ERIC Identifier: ED446769
Publication Date: 2000-11-00
Author: Lowe, Carrie A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information and Technology Syracuse NY.
The Role of the School Library Media Specialist in the 21st
Century. ERIC Digest.
In 1988, the American Library Association published its monograph about
school library media standards, Information Power. This publication, along with
its follow-up published in 1998, provide an extremely helpful road map to guide
educators into the next century. Information Power underscores the importance of
the role of the library media specialist in producing well-rounded, information
Information Power does more than offer an inspiring vision of the future of
library media specialists in the school. The authors provide standards for
information literacy learning, as well as indicators for each standard. These
standards create goals for all educators.
TECHNOLOGY AND OPPORTUNITY
What kinds of technology tools
will be available to schools in the near future? Some trends appear clear-we
will have more connectivity and technology that is customized to individual
needs. Technology will be integrated seamlessly. Processing tools, communication
tools, and information tools will be connected with common access mechanisms and
interfaces. Clearly, future technology will present a special challenge and
opportunity for education.
Library media specialists are part of the solution. As noted, librarians are
the original information specialists. We call this "the information
perspective," and it means that library media specialists look at curriculum,
assignments, and learning in terms of the information resources, processes, and
technologies required for student success. Library media professionals have
tried to teach students to consider the information resources they need and then
to use the appropriate access technology to find resources and information.
Library media specialists have been pioneers in teaching information skills
and integrating technology skills into the information problem-solving process.
One of the most popular approaches to integrated information and technology
skills is the Big6 approach, developed by Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz
(1988). The Big6 approach is a six stage, non-linear model for information
problem-solving. The Big6 and other models of the information process (such as
those by Kuhlthau, 1993; Stripling and Pitts, 1988; and Pappas and Tepe, 1995)
define the path that students take to solve information problems. When the focus
is on the problem-solving aspects of learning, technology assumes its rightful
place as a tool.
CHALLENGES FOR LIBRARY MEDIA SPECIALISTS
professor of education at the University of Nebraska, refers to library media
specialists as "invisible" professionals (1997). He argues that in many school
districts, library media specialists should be participants in the decisions
affecting technology, curriculum, and resources at the school and district
level. He also points to the widespread trend of cutting library budgets and, in
some cases, library media positions to ease school financial problems.
Hartzell points out that there are very few courses in any major school of
education in this country that focus on the use of library and information in
learning and teaching. Few teacher training programs mention the roles of the
library media program and the library and information professional at all. Some
library media specialists are reluctant to promote themselves to fellow
educators and the school administration because they do not clearly communicate
the nature and role of library and information work.
Library media specialists need to do a better job of clearly articulating
their roles in preparing students for the information- and technology-rich
workplace of the future. It is essential for library media specialists to commit
themselves to the central principles that define their roles as information
specialists and educators-helping students to achieve optimum use of information
* Principle One: School libraries have
no boundaries. The "library" is not a place; rather, library is everywhere. This
means that school library media specialists should not be cloistered within the
walls of the library and within the constraints of scheduled library time.
Beyond the school environment, students will need to make library skills part of
their daily lives. Information problem-solving skills help students on a daily
* Principle Two: Library and information professionals should be flexible. In
the opening chapter of Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning,
the authors describe a vision of the library media specialist in the
information-rich society of the future. In their view, library media specialists
of the future will need to wear many professional hats. These roles include four
basic categories: teacher, instructional partner, information specialist, and
program administrator (1998).
* Principle Three: Ensure that students are effective users of ideas and
information. This principle describes the central vision of Information Power.
This is also one of the central tenants of the library profession. Additionally,
it highlights the most important and enduring role that the library media
specialist plays within the school-that of the provider of information services
and skills instruction. All members of the school community need to understand
that the library media specialist is uniquely qualified, valuable, and able to
provide essential information literacy instruction and valuable information
* Principle Four: Information is everywhere, essential, and central.
Principle Four and Principle One are closely related. Information resources
exist inside and outside the library. Students need to master the information
literacy skills they will use in everyday life. The idea that information is
everywhere is a basic premise of information literacy (Spitzer, Eisenberg &
CHANGE AND THE LIBRARY MEDIA SPECIALIST
The changing role
of technology in education will increase opportunities for information literacy
educators. As technology becomes more prevalent in learning and teaching, there
is even a greater need for information, library, and technology work in schools.
The word "disintermediation" is discussed in reference to future
technologies. Disintermediation is the idea that as technology becomes more
advanced, users will no longer require assistance to use it (Gillian, 1996). The
development of the World Wide Web has revealed a very different story. We have
seen a dramatic increase in the use of question-and-answer services (such as
AskERIC, www.askeric.org) in the past five years. As the Web becomes more
complex, users need more help to find what they want. Information and technology
specialists are well equipped to help users find information.
THE INFORMATION AND TECHNOLOGY TEAM
Of course, the roles
and responsibilities of the school faculty will also change in the future.
Information and technology teams composed of technology teachers, library and
information professionals, English teachers, history teachers, and key
administrators can help with successful integration of technology. These team
members represent the political muscle, technical savvy, and information
literacy expertise to ensure that all students get the information literacy
instruction they need.
The work of the information and technology team goes beyond creating
technology-rich learning environments for students, although this is one of
their most important tasks. Effective teams have a close relationship with
classroom teachers and administration, and their responsibilities affect every
aspect of the school. Teams provide a technical support system, coordinate tech
services and resources, and facilitate purchasing decisions. The team oversees
the information and technology literacy program and ensures it is implemented as
part of the classroom curriculum. An active, dynamic information and technology
team is an integral part of the school, and they provide essential support to
many administrators, teachers, and students.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Educators must assume a
leadership role to ensure students learn. But how can we make this vision a
reality? Here are a few steps for library media specialists to consider in
creating a promising future:
* Learn and absorb: Read and learn about information
literacy and share that knowledge with other colleagues.
Get involved: Become actively involved in the information and technology
program. Other teachers, administrators, and parents need to become aware of the
importance of library media efforts to help students learn essential skills.
Be a leader: Assume an active role in decision-making and planning. Become
involved with your school's technology committee, and come to meetings with your
own vision of what the school's technology policy should contain.
These efforts are not optional. As educators, it is our responsibility to
equip our students with the skills and understanding they will need. Clearly,
this task will require high-quality library and information technology programs
to meet students' needs in schools or in electronic, networked, or virtual
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