Saturday, June 30, 2012

School Libraries in Evolution

With all the many projects, documents, promotions and advocacy activities I enumerated, wouldn't you agree that it is an exciting time to be a school librarian these days? We have seen the personal stories of library clients and users. We have looked at the current research on school library. These are all evidences that our job is relevant. But we need not stop. We have to go on because the landscape of information and business of knowledge creation is ever changing. We cease to grow when we stop recognizing the changes happening around us and we do not act appropriately on it.
        
History has lessons to teach us on this. 


In general, libraries, are very much a part of human history along with the invention of writing and the book. The first to sprout and develop were government, public and university libraries. School libraries are a recent invention. It was not not until the turn of the 19th century that legislation on school libraries took place in the US. It was in 1915 when the American Library Association assigned a division for school libraries now known as the American Association of School Libraries (AASL). 

Thanks to Melvil Dewey for devising the  Dewey Decimal System. We have a way of finding order in chaos. Then, there was also SR Ranganathan, a mathematician by profession who became a librarian not by choice but by chance. His teachings on the 5 Laws of Library Science still speak of enduring truths and philosophy of librarianship. In fact, modern library and information science thinkers have adopted Ranganathan's 5 Laws to address current issues suitable for the practice of the profession. 

These are the 5 Laws as per SR Ranganathan:
 
1.Books are for use.  
2. Every reader his [or her] book.  
3. Every book its reader.  
4. Save the time of the reader.  
5. The library is a growing organism.     

 
Michael Gorman and Walt Crawford made their own variants:

1.  Libraries serve humanity.
2. Respect all forms by which knowledge is communicated.
3. Use technology intelligently to enhance service.
4. Protect free access to knowledge.
5.  Honor the past and create the future.

    
 Let’s play spot the difference. What changes can you see on the 5 Laws of Library Science by SR Ranganathan’s to that of Gorman’s and Crawford’s version? What similarities? Remember, these “laws” were written in different eras and generations. What factors have shaped the evolution of the laws?

While SR Ranganathan’s philosophy of a reader centered library service and a library that continuously grows in terms of collection and programs, Gorman’s and Crawford’s laws take on a perspective of library services that adhere to global citizenship, the moral implications of the profession, and the equitability of information access and creation of knowledge. This change from a stable knowledge base to a more dynamic and participatory nature can be attributed to technology, educational reforms, shifts in paradigms, philosophy and ways of knowing others and the world. 

The school library, in this event of changes and shifting paradigms, has moved emphasis from collection development to student centered services to the development of lifelong learning skills (a belief system). Three ideas are perpetuated in lifelong learning: collaboration; leadership and technology (Information Power, 1998). With these movements, the role of the school librarian takes on new forms. The school librarian is a teacher, an instructional technologist, instructional planner, and a library manager. 
It used to be that library management is the only work expected of us. Even the educational and academic preparations I received from library school taught me skills in running an effective and efficient library. But, the dynamic flow of information and the constant flux by which it is stored, created and communicated has changed all that I learned from university. It is essential that school librarians, you and I, do more than just catalog, classify, keep indexes and orient users on the library, its systems, collection and staff, and conduct inventory at the end of the year. It is imperative that when we collaborate with teachers in the delivery of the school’s instructional programs the library skills instruction that we do, whether embedded with Information Literacy skills or Media Literacy is contextualized on students’ culture and experiences. We need to know the pedagogy and develop macro thinking skills to understand the school’s curriculum. Pedagogy and curriculum are two entities that define our collection development program. When teachers plan their unit lessons, we are with them as instructional consultants, helping them source out resources, both in school and outside the community, and providing them with a wide array of learning tools and technology. Furthermore we function as dialogue partners of teachers and school leaders in discussing methods, strategies and techniques in teaching students with different learning needs and styles. As technological advancements surround and bombard us with all forms and variety of information, school librarians need to be guided by three principles: upholding intellectual freedom; adherence to legal standards; and the observance of professional ethics. 


As a parting shot, here are tips, I wish to share with you to stay relevant.

a. Take care of yourself.

b. Know your heart's desire or your passion as a school librarian.

c. Follow that passion or that desire. Life will reward you. However, as a prerequisite, you have to know how to truly reflect on your desires. In other words, discern.

d. Heed the call of universal goodness.

e. Be a lifelong learner yourself.
Thank you for bearing with me. I hope that I was able to touch on the conference’s themes. Remember, you and I, we are school librarians. We are relevant.

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