Archive for the 'library' Category

Persecution of Teacher-Librarians

There have been many groups persecuted throughout history: Galileo, religious groups, ethnic groups, various individuals … and now, today in California, the newest persecuted group is California Teacher-Librarians (also known as School Librarians, Library Media Teachers and Library Media Specialists).

Someone somewhere decided that eliminating school librarians in schools in California would help to reduce the operating costs in schools.  However, schools that eliminate teacher-librarians will soon find that their decision is short sighted and that further information and knowledge deficits will occur in the students we all work together to educate in California.

Hector Tobar of the LA Times eloquently chronicled the treatment of Teacher-Librarians in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  I am not sure why or how a “court” or “inquisition” system was developed in LAUSD but why does any group of educators have to justify their existence like this?  Regardless of the dire economic conditions that exist in California and in public schools, no group of people in any profession should be treated this way.

Listed below are words from those who were there.

Blog posts from “The Library is Not a Fruit”, from Abigail Librarian who live in California and other library bloggers, Cathy Jo Nelson and Joyce Valenza.

The following are posts from CALIB K-12, the teacher-librarian listserv in California (here are the specific posts from below):

1. “I went through my LAUSD interrogation on Wednesday, May 11th.  I am a relatively frequent reader of this listserv and as far as I know LAUSD is the only district in CA to layoff TLs without offering them a position in their primary credential area.  Am I correct about this?  Does anyone know of any other districts who have done this?”

2. “Thank you for writing the timely article about the disgraceful treatment of LAUSD Teacher Librarians. Please be aware that we chose our professions not to get out of the hurly-burly activity of the classroom, but to move into the hurly-burly activity that is in today’s modern school libraries. Here in Bakersfield, within the 18 high school libraries, as well as all over school libraries in California, you will find thousands of classes taking place in the libraries for research projects, checking out library books for Silent Sustained Reading, and students selecting books to read for pleasure and for class assignments. Trust me – if you want a quiet place, most probably you won’t find it in a school library. Also, all of the teacher librarians have broad expertise in teaching information literacy to students. In other words, we teach today’s students how to locate, evaluate and use information ethically, both print and online, for research and other class assignments. Helping students learn how to navigate safely online through the billions of articles on the Internet in order to find trustworthy information is essential to living successfully in the 21st century.“

3. “I think I’ll include articles about LAUSD’s witch hunt the next time I
TEACH the Red Scare and the Salem Witchcraft Trials.”

4. “Ray Bradbury missed the mark in Fahrenheit 451, in which firefighters in
a dystopian future burn books.  As it turns out, it’s not books but
librarians getting burned, and it’s not firefighters but the school
district doing the burning.  One librarian at a time, their careers are
demeaned, their livelihoods shattered, in legal proceedings meant to
show that libraries are not “classes”, and librarians are not
“teachers”, and are therefore expendable.  All to save our dystopian
school district a few bucks, while it squanders millions on new schools
(with new, soon to be empty libraries), grotesquely overpaid
administrators who spent us into this mess in the first place, and
billable hours for the lawyers conducting this sordid little


The future of libraries?

Is there a future for public and school libraries?  There will be if the people who currently work in libraries become the change that is needed.  Joyce Valenza over at the Never Ending Search reminds all of this in her post today.   If you love libraries or work in libraries, this is your clarion call to be the change!

Joyce wrote today:  “I am a huge fan of Seth Godin.  Seth…

  • writes the most popular marketing blog in the world;
  • is the author of the bestselling marketing books of the last decade;
  • speaks to large groups on marketing, new media and what’s next;
  • and is the founder of, a fast-growing recommendation website.

Seth’s brief blog post this morning on the Future of the Library certainly got my attention:

What should libraries do to become relevant in the digital age? They can’t survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don’t want to own (or for reference books we can’t afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That’s not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.

Here’s my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative. Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.”

And then, she added a comment from leading library expert  Mike Eisenberg who said:

It keeps me up at night too – but to me it’s not will the librarians be in a position to be a logical choice, but rather will librarians grab the opportunity. Any librarian employed today IS in the position! They need to embrace a role that focuses on meeting people’s information needs through any and all media, systems, formats, and approaches.

And Joyce concludes:

“Many of you are out there leading change. The revolution can happen.  And it can happen in our blogs, through our tweets, in our libraries. It will not happen if we are asleep at the wheel.  It will not happen if we do not assume responsibility for our own retooling.

This is the year of redefinition.  Frankly, it’s definition or death.  Some of you thought I was cold when I suggested that folks lead, follow, or get out of the way.  I know many of you are out there are working hard.   But it is not about working hard. It is about working smart. It is about marketing. It is about redefining. Before it is too late.  This is the year.”

This is it…
lead, follow or get out of the way!

