Meme: “You’d better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, For the times they are a changin'”

With this blog reaching its first birthday (my first post was August 22, 2005!), I got to thinking about how the library and the classroom have changed for many of us in the last couple of years.

I got to thinking about how incredibly dramatic the change has been since I first got out of library school in 1976 and then when I had to do that masters over again for my educational credential in 1988. But the changes occurring between 1976 and 1988, when the PC and automation were just becoming ubiquitous in libraries, had nothing on the changes we were to see in the last five, no the last 2 years!

I see an urgent need for librarians to retool. We cannot expect to assume a leadership role in information technology and instruction, we cannot claim any credibility with students, faculty, or administrators if we do not recognize and thoughtfully exploit the paradigm shift of the past two years.

I started playing around with a chart to record the changes and help plan for the future. I invite you all to help me refine this chart. It is very rough! Here’s a slightly neater version.

How life has changed since I left library school.

How should practice respond

Things that have changed

When left library school

preservice  (1976/1988?)

2006/ 2007

 School Year

Implications for Future? Learners, Educators, Schools?

Library Profession?

Most used reference sources Encyclopedias and almanacs, Readers’ Guide, CD-ROM Databases, books, magazines, newspapers Wikipedia, Google,, MapQuest, subscription databases, ebooks Need to introduce a fuller information toolkit.  Need to promote lesser known or used tools—subscription databases, alternate search tools, ebooks. Potential for an information underclass!  Need to help students determine where to start.  Need for high quality federated searching to cut through the noise?  May need to promote the value of books for some projects.
How we most often communicate Letters, phone calls, email through Pine and other text-based systems Cell phones, texting, email, IM, Skype (VOIP), social networking (MySpace, Friendster, FaceBook, Elgg), telecommunications, blogs, wikis, Web goes two ways Librarians need to communicate with users using emerging tools. Blended service and instruction.  Two-way communications. Learner-centered/learner empowered environment 


Reference service Reference service at the desk, in-person reference interview, Mudge Guide to Reference Books Students expect immediate interaction and 24/7 information service. Students expect independence in information access—on home PCs at any hour of day.  Some libraries and states offer IM and email reference Users expect information and services to be immediate. Need for blended service in the form of Web sites, blogs, pathfinders customized to meet students’ information and developmental needs. Need for extended just-in-time, just-for-me guidance/intervention.  Libraries should aim to be a window on students’ home desktops. Virtual library as customized information landscape.
Options for student projects, learning Student projects: term papers, Hypercard, dioramas, essays, speeches, debates, etc. Term papers, essays, speeches, debates, etc. PowerPoint, websites, learning objects, podcasts, video editing, Internet2, wikis, blogs, digital storytelling, WebQuests, I2 and teleconferencing bring authors, experts, performances in and connect teachers and learners with remote partners.  Learning can be face-to-face, online synchronous, asynchronous.  Growth of distance learning options Librarians must partner with classroom teachers to create projects relevant to 21st century learning using emerging tools for communication. What is the best communication tool for the project?  How can we use these new tools for teaching, practicing, and reflecting on information fluency?
Audience for student work / writing Teacher’s eyes only, class presentation, file cabinet Website, podcasts, wikis, blogs, digital portfolio–open potential global audience Student work can easily be public, global! How does shifted and expanded audience change approach, instruction, motivation? 

(Need for caution/instruction about “stickyness” of student personal and other writing.  Admissions officers and potential employers are watching.)

