I don’t really talk much about libraries, but I do feel like can be are a really integral part in the future of schools, and can be leveraged to encourage a lot of really important skills that feed into a curriculum that features heavy elearning elements, and even if these elements aren’t there, they still encourage growing digital literacy skills that have practically infinite usefulness in the age of Google.
When I think of inner city school libraries, I think of dusty stacks with an old librarian in a corner office, a place where students go to nap, fool around, or smoke. They aren’t really interesting or relevant to much of the going ons in this classroom. However, a few years back, I had a great opportunity to listen to a talk by two teachers who were interested in social justice and education. I got in touch with them via email and after hearing about my interest in digital literacy and elearning, they suggested I contact the librarian, and we set up a meeting.
This man had a library, or rather a media center, like I had never seen before. It was practically bustling, with students coming and leaving as they pleased. There weren’t as many books as I was used to, but there were a lot of meeting tables, and the librarian’s station was at the center of the action, a circular table that allowed him to see everything. Around his desk was rows of computers with the monitors all facing him, and TVs all over playing the news. This felt more like a modern media center than anything I had ever seen in a library before.
We discussed what he did- he worked with teachers to create webquests to help students gain digital literacy- pretty much, a teacher would say, “I want to make a webquest or something about World War 2,” and he’d make it happen, using his wealth of knowledge about how to create really coherent online experiences that encouraged students to explore the internet as an informational resource, thus building digital literacy.
I was taken aback. Was this man, this bespectacled man who gestured excitedly when he spoke, really making this happen? Was this real life?
I looked around, and there were students at every machine. Now, I’m used to seeing teenagers at libraries, and most of the time it’s nothing but facebook and youtube. But, after a few glances, surely enough, there was one student on facebook. One.
The rest were on Wikipedia and various other websites related to academics.
I wasn’t sure any of this was real. To see students so completely engaged, with minimal supervision, diving into data quests, was mind blowing. Furthermore, this school is not a well performing school. It is nestled in the heart of a poor neighborhood near a military base. He had explained that as the previous librarian, an older lady, had retired, they were desperate for something different that could engage the students, and he stepped up to the plate, and had been able to make a real difference, although he warned me that such situations, where folks like him could have as much freedom as he did, were rare.
I spoke with him a while longer. He told me he could get me some resources to go become a media technician like him and do this in other schools- I emailed him later, but unfortunately never heard back.
I later looked up his name and the staff register for the school. He’s not listed, so I was curious as to what had happened to this amazing man. After a bit of looking around, afraid he had lost his job or something similar. But, thanks to the power of cyberstalking (linkedin is insane.), I found that he’s now in a leadership position. I’m very happy for him, and that he found a way to use his skills to change even more lives.
So, that’s just a little story of one of the coolest
librarians media specialists I ever met.