In praise of school librarians

We seem to be going through strange times. The Government cutbacks are here and there are some quick fixes that schools may think they can make.

One of the quick fixes is to cut the role of the librarians and the teacher-librarians. THis is something that I find hard to understand.

The librarian has moved on a lot since the portrayal of the small Welsh town librarian by Peter Sellers in the film “Only Two Can Play“. In this film we see the sorter of books, the stamper of books the little man who constantly keeps the few citizens of the town who have taken the trouble to visit the library deathly quiet.

It is the library of my youth with rows of little cards held in alphabetically sorted trays and an overused inkpad where the date of return is entered into the book. There were a few magazines and a “reference” section which was in a separate part of the library and contained the old dusty encyclopaedias and dictionaries, atlases and other important sources of ancient knowledge that was not thought fit to be lent out to the public.

This has changed now. The internet has changed all that for good. The librarian is not just a sorter of books and an occasional advisor on where to get information. They are “information experts” who have taken the time to study the vast world that is the internet.

The ability for our children to navigate the sea of information that the internet is has become the key skill in education for the forseeable future. It’s importance cannot be underestimated. There is now an endless and ever-growing virtual library that includes text, sound and video. There are lies, damned lies and dodgy statistics. There is a real need for students to be taught how to study effectively using the web. Everything cannot come down to the inevitable Google Search and cutting and pasting large chunks of information that may be unvalidated.

Which is where the librarian and especially the new breed of teacher-librarian plays such a significant part. It is a completely false economy to feel that these people are the first who should be cut from the school budgets… in many ways they are the last who should be if the dreaded cuts are necessary.

One of the things that I have written about on quite a few occasions in this blog is the 1 to 1 Laptop use by the Van Meter Schools in Iowa. It was their wonderful teacher-librarian, Shannon Miller who first got me involved with the school because of her excellent site The Van Meter Library Voice she is a great example of someone who has become an invaluable part of a school system that is transforming itself into a state-of-the-art education for its children.. they would freely admit that they couldn’t have done it without her!

I will conclude with a plea therefore for all of us to fight for the librarians and teacher librarians (and indeed for the librarians in colleges and universities) who are an essential part of a quality 21st century education for all our futures!

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About malbell

I am a retired Teaching and Learning Consultant. Previously I was a Primary school headteacher and deputy headteacher. I enjoy reading, doing MOOCs and learning new things.
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1 Response to In praise of school librarians

  1. Mark Moran says:

    Terrific commentary, Malcolm. Students do indeed need school librarians like Shannon Miller and Buffy Hamilton (pictured at the top) to guide them through the ever-expanding avalanche of research options. And indeed, most teachers need their support, as well. I wrote about this on Forbes.com a few months ago, and it was one of the most read articles on the site for nearly a week. We need to keep making these arguments until they are generally understood.

    http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/22/moran-librarian-skills-intelligent-investing-google.html

    Like

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