Microcomputers and School Libraries in the United Kingdom: Part 1

By Pain-Lewins, Helen; Watson, Linda | Computers in Libraries, January 1990 | Go to article overview
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Microcomputers and School Libraries in the United Kingdom: Part 1

Pain-Lewins, Helen, Watson, Linda, Computers in Libraries

Microcomputers and School Libraries in the United Kingdom: Part I

The 1980s has been a period of development for school libraries in Britain, with a chanbe in their perceived role in children's education and a recognized need for expansion of stock and services. Scholl libraries are gradually being seen as centers for the management of information within the school. (1)

Major influences on this development include curriculum innovations such as the General Certiricate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI). These place a greater emphasis upon assessed coursework projects, which require many and varied multimedia resources together with accurate and current information. The school textbook and meagre school library of the past are unable to adequately resource such initiatives.

Another major influence is the expansion of information technology in education. Various initiatives have meant that schools are acquiring more microcomputers, and more emphasis is being placed on achieving computer awareness and literacy for all pupils. A computer can be used for a variety of purposes in the school library. These have been identified by the Microelectronics Education Programme (MEP) as:

* library administration

* access to information both in the library and externally

* teaching information skills

* providing resources for teaching

* cross-curriculum fertilization of ideas and resources (2)

Despite these potential purposes, evidence shows that many schools do not place microcomputers in their libraries. For example, in 1985 Her Majesty's Inspectorate found that only three of sixty-two schools surveyed had a microcomputer in their libraries. However: "[It] was recognised in most schools that the micro is likely to be used more widely in the library in the future to assist management, to store data and to provide access to external sources of information." (3)

Computerization of the school library is influenced directly by:

* the policy of the school towards information technology and its place in the library

* the attitude of the individual school or teacher librarian towards using a computer, and this individual's knowledge of the computer's capacilities

However, in common with all aspects of school library development, there are other key factors that will be influential here. These have been identified as:

* the status of the school or teacher librarian within the management and department structure of the school

* the individual commitment of the school or teacher librarian to develop the role of the library as the learning center of the school

* the time the school or teacher librarian has available for library work on matters other than clerical routines and administration

* the amount of money the school allocates to the library and the decisions made about the relative priorities of staffing, books, other resources, or computers

* the learning policy of the school and approved teaching methods, which influence staff attitudes to the library and its use by pupils and staff

* the degree of involvement by the LEA and schools library service in developing school libraries. (4)

The role of computers in school libraries is similar to that in other academic libraries -- undertaking library routines and management tasks, and for educational purposes related to the staff's and pupils' curriculum needs. There are excellent descriptions of current usage, (5) and the following list demonstrates the types of uses:

* issue of materials

* overdues

* borrowers file

* database catalogue

* subject indexing

* database searching

* bibliographies

* statistics

* ordering/budgeting

* teaching information skills

* community information

* word processing

* networking within school

* creation of viewdata


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