An interesting discussion has been taking place on the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook page. It began when I reposted Ruth V. Small’s report on the research study she has done at the Center for Digital Literacy (showing “young innovators perceive their school libraries as simply book repositories and their school librarians as largely non-essential for supporting their work.”) She goes on to say that she and other at CDL are “working on project to
1) help librarians become “innovation mentors,” motivating, encouraging and supporting innovation by students in their schools and
2) create “innovation spaces” in their libraries where all students can freely brainstorm, create, experiment, and collaborate on their ideas, with a rich and accessible set of resources and activities to help them do so.”
Sue Kowalski of NYLA/SSL commented (and posted it on their Facebook page which is where I got it) that she “would be interested in the librarian structure at the school where those kids were surveyed. If the kids were in schools that do NOT support a strong library program, their perception could be a reality.” Obviously that wasn’t part of the study, but the results are still scary.
Underneath the results are several important issues. Of course, the study doesn’t reflect badly on school librarians if these students didn’t have an active program at their schools. Even if that is the case, too many schools as we know don’t have strong –or sometimes any—library program. Why?
Budget cuts are the simple answer, but the problem goes deeper. Why didn’t enough people care when library programs were cut or eliminated? Somehow we have failed to show we are essential. Stakeholders don’t value us because we have not made our case. Research studies do not win hearts and minds. Visual stories do.
Data is good but numbers aren’t making us any friends. My successor at my last job at a high school library sends her reports to the principal using Animoto and Issu. The reports show students gaining the benefit of a strong program and demonstrate her own tech expertise. The reports get shared with the Superintendent and the Board.
How are you sending a message that you and your program are essential? Is it being received? What changes can you make between now and the end of your school year to make certain people know, as the people of Whoville cry, WE ARE HERE!