Are we there yet?

3 11 2008

post by Barbara B


Minister Gillard appears to like what she sees in the New York City education system under its current administrator, businessman Joel Klein. After a recent interview with Klein on the ABC’s 7.30 report, a couple of Hub members did some research to find out what the implications for teacher librarians and school libraries were if Klein’s ideas are adopted here.

Some responses were disturbing, none were encouraging.

The consistent message was that as more and more responsibility for school administration was given to principals, the more the support for the school library depended on the value the particular principal placed on it. Sound familiar?

In New York City there are few qualified teacher librarians in primary schools – school libraries are generally staffed by teachers or administration staff. Sound familiar?

As principals got more control over the money allocated to their schools, less and less was earmarked to support library programs and purchase resources. Sound familiar?

Every piece of work had to be graded so everything could be put into the melting pot of ‘test scores’ to ‘prove’ that the students were, indeed achieving and improving, and doing better than the neighbouring school. Sound familiar?

The trend in Australia, as Georgia describes in her message, is for education departments to move towards school-based management – in fact Victoria and the ACT are already there and others are not far behind.

So do we already have the NYC experience happening here? Is what they condemn as a huge step backwards already the norm we accept?

Again, the question has to be put … is there a future for teacher librarians?

Who will tell the principals, the parents and the politicians about the power of the school library if we don’t?

Let Australia be the model for New York, not vice versa!


Adele Horin in the Sydney Morning Herald gives further insights into what makes good schools, and it isn’t league tables!  New York schools don’t even rate.




One response

8 11 2008
Sara Paulson

I am a certified media specialist working at a New York City public school. I have a very enlightened principal, Rebecca Marshall, whose understands the research-based gains achieved by schools who have a certified LMS staffing the media center and an adequate budget. We know those two elements are key; the current practice of placing a teacher in the media center is not based on research, but a short-sighted solution that jeopardizes the futures of the lowest achievers, who need access to higher-level thinking tools and learning frameworks.

Why is this happening? Sometimes media centers are still libraries. There is little technology. There is little funding. There is little professional development. A library which is 4 parts books is not the media center that is relevant to 21st century students. Why are we still hanging onto the word library? I am finally ready to leave it behind as there are more and more online reading Web sites like Tumblebooks and OneMoreStory. We need more technological infrastructure, more paperbacks, more graphic novels, and more booktalking of the books on the shelves. We have to move things as media specialists. Move our teachers and move our students, and move our practices into the classroom. We have to circulate media and media-based learning, just like we circulate books–to the students and the staff.

Let’s examine the new AASL standards of the 21st Century Learner. The 5 common beliefs are:
“Reading is a window to the world.”
“Inquiry provides a framework for learning.”
“Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.” “Technology skills are crucial for future employment.”
“Equitable access is a key component for education.”

In order for teacher librarians to have a future, I am certain that we have to see our position, as the common beliefs indicate: one part reading motivation, one part research process, one part media literacy, and in all parts provide a digital learning environment, replete with the newest and most popular digital media tools, paperbacks, and web sites that go along with them, which can bridge the socio-economical gaps that exist in every country.

I am reconfiguring my time and space in accordance with the wants and needs of our digital students, with lessons providing more interaction with different types of media, and allowing students to learn content through creating media. Media centers will survive. Will IT people run them without the inquiry and literacy framework which guides our profession? Let’s hope not, but we need to move fast.

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