|Librarians Evolving into Cybrarians|
Information Specialist • Nile C. Kinnick High School • Yokosuka, Japan
|MultiMedia Schools • March/April 2000|
Many teachers and administrators do not yet realize that librarians have precisely the training and skills needed to implement information-literacy skills in the curriculum. The traditional library school provided instruction in organizing information (cataloging), evaluating materials (selection), and formulating research questions (conducting reference interviews).
School librarians have a unique opportunity to adapt their professional skills to meet the challenges of the Information Age. As electronic access to information proliferates in schools, librarians can model the adventure of lifelong learning by teaching faculty and students how to search the Internet for pertinent information, evaluate the reliability of information retrieved, analyze and synthesize the information to construct personal meaning, and apply it to informed decision-making. Library/media centers can be transformed from static repositories of print and audiovisual materials into dynamic and evolving information technology centers.1
|New Roles for Librarians
Navigator: Learn to navigate and effectively search the Internet.
Teacher and Collaborator: Collaborate with teachers to design and implement authentic learning activities that utilize Internet resources.
Evaluator: Develop evaluation tools and actively integrate evaluation into the curriculum.
Publisher: Create resource guides that assist students, teachers, administrators, and parents to find quality Internet sites that are relevant to the curriculum.
Program Administrator: Work collaboratively with members of the learning community to develop program policies related to Internet use.
Staff Developer: Take a lead role in teaching faculty and administration to use the Internet effectively and to integrate Internet use into the curriculum.
Promote positive and creative uses of the Internet to families.3
Searching the ’Net
Kathy Schrock’s Guide
Access to Electronic
Information, Services and Networks, an Interpretation of the Library Bill
Applying Big6 Skills
and Information Literacy Standards to Internet Research
Parent Internet Education,
Baltimore County Public Schools.
Child Safety on the Information
Effective librarians are instructional partners with the teachers in their school. They collaborate with teachers to refine information-seeking assignments, encouraging the development of those that foster critical thinking. They identify the cross-curricular connections that are essential to interdisciplinary learning. They share their awareness of information, communication, and technology components of state and national standards to help teachers integrate them into their curriculum.
Librarians are information specialists and information generalists. They may not know the answer to a specific question, but they know where and how to find it. They select materials and electronic resources to support the curriculum and enrich the information environment of the school. They provide leadership in the adoption and use of information technologies.
Finally, librarians are program administrators who establish policies and procedures in their media or information technology centers, introduce new technologies to access information, balance their expenditures between print and other resources, and manage the use of facilities and equipment.
The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) amplifies and clarifies these roles, particularly as they apply to Internet use, in its online resource, ICONnect (http://www.ala.org/ICONN). ICONnect also provides electronic “tours” to help librarians become skillful in these roles.
As information access becomes
increasingly computerized, the school librarian will be responsible for
introducing new technologies to her teaching colleagues and students, enabling
and empowering them to adopt information-literacy strategies that will
make them independent lifelong learners. A few brief examples will illustrate
how librarians have adopted each of the roles described by ICONnect.
Oregon library media specialists collaborated on a series of Web pages designed to introduce Internet search strategies to teachers and to provide them with activities to use with their students. “Searching the Net” pages were designed to help structure the way students think about their research before they search by providing a sequenced series of short exercises and explanations (http://www.teleport.com/~janetm/oii/search.html).
Most librarians remember
when the 3x5 card was a ubiquitous tool. Kathy Schrock put it to good use,
assembling a box of 400 old catalog cards listing her favorite gopher sites
on their flip sides. When the graphical interface of the World Wide Web
came to her town in 1995, a local Internet service provider offered her
free space on his Web server to publish her list. So she taught herself
HTML (the language that allows text on a Web page to be linked to other
Web sites) and created Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators, indexing and
annotating the sites she found most useful in schools. Aware that many
users new to the Internet were overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information
available, she attempted to bring order to the chaos caused by the unrestrained
and undisciplined growth of the World Wide Web. Essentially, she “shared
her bookmark file with the world.” Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators
now contains over 1,600 links to educational Web sites suitable for use
in schools. The Discovery Channel School has hosted her Web site since
“Successful Web Search Strategies,” her presentation at the 1998 National
Educational Computing Conference, provides a valuable overview of searching
on the Internet.
Teachers and Collaborators
In my own experience, I have found the most effective method of introducing electronic resources in schools is to “hook” the students, who are eager adopters of technology. Long ago, the first electronic resource I provided in my middle school library was a free cable feed of text-based news. As students shared with their teachers the printouts of stories they found interesting, the “news” spread—here was a valuable and timely source of international news from a variety of providers.
Before the World Wide Web
existed, we had access to Internet gopher servers and public library resources,
but this text-based hierarchical format was a “tough sell” to teachers
who found the servers difficult to navigate. The introduction of the Web’s
graphical user interface made a substantial difference in teachers’ enthusiasm
for using the Internet with their students. Before addressing a class in
the library, I collaborate with the teacher to identify Internet sites
that will be useful to fulfill their assignments. By listening to my presentation
to the students, the teacher also learns.
