Posts tagged ‘school library’

Books still matter (and so do school libraries)

by April Bunn

Times are rough for librarians in New Jersey. In the education world, librarian positions are being cut at an astronomical rate due to severe cuts in state aid.

I have been quiet here on Library Garden lately because I am part of the statistics- my position was cut- leaving our school without a librarian. I have been busy advocating for our positions with my teacher’s association and the New Jersey Association of School Librarians.

While I’m shocked at what happened to school budgets in the Garden State in such a short period of time, I’m finding a shimmer of hope in the cover story of the May issue of the New Jersey Education Assocation (NJEA) Review: Keeping Dewey relevant in the digital age: Why books still matter by East Hanover teacher and author Ralph Rabb.

Rabb argues that with our help, books, in their original printed form, will inspire  literate, passionate readers. His primary concern is that students are doing their reading online and not picking up hard-copy text enough. The new term for all this online reading is called being  “e-literate”.

I was immediately hooked into the article because Rabb describes one of my major reasons for loving libraries since I was very young- the SMELL of books- “It’s absolute olfactory heaven.” He calls libraries “temples built for the love of books” and suggests that teachers need to take their students on field trips to the great libraries, such as the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.

I take my youngest students each year on a trip to our public library and their excitement is contagious. And while my library is not a NYPL, it is still my temple and it’s still a baby. I’m extra sad to see it close* next year since I “built” it from scratch. The prior superintendent had a vision for the school that included a large library with an adjoining technology lab and they were dedicated in September of 2005. She’d be sad to see this happening.

*I said it was “closing” next year, which I consider the case, but my Board doesn’t see it that way- they think teachers taking their students down to “pick out books”  and volunteers shelving books is keeping it alive. By the way, the technology department experienced no budget cuts.

May 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm 2 comments

Name Change from Media Specialist to School Librarian- moving forward?

by April Bunn, Media Specialist, Teacher-Librarian, School Librarian

NAME CHANGE ALERT!

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL)  decided to change our job title. We’re going to be called School Librarians… again.

The board of directors voted for the change at  January’s  midwinter meeting in Boston. The response has been heated.

Response to the news:

What’s in a Name?, LearnCentralWebinar

Nancy White’s Calling All School Librarians!

Cathy Nelson’s Techno Tuesday

School Library Journal

Many feel this name change represents a loss in a long-standing battle with our image . University of Washington I School professor and school library advocate  Mike Eisenberg responds, “To me, it’s retro – conjuring black and white images of stereotypical 1950s librarians.”

My first response is one of fear.  Taking the words ” media specialist” out of my title will just give the powers that be (Board of Ed. or the state) more juice to eliminate my job. Public and academic libraries have held on to the traditional title without change through the years, so what’s the difference? In schools, we’re in a crises of unknown identity- Administration still doesn’t know exactly what we do.

“Branding” the Name and the Space

In New Jersey we are School Library Media Specialists- at least that’s what’s listed on our teaching certificates- but not necessarily the name listed in our outdated job descriptions and contracts. In other places the most common title is Teacher-Librarian. In a power-house packed webinar, called What’s in a Name?Mike Eisenberg encouraged us to find a consistent “brand” in what we do. Our librarians, our spaces, and our local and national organizations all have different names (i.e., Media Center, School Library, Information Center).  In the Garden State, we were ahead of ourselves when the Educational Media Association became the New Jersey Association of School Librarians in 2006, to match the national organization of AASL, and help people understand who we are. Maybe we just didn’t see that this change was always in our future?

Do we need the word “Teacher”?

As an elementary teacher, I would prefer to have “teacher” (Teacher-Librarian) in the title, but either way, it’s a “kinder and gentler” name for what I do- Media Specialist was always a foreign concept to young children.  It also coordinates much better with my colleagues in public and academic libraries.

What do we do?

The problem continues to be that the public doesn’t understand all that we do in a 21st Century learning environment. As a single-operator school librarian,  I wear every hat, from traditional storytelling and book searches to Web 2.0 infused lessons,  and I work every day to keep my program afloat and dynamic.

In an effort to include advocacy in this post, I looked for a good job description for our position. I like this one, by Sara Kelly Johns, President of AASL (and currently running for ALA President), describing our essential (and varied) role in the school-

Media Specialists:

  • work with educators to design and teach curriculum
  • create curriculum and promote an engaging learning experience tailored to the individual needs of students
  • evaluate and “produce” information through the active use of a broad range of tools, resources, and information technologies
  • provide access to materials in all formats, including up-to-date, high-quality, varied literature to develop and strengthen the love of reading
  • provide students, educators, and staff with instructional materials that reflect current information needs.

Budget Cuts  & Lost Jobs

If the state and school boards really understood what we do, they wouldn’t approve massive job eliminations during budget cuts, like the local situation in Woodbridge, where they eliminated all the elementary school librarians, serving 16 schools,  in a massive budget cut this year (by the way, in that article, they called them “librarians”).

If there is a person in the position of school librarian who is indispensible, making an impact (and showing it!) on student achievement, creating a culture of collaboration, and being a leader in the integration of 21st century skills – whether that person is called a school librarian, library media specialist, or teacher-librarian – they will survive this and any future budget crisis.

- Nancy White, on CASL’s blog

Advocacy tools:

I love my job, no matter what the name or the place is called. I pledge to continue to work as hard as I can to keep my board and community aware of what I am doing as Media Specialist, Librarian, or Teacher-Librarian in our Media Center, School Library, or Information Center.

School Libraries Work!-outstanding resource,  including research statistics on the impact of school libraries on student achievement.

NJASL Advocacy Wiki- great resource, including procedures and contacts divided into areas of concern

I hope we can save ourselves before it’s too late, and stop this nonsense of cutting positions that are essential in the 21st Century.

