Thursday, February 15, 2007

Librarians - Get 'Geeky' with it!

Well... what it comes down to this. Librarians, we need you to make a 'leap of faith.' There is no better way to do it than to say, we need you to come and try Web 2.0. I have read posts over the past year from David Warlick, Wesley Fryer and a cast of others about librarians. I am encouraged by what I see from librarians just finishing their Library Service credentials from schools like San Jose State University, but I also see many librarians sticking with the tried and true online databases that have the information 'cherry-picked' for the students. I ask librarians about using these resources with students and the answer that always comes back is "Why not use these sources, they have been checked out and we know the information is valid." I personally have two problems with this. First, I think that the information that is provided by some of these online databases is usually several months old by the time it is listed. Nothing new or topical that increases student interest is included. Secondly, we create a false sense of security with our students that all of the material on the Internet is trustworthy. The arguement that I get back from Librarians is that, "Wikipedia is edited by members and therefore cannot be considered a 'trustworthy' source." OK... Does inaccurate information get into Wikipedia? Absolutely, but inaccurate information gets into any encyclopedia on the planet. What's the difference? In Wikipedia, the information gets updated almost immediately once it is deemed to be inaccurate, with a print encyclopedia, it takes several months to years to get the information correct. Wesley Fryer had a great post on this point. How fast was Wikipedia changed when Pluto's status was downgraded from being a planet to a star? Almost instantaneously... Look at the time of the press conference and the time Wikipedia was edited to refelect that change. How many print encyclopedias still have Pluto as a planet? Almost all of them. Look around schools... There is misinformation everywhere! How many maps and encyclopedias are there still in classrooms and Libraries that show a united 'Soviet Union?' Shouldn't it be our goal as educators to provide the best and most accurate information possible to our students?

How do we do this? Well, we need you Librarians! We need you to get get a little 'geeky' with it! We need you to embrace some of the new technologies and techniques to find and validate information.

1) Wikipedia is a source. No better or worse than anyother, but it is one source and should never be used in isolation without corroboration from other sources. This is true for 'every' source students use in preparing reports. This also includes text books, newspapers, magazines and teachers!

2) Students, Teachers and Librarians need to be trained in how to locate, validate and think critically about information. We should be skeptical about all information until we can validate it. The one thing we haven't done a great job of in the past and we need to in the future, is to evaluate the 'bias potential' for any information or web site we encounter on the Internet. Every teacher and student should know how to perform a "site search," a "link search" and an "whois search."

3) Libraries need to be restructured into collaborative learning and sharing spaces. There are way too many new libraries being built today that look identical to the facilities that were built in the 1950's. Like it or not, the way information is collected and stored have changed over the last 50 years and we need to have facilities that allow for the effective use and manipulation of that information. The type of information we are collecting and archiving today has also changed. Audio and video files are now collected in huge repositories on the Internet. I would make the case that 'YouTube' and 'Google Video' are nothing more than an online video libraries that can be searched like any other library.

So, my feeling is that we decrease the number of subscription databases we subscribe to (not eliminate) and spend the money we are using to subscribe to services to provide additional professional development opportunities for Librarians and Teachers. Some librarians have gotten the point of Web 2.0, like this one! Joyce Valenza in Pennsylvania has a great matrix of how information has changed and how the role of Librarians will continue to change. There is even an online course for librarians to create a "Social Library."

Make these skills available to all and include them in the curriculum. We need to give these tools to all people involved in the educational process and allow them to use them create new structures that can be built upon by those that follow them. Information in the 21st Century is not static, where each successive generation learns the same material and may add some additional skills or theories for improving the practice of some particular action. The goal of education in the past was to possess information that would allow you to perform a particular skill. Today, possessing information that can be recalled via human memory is inefficient for the most part. The skill set we teach should be concentrated on how to access and use the information available to solve questions that the environment or society puts to us on a daily basis. It's not enough to possess a certain set of facts anymore, its what you can do with the information you have access to is what is going to make the difference for the students we have in our classrooms today.

Librarians... we want to be your partners. Meet us at 2.0 and we'll travel together!


pathfinder said...

Kyle - while I agree that librarians MUST be web 2.0 savvy - I call it library 2.0 - the big-business online databases still have an enormous presence in public and academic (college) libraries. Unfortunately, there is a ton of information that is reserved for subscribers. I think that instruction on how to use online databases has to be a part of teaching information literacy. That being said, if you are a library media teacher and you are not collaborating with teachers and leading them to new tech frontiers, your days are truly numbered.

It seems like there should be a closer relationship between library media teachers and tech coordinators - thanks for starting the conversation.


pathfinder said...

I agree that library media teachers MUST be Web 2.0 savvy - we need to be library 2.0 librarians. As far as I am concerned, if library media teachers can't be 2.0 leaders at their respective schools, they won't last...or maybe the positions won't last.
While I agree that students need to be able to determine the validity of sources (print, online, etc.) I think that online database skills are important - big business controls huge amounts of information that is only accessible to those who pay for it. Students who continue on to college or want to utilize the public library must know how to use these sources.

I think there needs to be more of a partnership between school technology and the library - thanks for starting the conversation.

Daniel Kiely
Library Media Teacher
San Mateo High School