Book Review: Partners in Literacy: Public Schools and Libraries Building Communities through Technology

By Luther, Frances D. | Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Book Review: Partners in Literacy: Public Schools and Libraries Building Communities through Technology


Luther, Frances D., Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin


Book Review: Partners in Literacy: Public Schools and Libraries Building Communities through Technology By Sondra Cuban & Larry Cuban REVIEWED BY: FRANCES D. LUTHER Citation Cuban, Sondra, & Cuban, Larry. (2007). Partners in literacy: Public schools and libraries building communities through technology. New York: Teachers College Press and Chicago, IL: American Library Association. [150p.] ISBN: 978-0-8077-4795-7 (paper) ISBN: 978-0-8077-4796-4 (cloth)

Introduction

This book is recommended, with some caveats for those interested in an overview of the development of schools and public libraries in the United States of America, the adoption of computerization by these two institutions, and ways in which technology can be used in collaborations between schools and libraries to facilitate community enhancement through Community-Based Research (CBR). Other potential uses of this book are provided.

Summary

Cuban and Cuban (2007) contend that, historically, schools and public libraries have had a common mission in their development. These institutions were both born out of the social reform movement of the 19th and 20th centuries with the purpose of promoting literacy and acculturating immigrants. Over time, however, changes began to occur that have impacted the delivery of education by both public libraries and public schools.

One such change was the adoption by both institutions of a business model. As privatization of education by "for-profit" organizations developed, libraries grew to have competing values. On the one hand, they wanted to build the best collections with literary value to uplift the population morally. On the other hand, however, they needed to stock items of popular demand to increase circulation to gain more tax revenue to make the libraries economically viable. Voluntary versus required attendance was another major change that created a divergence in the development of the two institutions. Public schools became compulsory and concentrated on functional literacy, generally defined as the ability to read, write, and do simple arithmetic. Public libraries remained a voluntary means of education.

Computerization then became en vogue in both schools and public libraries. As the authors explain, "...we look closely at their different norms (such as rules, laws, culture), authority and legitimacy (the transmission of knowledge and skills), and professionalism (especially regarding gender), as well as the instructional roles of librarians and teachers that influence technology adoption and use" (Cuban & Cuban, 2007, p.33). Most public libraries offered free access to the Internet by 2005, in hopes of helping to alleviate the "Digital Divide."

The "Digital Divide" is a concept introduced by the United States Department of Commerce, "...to acknowledge the systematic differences in technology access that African Americans, other racial minorities and those in rural areas experienced..." (Banks, 2006, p. 12). It should be noted at this time that often issues of technology access are reported in ethnic and cultural terms, while poverty within these groups may be a major determining factor influencing technology access (Luther & Lerat, 2009).

Libraries were more successful than schools in the integration of computers into their programming; never-the-less, concerns rose over the effectiveness of computers as a teaching tool. Just because computers were available did not mean that they were being used, and just because computers were being used did not mean that learning was occurring. …

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