February 20, 2010 at 8:09 am

Access denied

by April Bunn

Most of us have no control over it.
It gets people really upset when they run up against it.

The Internet Filter

access deniedHopefully you aren’t trying to read this at a school computer because you’d probably have  your “access denied” with most of my links below.

As a School Library Media Specialist, I am all too familiar with a great teaching moment being ruined by a blocked website. Linda Underwood’s School Library Monthly article “21st-Century Learning Blocked: What is a School Librarian to Do?” (September’s issue-not available online yet) inspired me to think more about this topic. This past week one of my colleagues was blocked from using National Geographic and another was blocked from downloading her Promethean Board software, so I knew it was time to get this done.  The technology teacher and I just convinced many of these teachers to branch out and use new technology and this filter is discouraging them rapidly.  Just to give you an idea of what it’s like with these filters:

  • We can’t use any image or video sites at all (so long to those Google Images on our web pages and for student projects and no-can-do on that great video you found on Abraham Lincoln on YouTube).
  • Also, no access to sites that have a shopping cart feature, like Barnes and Noble, making it a serious challenge to place orders when we are registering for conferences, ordering books and supplies.
  • No technical or business forums (see below)

Ironically, as I try to finalize this post, sitting at my desk after school dismisses, I am blocked from previewing the post on WordPress with the response screen below:

_______________________________________________________

filter blockedblocked

You cannot access the following Web address:
http://librarygarden.net/?p=2399&preview=true
The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Technical/Business Forums
You can:
Temporarily override filtering on this computer if you have an override name and password. (Note that your administrator may be notified that you’ve bypassed filtering.)
Use your browser’s Back button or enter a different Web address to continue.

__________________________________________________________

Surveying other Libraries

After suffering from blocks preventing her from using pieces of Web 2.0 in her teaching, National Board Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Integrator  Sharon Elin used her blog at edutwist.com, to conduct a survey about which popular sites were blocked and find out what other schools were allowing. Her results, displayed in colorful graphs, represent the more controversial of sites, but even simple sites that include questionable images are blocked from most students.

As Media Specialists, we are responsible, along with our Technology colleagues, for teaching about safe internet searching and strategies for effective information retrieval. As one of Elin’s responders wrote, “Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.”

edutwist quote

So why do we have to have them?

In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). As a result of that Act, many schools and libraries got grants for technology or joined the E-Rate program, a discounted pricing system set up by the FCC for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections. One requirement of these programs was to certify that you are using computer filtering software programs to prevent the “on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or material that is harmful to minors”.  Nobody is really arguing that schools against schools being a safe place, away from highly offensive material. As librarians, our collection development is monitored by administration and the purchasing has to be supported with some curricular connection.  What we as educators are saying is that the filters that are in place in schools are blocking educational information that could be inspiring to a child. Parents must understand that their children are losing out on dynamic learning communities created by Web 2.0 developments.

We’re being forced to bypass the filter

In most cases, educators are waiting for technical administrators to release the block after explaining how they are going to be using it in they teaching. By the way, these tech administrators are NOT teachers or librarians; they are IT people and network security experts that are now responsible for evaluating things like 5th grade students’ research on endangered species. Are we even speaking the same language? I don’t think so. In my school, those requests are only read once a week.

As a result, we’ve (older students and teachers) resorted to bypassing and unblocking the filter on our own. My Google search returned over 1 million hits when using the search terms “how to bypass school internet filters” and the responses included videos and instructions galore. A large portion of these requests could be from students as well.

A few examples are:

eHoweHow (www.ehow.com)

is just one of the many sites giving step by step directions how to bypass the filter. They call it a “circumvention” of the block and don’t make any attempt to discuss the issue: “Whether or not these blocks are justified or a waste of time, whether they are a form of censorship or a method of managing resources, are topics that can be debated another time.”  They give 3 sets of directions depending on what you’d like to use: a translation service, URL redirection service, or web proxy.

Quick tips graphic Quick Online Tips (www.quickonlinetips.com) has a page called “Top 10 Ways to Unblock Websites”

We know about it but won’t widely risk it

Most of the school librarians that I spoke to knew that these methods existed, but many had only used it once or twice, or were scared to be caught. The law specifically states, “An administrator, supervisor, or person authorized by the responsible authority [i.e. school, school board, local educational agency, or other authority with responsibility for administration of such school] may disable the technology protection measure concerned to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.”

Can’t we just block the students’ computers?

No. The FCC’s E-Rate program is specific that every computer have the filter engaged, “The FCC is imposing the requirements on ALL Internet-accessible computers used by the schools and libraries, including public, student, staff and administrative workstations on the Internet because the law made no distinction between school and library computers that are used only by adult staff, and those used by children or the public.” If we’re hoping schools will allow us to have more access than our students, it looks like we’ll be waiting awhile. If you refer to Elin’s survey, the communication service Skype is almost the only site that was allowed on more teacher computers than student ones. That wasn’t true in my school this month when a teacher was blocked from Skype or Google Video Chat to demonstrate communication across the world with her son who is teaching English in Korea.

SKype Chart

Skype Chart

What can we hope for in the future?

I’m trying to be optimistic in how I think filters will be used in schools of the future. Otherwise I’d feel like my degree in Library and Information Science may not be best suited for a school library career. My dreams are for:

  • Trust from our Administration that we are professionals and will use the internet wisely in our teaching
  • Filtering programs that are created by educators and parents
  • Websites designing “school-safe” versions for filter approval
  • Open access to dynamic information online without lurking viruses and predators
  • Faith from the parents whose children we inspire on a daily basis that we are working to create better global citizens

by April Bunn, School Library Media Specialist in a PreK-6th Grade School

September 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm 15 comments


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