No Librarians Left Behind: Preparing for Next-Generation Libraries (Part 1)

By Abram, Stephen | Multimedia Schools, November-December 2003 | Go to article overview

No Librarians Left Behind: Preparing for Next-Generation Libraries (Part 1)


Abram, Stephen, Multimedia Schools


On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. As you know, the Act is the most sweeping reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since ESEA was enacted in 1965. It redefines the federal role in K-12 education and hopes to help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers. It is based on four basic principles: stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work.

A new and comprehensive report from the Canadian Coalition for School Libraries shows that students who attend schools with well-funded, well-stocked libraries managed by qualified teacher-librarians have higher achievement, improved literacy, and greater success at the postsecondary level. The study, entitled "The Crisis in Canada's School Libraries: The Case for Reform and Reinvestment," was written by Dr. Ken Haycock, professor and former director at the Graduate School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia. "The evidence is there for all to see," says Dr. Haycock. "That's why governments in the U.S., Europe, and Asia are aggressively investing in their school libraries." (Free copies of this excellent report can be downloaded at http://www.peopleforeducation.com/librarycoalition/Report03.pdf.)

What's disturbing is that policymakers are ignoring the findings of literally decades of international research that shows why school libraries and qualified teacher-librarians are essential components in the academic programming of any school. [Editor's Note: For more such evidence, see "Proof of the Power: Quality Library Media Programs Affect Academic Achievement," by Keith Curry Lance, in the September 2001 issue of MULTIMEDIA SCHOOLS; also available online at http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools/sep01/lance.htm.] Sadly, this both neglects the opportunity to lift up the learner and often ignores the essential impact that teacher-librarians have on the learner's experience and learning success.

What do we do? It's time to take the proverbial bull by the horns and, as library and learning specialists, anticipate future student and school needs, future (and current) technologies "in the service of learning." In this and in a followup piece in the next issue of what in January 2004 will be called MULTIMEDIA & INTERNET @ SCHOOLS--Did you see editor David Hoffman's note on this page?!?--I will explore a few key trends in the technology arena that will have a combined impact on libraries, our user populations, our students' futures ... and therefore our services.

The Keys to Success

For No Child Left Behind to be successful, no librarian or library resource can be left behind, either!

In our libraries, as librarians, teachers, technicians, multimedia specialists, and as learners ourselves, we have adapted fairly well to the changes of the past 10 years-the hardware, the Internet, CD-ROM, variant e-mail systems, educational software, the Web, portals, networks, e-books, multiple search engines and blended approaches to the invisible Web, the public Web and licensed products, as well as new book paradigms. At our conferences, association meetings, and seminars, at work and play, and in lunches with fellow educators, we talk about our visions, fears, and hopes of the technological future, and we explore the relevant role we may play in that future ecosystem. It's time to recognize that this is just part of our wonderful professional adaptability to ongoing change, to see that this core competency can be positioned to the advantage of our schools, our libraries, and our learners.

Many of these trends will have a greater impact than the Web has had on society in the past decade! The Web stuff was a mere acorn compared to the oak of change coming down the pipeline. …

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