some, it may be their only positive experience with the joy of reading and the power of information.


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