Librarians Evolving into Cybrarians
by Janet Murray
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.

Family Resource: Promote positive and creative uses of the Internet to families.3

Sites Cited:


Searching the ’Net

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators

Successful Web Search Strategies

Checklist for an Informational Web Page


School Librarian Web Pages

Access to Electronic Information, Services and Networks, an Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

Applying Big6 Skills and Information Literacy Standards to Internet Research

Parent Internet Education, Baltimore County Public Schools.

Child Safety on the Information Highway

Meeting this challenge demands an understanding of the expanded role of the librarian in schools. Information Power defines four roles for the effective library media specialist.2 That the librarian is a teacher is well understood by those who have met their state’s certification requirements, but not as well understood by other teachers and administrators. Although they do not preside over a self-contained classroom, librarians are an integral part of the students’ learning experience. They help students and teachers define their information needs, locate information in a variety of formats, analyze and evaluate the information, and apply it to construct personal meaning.

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 ( 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.

Internet Navigators
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 (

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 December 1998.4  “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 (, 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 CyberGuides (, 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 ( 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 support.

Program Administrators
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

Staff Developers
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 ( 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.

Family Resources
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 ( 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 students.

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:

1. Janet Murray, “From School Librarian to ‘Information TeAchnician’: A Challenge for the Information Age,” Library Talk, Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing, May/June, 1999, p. 10.
2. Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. American Association of School Librarians and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998, pp. 4-5.
3. Berger, Pam, “ICONnect, You Connect, We All Connect,” MULTIMEDIA SCHOOLS, September/October, 1999, pp.22-27.
4. Kathy Schrock, personal interview, June 23, 1999.
5. Access to Electronic Information, Services and Networks, an Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights,
6. David Lake, “Kids Prefer TV, Books to the Web,” The Industry Standard, July 23, 1999,,1449,6549,00.html?1447.
[Information Today Inc.]
Information Today Home Page
[MultiMedia Schools]
Home Page
[Current Issue]
Current Issue
[Current Issue]

Copyright © 2000, Information Today Inc. All rights reserved.