Dear President-Elect Obama

Congratulations on your election as President of the United States. As I read and learned about the various candidates and issues during this election year, I was especially impressed by your campaign’s use of online technologies. Your website, your online presence including Facebook and MySpace, use of email, your use of Ustream and many other technology tools caused your campaign and message to be more accessible to more people – especially the younger generation. I look forward to watching your transition to the White House with your family and administration, and it will be fun to see a White House with children again. I realize there are some huge challenges ahead for you and your administration that will need your immediate attention.  However, I would like to encourage you to keep education high on your list of priorities. I have been an educator for over 30 years in California and currently work in Fresno County in Central California, one of the poorest counties in the west. On this day following your election, I began thinking about a few areas of K-12 education that your administration may want to consider as you set the course for our future.

First, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has focused attention on the importance of student achievement in K-12 schools across the nation and this should continue. Having schools and states identify how well all groups of students are learning is important. One adjustment in NCLB should be the way students, schools and states are measured. Although the goal should be 100% of students meeting minimum standards and graduating from high school, this is not happening. The model should change to be a “continuous growth” model where schools should be rewarded for showing this achievement growth. Currently, the NCLB “deficit” model is not working – people who work in the school districts where I live identify their schools by whether they are in “Program Improvement” or not, instead of by student success stories. We should be building on school successes and highlighting the best practices in our schools.  Research has shown that regardless of socioeconomic or ethnicity or native language, all students can learn if given enough time, resources and knowledgeable teachers.

Secondly, there is a drop out crisis in the United States. It is unimaginable to me that at this time in our history that we would be seeing 50% of various ethnic groups dropping out of high school without a diploma. In our generation, there was never any question as to whether we would earn a high school diploma or not. The Gates Foundation sponsored a very insightful report entitled “The Silent Epidemic” about high school drop outs and America’s Promise Alliance (supported by Colin and Alma Powell) have highlighted the issues and some of the potential solutions. Within the Department of Education, Secretary Spellings recently released a uniform way to count drop outs which has been needed.  Additionally, the Office of Innovation and Improvement have helped to maintain several competitive grant programs such as the Teaching American History grant. Developing competitive grants to help stem the tide of high school dropouts would be one way to begin to resolve this issue.

Third, every child in our schools should have access to computers and the Internet for learning. And teachers should have the same access. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the International Society for Technology in Education have highlighted and researched the reasons why access to technology is so important. There have been grant programs in the past that not only support the purchase and maintenance of technology, but also in hiring the people to learn how best to use this technology and then to teach others how use it for teaching and learning.

Online learning is one of the fastest growing areas in high school education – last year there were over 1 million high school students who took an online course. There needs to be federal policies that encourage the development of this type of education because it promises to provide greater access to education – and a high school diploma – to more students. The North American Council for Online Learning is the leading organization that has provided much of the research regarding K-12 online learning. Two important books to read are Disrupting Class and Grown Up Digital, both published in 2008. These books discuss education, the importance of personalized education, and the type of education that can be provided to the digital generation.

Finally, school and public libraries are the places in schools and communities where any person at any age can freely access resources – both print and digital. Over the years, libraries have gone through a transition and expanded their services to include the digital resources that so many of us use every day in our work. Part of the reason that school and public libraries continue to expand their services is because of dedicated professional librarians who provide programs, interact with students/customers, and purchase needed resources based on local community needs. In order for this important work to continue, school and public libraries need the resources to make this happen. The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services has provided some of these resources, but these funds have not gone far enough to provide the needed professional personnel and resources to adequately educate the students in K-12 schools for the 21st century. One source of guidance in this direction is the American Association of School Librarians, who just released these Standards for the 21st Century Learners.

I appreciate the opportunity to freely write down these thoughts because of the freedoms set forth many years ago by our country’s founders. If there is any way I can help with these suggested directions, feel free to blog, email or call. This investment in education will provide all students in the United States what they need to become more competitive and successful in this world economy.

Blue Skunk on Copyright and a lawsuit

Blue Skunk Johnson did a great job of challenging all of us at last night’s SL gathering about the librarian’s role with copyright.  The text of his talk is here.  While enjoying the wonderful surroundings of the American Library Association Island, Blue talked about many things related to copyright and issued a variety of suggestions.   The ones the resonated most with me include:  teach the things you CAN do with copyright and when in doubt, error on the side of the user.  I thought Doug did a great job of covering all of the “sacred cows” us librarians have always been taught about.  I certainly do agree that there are more important things to worry about other than copyright and that we should not see ourselves as the copyright cops!  He concluded by suggesting that copyright is both a legal and moral issue – much like the moral decision made by Rosa Parks.  During the question and answer time, we learned that the Center for Social Media at American University and the Temple University Media Lab are doing ongoing research to lead the discussion about what is ok under current copyright law and what needs to be changed.

