School Librarians 'Shape the Vision" with Equal Parts Technology and Books

By Kniffel, Leonard; Wolfe, Lisa | American Libraries, January 1995 | Go to article overview

School Librarians 'Shape the Vision" with Equal Parts Technology and Books


Kniffel, Leonard, Wolfe, Lisa, American Libraries


Given the choice between technology and books, the 3,126 participants who attended "Shape the Vision," the American Association of School Librarians' seventh national conference, Nov. 9-13 in Indianapolis, made their position clear: They will not be forced to choose one over the other.

Keynote speakers Susan Kovalik and Alan November represented these ostensibly polar opposites with which librarians are grappling: "You are knowledge, you are not information," said she. "The word librarian ... doesn't have any meaning anymore," said he.

"I was fortunate enough to grow up in an age where print was valued," Kovalik said, calling present-day America a "post-literate society." The education writer and founder of one of the nation's largest educational in-service training organizations called school library media specialists "the intellectual conscience of your school" and observed that the greatest danger facing educators is "information without substance."

Among the targets of Kovalik's contempt:

* Nintendo, with its "addictive nature";

* teachers who "tell me they don't have time to read";

* dinosaurs: "Don't waste one minute of class time on dinosaurs, form a dinosaur club";

* B.F. Skinner: "We are neither rats nor pigeons";

* TV: "Do you remember when television took over your family?"

Alan November, on the other hand, argued that a school library media center should be a "combination of Kinko's, CNN, and your library." Our electronic environment, the author/technologist maintained, means that "every citizen has to be good enough to publish" because that is, in fact, what is happening over the Internet.

November said it was time for librarians to "declare success" to their legislators. "If you don't tell your stories," he urged, "they will be taken away from you. You can't wait for [legislators] to ask, 'Should we fund you?' Publish your students' best work at the state house, via the fax machine," he recommended.

Waving or wearing a toilet seat for much of his presentation, November's point was that technology is everywhere. In Japan, a $20,000 toilet is now available (and selling); it can be connected to health facilities and preclude the need to visit a doctor's office for routine tests. "I am visiting you from the future," he said.

"Most of your students are not going to have a 'job'; they're going to be responsible for creating their own work," November said. "The word student doesn't have any meaning anymore" either.

When it comes to telecommunications, "you don't have to worry about what's in your library anymore," November argued, gesturing at the airwaves, "you have to worry about the information in this empty space."

But it was November's suggestion that librarians "change your name, will ya?" that got people most agitated. After the speech, attendees rushed to the dias to argue that the librarian stereotype was dead and that the word librarian was, in fact, the only name for the profession (despite suggestions of "resourceress" and "information wizard" from the audience) that had any meaning to people in general.

World's largest children's museum

AASL-goers had ample opportunity to be entertained at the All-Conference Educational Festival at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. The world's largest children's museum allowed librarians to sample handson displays, including an Indy 500 race car and a working carousel.

"This is the first ALA division ever to meet here," said Ray Ewick, Indiana State Librarian, touting Indianapolis as a conference town. Indeed, the city's facilities were convenient--even the weather cooperated with temperatures that frequently permitted jacketless strolls to and from meetings.

While CNN Television blared the real news that virtual reality will soon be here (on its Cybermania awards program aired during the conference) AASL--not to be outdone--had a "virtual newsroom," which made portions of the conference available viathe Internet. …

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