What we know about how learners learn Move away from fact memorization, right answers, textbook reliance, and reporting to constructivism. Move away from “frontal” teaching, group projects, inquiry, essential questions Influence of brain research / cognitive science. Learning is: multidisciplinary, social, multi-intelligence (Gardner), potential for gaming/simulations, brain needs to “pattern”, every brain different, learning styles vary, importance of building on prior knowledge, application of knowledge, real world, growth of relevant service learning, learner-centered, community-centered, problem-based How do we use what we know about learning to partner with teachers to create effective learning activities?  What role will collaboratively created e-books, new media, a.i., gaming play?  How will we design learning environments that work?
How we and our students find out about books and other new materials? Bestseller lists, recommendation lists from organizations, book review journals, Amazon & other online booksellers, push technology suggestions, mega-bookstores, book trailers, book review blogs Need to promote and solicit suggestions for materials in new ways.  Interactive forms? Encourage student/teacher book blogging? Student-produced book trailers?
Understandings about intellectual property Copyright laws Copyright laws, Multimedia Fair Use Guidelines, Tassini decision Creative Common Licence, Open Source, copyright-friendly portals for sharing content Need to teach new world of information ethics.  Copyright options are expanding for creators. How do we guide learners to copyright-friendly options? How do we behave responsibly?
Students and intellectual property / academic integrity MLA (and other) books and handouts, teachers and librarians check for plagiarism by searching through print sources Tools like turnitin, bibliographic format available on the Web, citation generators, Google as an originality check. Need for instruction and guidelines in respecting intellectual property in a cut-and-paste, mixed, mash-up world. Need to define appropriate levels of collaboration.
Evaluation Resources limited. Evaluation simplified by formal, vetted publishing process. Print sources—books, magazines, journals, newspapers—well-know to teachers and librarians.  Relatively easy assessment of credibility, authority, relevance, scope. Resources vast—choices among formats explode.  Multiple voices available. Anyone can author content.  New challenges in assessing credibility and authority.  Read/Write Web 2.0 facilitates immediate power of the citizen as author. No more black and white evaluation rules! Need to teach about how to evaluate for particular information task. Notions of authority are shifting.  Need to annotate to explain some information choices. How do we learn to evaluate blogs, wikis, shared video, podcasts, etc?
Understandings about cataloging Sears and LC Subject headings Sears and LC, and access to computer cataloging services.  And: meta–tagging, tags, folksonomies. Emerging strategies for tagging non-print media—images, film, music Need to rethink ineffective cataloging schemes to recognize power of keywords and tags that make sense to users.  Need to teach about tags, RSS, etc. as new ways to locate relevant information. Cookery—India no longer plays!  Personalization of the OPAC?
How we get news 3 major news channels, newspapers, weekly news magazines 


24-hour news, 100s of channels on television, websites, blogs, RSS, push news, access to global news sources for multiple perspectives, news portals gather content in varying formats Need for pathfinders to lead learners to news sources they will need for particular projects
Standards Information Power  released in 1988—new focus on information literacy IP2 released in 1998 

ETS releases ICT Literacy Assessments, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, ISTE’s NETS for Students, Teachers, Administrators, release of state and national content area standards

How do we use new tools to deliver both content and process standards?
Intellectual freedom Books have been challenged and sometimes banned from collections Challenges of all sorts.  DOPA threatens access to Web 2.0 tools, filters required for e-rate  funding Increasing need to protect student access to information.  Need more complicated in a political environment motivated by fear of new tools.
What our collection looks like Books, magazines, filmstrips, cassette tapes, 16 mm movies, software on disk Books, ebooks, streaming audio, streaming video, blogs, Webcasts, podcasts, wikibooks, open source, software & Web-based apps Need to create signage, guides, pathfinders for new additions to “collection.”  How will we lead students and teachers to them most effectively?
What our space looks like Traditional shelves—books, magazines, videocassettes,  reference workstations

Much of reference is moving online, video and audio streaming, still need for fiction and nonfiction Increasing need for group, creative production space—iMovie, podcasting, blogging. Library as group planning/collaborating space. Library as performance, presentation space. Library as event-central, telecommunications, remote author/expert visit space.  Library continues as study/reading/gathering/cultural space.
What we loan Books, videocassettes, audiocassettes, magazines Traditional items & ebooks, digital audio, laptops, memory sticks, digital cameras, etc. Budgets and policies need to recognize students’ new needs for learning materials.
Need for retooling / How we retool Every five years or so 

Professional journals, conferences

Frequent!  Professional journals, conferences, virtual conferences, Webcasts, professional blogs, collaborating through professional wikis. Learning happens between annual conferences.  Blogs publish professional news, new strategies before it can travel through traditional publishing process.  (Essential strategies for keeping up!) Attend conferences without traveling—viewing keynotes online.  Use tools like Hitchhikr, visit sources like EdTechTalk
Typical assessment High stakes testing, beginning of project-based assessments High stakes testing + growing recognition of need for alternate, authentic performance-based assessment.  High stakes backlash beginning Need to move schools beyond knowledge needed to pass one or two high stakes tests.  Digital portfolios more practical option for performance-based assessment. Students need to solve problems, make decisions, collaborate, and communicate effectively with traditional and emerging tools. 