Rapidly expanding access to the Internet compels school librarians to emphasize the importance of evaluating information retrieved. In an electronic publishing environment that allows anyone to create Web pages, it is imperative that students and teachers examine information sources with a critical eye. The standards that librarians have traditionally applied to print and audiovisual materials are also valid in an electronic setting. Students should consider the authority of the site, identifying the author and his qualifications as well as the organization that sponsors the site. Students should also do the following: Assess the accuracy and objectivity of the information provided by distinguishing among facts, point of view, and opinion, and consider the currency of information by checking revision dates. Finally, students need to evaluate the relevance of the information; it is easy to lose track of one’s original research question when confronted with an overwhelming profusion of resources.
Checklist for an Informational
Web Page (http://www2.widener.edu/Wolfgram-Memorial-Library/inform.htm),
created by a university librarian, is particularly valuable in this context,
offering a means to structure instruction in evaluation techniques. Karen
McLachlan, Library Media Specialist at East Knox High School, Ohio, developed
useful checklists of Web elements that are important for schools.
Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators is the ultimate Web resource to help students, teachers, administrators, and parents locate quality Internet sites relevant to the curriculum. Organized by subject, it includes traditional content areas such as history and mathematics, as well as holidays, Kidstuff, and educational resources. Kathy has also been generous in sharing her conference presentations. She is an exceptional role model for librarians who are evolving into cybrarians.
Peter Milbury’s School Librarian
Web Pages (http://wombat.cusd.chico.k12.ca.us/~pmilbury/lib.html)
demonstrates the extent of school librarians’ leadership in emerging electronic
publications. In collaboration with Mike Eisenberg, Peter established and
maintains the LM_NET discussion list that provides an online forum for
library media specialists to exchange information and to provide mutual
Librarians also have been particularly proactive in identifying and analyzing issues pertaining to Internet use. In January 1996, The American Library Association adopted “Access to Electronic Information, Services and Networks, an Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.” It draws upon previous interpretations to guide libraries in the development of policy, notably:
Providing connections to global information, services, and networks is not the same as selecting and purchasing material for a library collection. Determining the accuracy or authenticity of electronic information may present special problems. Some information accessed electronically may not meet a library’s selection or collection development policy. It is, therefore, left to each user to determine what is appropriate. Parents and legal guardians who are concerned about their children’s use of electronic resources should provide guidance to their own children.5
Focusing on the World Wide Web as the content for a professional development effort delivered by the library media specialist accomplishes several goals. As a high-profile application of instructional technology, it is likely to attract participants who have been made aware of its potential through the media or the enthusiasm of their colleagues and students. The Web’s hypertext structure supports a nonlinear instructional approach, allowing the library media specialist to introduce techniques such as collaborative learning and inquiry-based projects. Finally, as an obvious source for supplementary curricular materials, the Web provides him with a vehicle to form teaching partnerships with his classroom teachers and establish himself as an instructional leader.
Many teachers have told me that they have been intimidated by technology-based instruction because of its heavy reliance on technical language and the tendency of computer “gurus” to focus on the tools rather than the participants. Internet novices, who may be timid about approaching the mysteries of cyberspace and anxious about their technical skills, need the encouragement and reassurance the librarian can provide. It is critical that these novices receive timely responses to their inquiries and continuing support for their explorations.
Currently, our most important
challenge is how to share our understanding of the national information
literacy standards with our teaching colleagues. Teachers who use the Big6
Skills may acquire an appreciation of the national information literacy
standards by seeing them in a familiar framework. Teachers who have not
yet used World Wide Web resources to support student research may be more
enthusiastic if they can see the experience as a way to learn information
problem-solving skills. Applying Big6 Skills and Information Literacy Standards
to Internet Research (http://www.surfline.ne.jp/janetm/big6info.htm)
connects the Big6 Skills to indicators from the national information literacy
standards and links to hands-on activities so each step in the research
process can be applied.
A 1999 study conducted by Arbitron NewMedia reveals that “even though most parents recognize they have a role to play in introducing their children to the Net, many remain baffled by how to cope with the Net’s rapid growth. . . . Seventy-one percent of parents surveyed expressed concern about their child’s Web use and believe that supervision is necessary.” 6
Della Curtis, coordinator of the Baltimore County (Maryland) Public Schools Office of Library Information Services, surveyed 8,000 parents to determine what they already knew, what they wanted to learn, and how they currently use the Internet with their children. Then she organized a Family Internet Expo and enlisted a writing team of school and public librarians, community members, and law enforcement representatives to create the curriculum for Parent Internet Education workshops offered in the local schools.
ICONnect’s “FamiliesConnect” helps to educate family members about the technologies their children are using and guides them to the best resources. Through this site, parents can learn about issues such as copyright regulations and filtering software. Child Safety on the Information Highway (http://www.4j.lane.edu/safety) is a useful resource for allaying parental fears about the use of Internet in schools and homes.
Today’s school librarian
is a collaborative instructional partner who teaches information processing
skills and supervises a program designed to empower information literate
Communications to the
author may be addressed to Janet Murray, Kinnick High School, PSC 473 Box
95, FPO AP 96349-0095 or by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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