Not Your Parents' Library: Last May, We Examined How Technology Has Transformed the Role School Librarians Now Play in the Classroom and Community. Here, We Shine a Light on Best Practices and Projects

By Berger, Pam | Technology & Learning, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Not Your Parents' Library: Last May, We Examined How Technology Has Transformed the Role School Librarians Now Play in the Classroom and Community. Here, We Shine a Light on Best Practices and Projects


Berger, Pam, Technology & Learning


At Scarsdale High School in Westchester County, N.Y., school librarian Phyllis DiBianco and English teacher Natalie Farina have teamed up to teach women's history in a unique fashion--by studying old clothing advertisements from the 19th century. But instead of turning to reels of microfiche, as they would have a decade ago, the two educators are taking advantage of the Library of Congress American Memory Web site. There, they dispatch students to search for ads depicting turn-of-the-century women and then jot down observations, questions, and interpretations (see example activity below).

Does it sound like an unlikely curriculum for a school librarian? Not in today's schools, where new technologies have brought unprecedented opportunities for easy and quick access to high-quality resources, such as those found in the American Memory Collection, along with a vital need to equip students with the critical thinking and information literacy skills to take full advantage of them. "The Internet has provided us with more information than we ever dreamed of," says DiBianco. "But kids don't know how to evaluate the information they're retrieving online. It's our job as librarians to help them make sense of it all."

Indeed, with the vast amount of information kids now have literally at their fingertips, honing their research, analytic, and interpretive skills has become paramount. As a result, school librarians are increasingly finding themselves taking on roles as curriculum specialists, community collaborators, and staff developers--trends we introduced in the first article of this series. As a follow up, we zero in on specific examples of how these new roles are being assumed.

Team Teaching

These days it's not unusual to find school librarians working side by side with teachers to create technology-infused classroom projects. One such effort is taking place at the SS. Cyril and Methodius School in Deer Park, N.Y., where an interdisciplinary team of teachers and librarian Anna Stokes developed a fifth-grade curriculum unit on American immigration.

The focal point of the project is a Web site developed by Stokes that includes hyperlinks to primary sources, articles about immigration, a list of relevant books available at the school library, and photos of a recent field trip to Ellis Island. Using these resources, students identify an immigrant population that traveled to the United States between 1890 and 1910, such as the Italians or Russians. Then they research what it was like on the journey from their homelands, considering such challenges as the overseas passage or the medical inspection upon arrival at Ellis Island. Along the way students created various artifacts, such as first-person journal entries and letters to family and friends back home, which were posted on the project Web site. "Kids were involved and motivated and liked the fact that everything they needed could be found on the Web site," says Stokes.

Throughout, parents could log on to see how the project was going. "The objectives, resources, standards, and tasks are all on the Web site for anyone to see," says Stokes. "They could log on anytime, anyplace and stay involved with their child's schoolwork."

Do It Yourself

Check out these links used by the SS. Cyril and Methodius School for ideas on how to create your own immigration unit.

Through the Eyes of an Immigrant (www.infosearcher.com/immigration)

Immigration Hotlist (www.kn.pacbell. com/wired/fil/pages/listimmigratan. html)

Ellis Island (www.historychannel.com/ ellisisland/whoare/index.html)

Community Partnerships

As students in growing numbers are turning to the Web for information, whether at home, school, or the public library, librarians are finding themselves creating shared community resources. In Pittsburgh, for example, Westinghouse High School librarian Linda Savido and Janet Marnatti, a public librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, designed a literary Web site for the city's teens. …

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