21 thoughts on “Meme: “You’d better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, For the times they are a changin'”

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  2. Joyce:
    Your chart is brilliant, and a wonderful tool for discussions. Any possibility you could republish it as a single document (rather than just a blogpost), so that we could print it out and mull over it?
    As it is now on the blog, the right-hand column gets clipped and is hard to read.

  3. Hey Joyce –
    I love your chart. As I was updating my “high tech learning” course for this fall, I realized it was time to delete the old course entirely and start from scratch. My new focus is on combining the building blocks of information technology (text, graphics, photography, audio, video, animation, VR) with the opportunities of Web 2.0 applications (i.e. collaborative, participatory, interactive, and social technologies) to create dynamic learning spaces.
    After seeing your chart, I think it’s time to start from scratch on some other courses too. Check out my new way of thinking about technology, schools, and libraries at

  4. Joyce, you always give us a lot to think about!

    I graduated from library school with an MLS in 1973–and it wasn’t my first career, either. Here are a couple more changes, from my perspective:

    Evaluating the library: In 1973, everyone knew what a library was and anyone could stand at the door and look inside the room and see what the library contained. Libraries were evaluated by input–how many titles and how many chairs per student, for instance. Today, although you can still count the chairs, and you do hear references to the number of books per student, libraries are evaluated more in terms of output–what students know and can do. Implications? The librarian needs to know more and be able to teach better than ever before.

    Evaluating the library collection: In 1973, library collections were modeled on the Wilson standard catalogs and reviewers still recommended titles “for your permanent collection.” Today, “the collection” consists of not only the visible materials and subscription databases, but also the librarian’s skill in searching the internet and using various kinds of online files. Implications? The librarian needs to know more and be able to learn more than ever before.

    IMHO, it is more important than ever that the librarian be a highly-trained, independent, lifelong learner.

  5. What a concise way of listing things. Although I didn’t graduate quite so far back 🙂 I can’t believe how much has changed and so fast. . . makes you wonder what things will be like in another 10 years!

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  7. …And much of this chart is applicable to schools in general – not just libraries. And yet so many of our classrooms have changed very little. I can’t remember who I am plagiarizing here (perhaps David Warlick?) – but I have hear it said that if someone from the last century were to suddenly time-travel to a future work environment, they would not be able to function – unless they were a teacher. A 19th century factory worker would not be able to function in a 21st century factory, a 19th century business person would be lost in an office today. 19th century health care workers would not know how to use the new technology available. But drop a 19th century teacher into a typical “modern” classroom – and they would barely miss a beat. Now I recognize that is not true for many schools. But many of us still do not have wired classrooms or much wherewithal to teach our students how to function in this new learning environment. Too many schools are just happy if they can pass those high stakes tests. I definitely plan to share this with my school’s “flat world” committee. There is so much to think about here…..

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  11. Wow! I am about to graduate with my MLIS, and I think the deans should be looking at this chart. I didn’t even learn about the term Web 2.0 until I started monitoring this site for my YA Resources class….

    Another observation/question for all you experienced librarians- everything I’ve studied on Academic librarianship (and I’ve interned in Electronic Resources at a very large well-known university) indicates that school libraries are way ahead in using Web 2.0 tech for pedagogical purposes. I’m not sure Academic libraries even seem very interested in it– their limit appears to be Electronic Resources, and teaching Info Lit in electronic classrooms. Am I off base here?

  12. Interesting observations, Martha, and I am honored to be one of those from whom you are learning!

    Not having ever worked in the academic setting, it would be hard to answer your question. In K12 I have always been expected to lead the way regarding information and communication technology in my building. I wonder if the same is true in the university.

  13. As a School Media Specialist in Training, I found your list to be insightful and thought-provoking. It is a reminder of some of the lessons we are touching on and that, I hope, we will remember as we enter this amazing profession–we are in a dynamic field that has potential for making a huge difference–for our students, for our colleagues–and possibly, hopefully, beyond. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. Joyce;
    Excellent chart. How about adding something about the difference we see now in the students that come to our schools. Sutdents now often come to schools with a certain worldliness that we may not have ourselves. Some are global travelers. Many are media saavy in a way that students were not in the 70’s. Many have had experiences (both good and bad) that are not a part of the middle class lifestyle from which so many educators come. Implications for Educators? Maybe we need to remind ourselves that we are not the “sage on the stage” which is still the model for so many teachers. We also need to approach all of our students with respect for their individual learning styles and experiences, take them from wherever they are and move them along from there.

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