So, I was satisfied about the new learning and direction I had about copyright thanks to Doug,  Joyce Valenza, Scott McLeod and others, and then I read about this lawsuit.   Seems that this company, “How I Got an A” hires college students to take notes of lectures and then puts together lecture notes and study guides that other students can purchase.   University of Florida Professor Michael Moulton is suing the company.  His lawyer says:

But James Sullivan, Faulkner Press’ attorney, says the suit isn’t about money for the professors, it’s about protecting its intellectual property.

“Students are buying a particular note packet to do well on a particular exam by a particular professor,” Sullivan said. “The commercial appeal of the product is that it is a copy or close derivative work of that professor’s intellectual property.”

Apparently this company, after putting all of these notes together in study packets, then sells them to students, and then “puts a copyright notice on the cheat sheets and prints its material with black ink on dark green paper in an attempt to thwart photocopying.”

It doesn’t seem like this one passes the “smell” test…and it will be interesting to see what transpires.

Copy-right or copy-wrong or copy-out-of-date?

Doug Johnson over at Blue Skunk Blog has been tackling one of the “sacred cows” of librarianship – copyright. First he started with, “If I can’t get it legally is it OK to steal it?”, this resulted in 20 comments and then he posted “Does the intangible have value?“, then next was “The subversive view of copyright” where he said “I say go ahead and download YouTube videos regardless of what the “terms” say.” Then his next post was “Reaction to my rant about copyright” where he discussed reactions to his previous posts. Today, in his post entitled “Paradox land” he says, “The teaching of copyright and other intellectual property issues is overdue for an overhaul in our schools.”

So, I have been following the posts and comments about copyright and have been cogitating what the answer may or may not be.  Recently, our Clovis library staff recently discussed if it was ok to purchase a DVD from a local store and then show it in classrooms (because local stores sell DVDs and videos for a lot less – up to $30 less – than purchasing through a company who specializes in selling educational videos that come with permissions for school use). Most agreed that it was NOT ok to do this – and several produced documents they had purchased over the years to allow them to show purchased videos to classrooms and whole school gatherings, if needed. In my comment to Doug, I shared this story and then he said he thought it was OK to purchase videos at local stores as long as they are for educational use!

As a school librarian for the past 15 years, and growing into the digital age with the kids I worked with, more and more stuff was on the web, and copyright issues became more and more of a challenge – not so black and white when everything was just in print.  I remember all the teachers at the school created their own web pages, many of which were updated daily. One teacher used images from Disney. Another teacher at the same school logged into the teacher’s website, and impersonating a Disney lawyer, posted a comment which basically said “remove the Disney images or we will take legal action”. The teacher removed the images worried she had broken copyright because of this false posting.

As I was mulling over this question, I listened to the most recent “Women of the Web” podcast while working out at the gym today. The ladies interviewed Patrick Higgins, Director of Curriculum for Humanities and former history teacher, in Sparta Township Public School District in New Jersey.  After hearing the conversation, I wanted to read more about him, so checked out his blog.  His most recent blog post lead me to Lawrence Lessig’s (Lessig is the a professor at Stanford and on the Board for Creative Commons, an alternative to copyright) presentation at TED 2007, where he discusses, of all things – copyright!

I think this presentation from March 2007 (and posted to YouTube in Nov 2007) sums up where I stand on the issue. Among the many things he said, I think this is the most important: “ this connects to our kids – they are different from us – we made mixed tapes, they remix music; we watched TV, they make TV – it is technology that has made them different – recognize that you can’t kill the instinct that technology we can only criminalize it – we can’t stop our kids from using it, we can only drive it underground – we can’t make our kids passive again, we can only make them “pirates”.  Ordinary people live life against the law – this is what we are doing to our kids.  That realization is…extraordinarily corrupting and in a democracy we ought to be able to do better…” This 20 minute presentation says it all:

And, following this, I began preparing for a professional development morning for kindergarten teachers on Tuesday, and downloaded a YouTube video to use to introduce the morning, because YouTube is filtered out in the school district so the only way to show a video is to save it to my computer.

Darn, I missed it!

Two renowned members of our school library profession were featured last night on “Women of the Web“, a bi-weekly conversation and podcast of important educational issues.  The two people featured were Doug Johnson and Joyce Valenza.  I had seen on my Twitter network yesterday that they were going to be featured, but got tied up with other things.  The good news is that anyone can listen (free)  to the conversation about books, technology and the future right here.   All the links discussed are here.  And, luckily, I have Women of the Web that will automatically download to my itunes, so I will listen to what I’m sure was a great conversation later this week.

Even though I have not listened to the recording, I’m sure it was an awesome presentation!  We should figure out ways to do more library related conversations like this in the future.

And, thanks to the great work of Vicki Davis,  Sharon Peters, Cheryl Oakes and Jennifer Wagner for their great work with Women of the Web.  Everyone should listen into their great conversations either live or through their ipods.

Library access!

This blog post from the Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller, which is part of the Education Week website, clearly identifies the importance of school libraries, access to books, and adequate funding.  Bottom line:  access to books increases student achievement.

Flickr Photos