Monday, June 1, 2009

Library Media Specialist: What do they all mean?

I had an experience a couple of days back that made me really think about some terms.


If you look at that as a title of an individual it really changes depending on the emphasis

Library Media Specialist
Library Media Specialist
Library Media Specialist
Library Media Specialist
Library Media Specialist

Where does the emphasis lie? Which is the most important? What do they all mean?

A librarian in the past could focus primarily on books, and based on my experience they focused primarily on literature. But that doesn't fit what adults actually do.

This is what my reading habits look like:

Formal reading of textbooks, Journal Articles, Newspapers and the like form a small part of what I do. Liesure reading of novels, short stories and the like is also a small part. The bulk of my reading is informal informational reading. (I argue that the same pattern is true of writing too but that's another post)

The Library of today should be suited to this climate. It should be an easy place to hang out and browse. There should be areas for reading, writing, researching and collaborating. Conference rooms/cubicle should be easily accessible. I would love to see an area designed for instruction. Computers centered on a large table with space to spread out books. The library should be the most warm and welcoming feature in the entire school. It should be the place the the true interdisciplinary connections happen. Not just with members of the school but branching out to the whole world.

The media has changed. Libraries were once a repository of the vast numbers of books that needed to be protected from harm and made readily available to the scholar seeking knowledge. Now, with almost all information (0.25) seconds away on Google why do we house books? Well for one thing there is still something very real and visceral about handling a book. Something that we value. As we travel forward, it will be necessary to learn how to incorporate more than just written text. 10,000 words about subduction zones aren't worth one interactive web animation. The media part of Library Media has moved beyond books (but they are still importatnt) to 10,000,000 learning units of text, photo, video and animation.

So where does this leave the specialist. The specialist is just that, it is the job of the specialists to help connect the learner. Not to any one individual pipeline of knowledge but to the whole plumbing of learning. The specialist teaches learners and teachers how to draw resources to themselves and then pass them along the plumbing to others. The specialists teaches learners how to create well documented artifacts of their learning and then to become teachers by sharing their artifacts along the pipeline. The world we live in isn't one dominated by the Web, but by an river system of resources for learning one that we can channel and harness and use to help learning bloom, grow and eventually to bear fruit.

So, what would my library be like if I was running one today. It would be a place of collaboration, connection, reading, learning, debate, conversation, creation. A place that could truly be at the heart of learning. A school I know very well had the library literally in the center of the school. It had been a courtyard during the first few years of the schools existence. They covered it over and the classrooms that had opened into the courtyard now opened into the library. It was a beautiful analogy about the free flow of information, but sadly because there were concerns about the safety and theft of the collection they remodeled and closed off the doors, but it only changed the building. The library remains central to the learning and collaboration in a school

Photo from: Flickr user: Silver Marquis

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