Kathy Schrock just sent me a link to a fine piece, Are Librarians Totally Obsolete?
which offers “33 Reasons Why Libraries and Librarians are Still Extremely Important.” This comes on the heels of David’s recent post, “Who Needs ‘Em?”
And David’s post follows scores of other articles I read these past two years arguing my obsolescence. Somedays my Springfield, which is a very real place, appears a kind of Camelot. People here kinda like libraries and they believe they’ll be around for more than “one brief shining moment.”

I wonder why we aren’t saying the same about history or science or language arts teachers. Should we all be replaced by the Internet? Sure, all content may be available digitally somewhere–for free or for cost–but is that what teaching is about? Is that what learning is about?

On the other hand . . .

We all need to shift.

I regularly come in contact with colleagues who make me cringe. They tell me things like, “I’m not like you; I’m a book person.”

I’d like to think I’ve always been, and always will be, a book person. But a librarian must also lead in the area of information technologies, however chaotic the landscape.

A librarian must be able to craft and customize new landscapes. A librarian must lead in the areas of intellectual freedom and information ethics. In the areas of access to information, both physically and intellectually. A librarian must be able to lead the community in and model best strategies for finding, analyzing, and using the best available information for particular information tasks. A librarian must be able to facilitate and inspire creative communication of information in the most effective formats, and those formats continue to emerge and surprise.

If a librarian cannot lead his or her learning community, perhaps that librarian really is obsolete.




  1. Anonymous

    Joyce,

    I find my hope for the future of the field rises and falls in direct proportion to the last librarian I’ve talked to. When I visit with you and other progressive, smart professionals, I think the future for school libraries is limitless. If the last librarian I talked to is negative and reactive, I wonder how we survived so long.

    My question is how can we remove the personality as a factor in whether the library position in a school will stay or not? You get a bad science teacher, you don’t eliminate the science program. You get a poor reading teacher, you don’t stop teaching kids to read.

    I’ll think about this and cross post on the Blue Skunk too. Good entry.

    Doug

  2. Bob Hassett

    Earlier today I happened to stumble across (a post from David Weinberger’s JoHo blog that appeared back in November where, in talking about library science as a career, he says “there will be a big demand for people who can help us find, understand and reuse information (or, as I like to think of it, create an infrastructure of meaning)”. It’s a little abstruse, but I thought that was a nice summation of what we do and how important it is. He’s talking about librarians generally, not the school variety. Still, it was a nice plug.

    Something to add to the elevator speech.

  3. Rob Darrow

    Your points are outstanding! Since all education can now be done online or in Second Life, then, the buildings we know as school must now be obsolete as well, right? About 10 years ago, some suggested that ebooks would replace the book, but that hasn’t happened. It is absolutely ludicrous and short sighted to think that libraries are becoming obsolete. Perhaps some of the people working in libraries are becoming obsolete, but certainly not the institution, which continues to morph with the changing digital information landscape.

  4. Anonymous

    I’ve been given the chance to present my ideas for next year’s library instruction “curriculum” (I use the term very loosely!) to our Administrators. I’m expected to be innovative without causing disruptions in the schedule or budget. One way or another, I’ll see that at least some of my students get the skills they need to succeed in life. The Higher Ups have read “The World is Flat”, but aren’t ready to go head-to-head with the School Board yet. Change may come slowly, but it will come, and I’ll be part of it.

  1. 1   Learning Alive » Role of the School Librarian

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    [...] About our Obsolescence via Joyce Valenza A librarian must be able to craft and customize new landscapes. A librarian must lead in the areas of intellectual freedom and information ethics. In the areas of access to information, both physically and intellectually. A librarian must be able to lead the community in and model finding, analyzing, and using the best available information for the particular information task. A librarian must be able to facilitate and inspire creative communication of information in the most effective formats, and those formats continue to emerge and surprise. [...]



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