Book Review

After reading Technology and the School Library: A Comprehensive Guide for Media Specialists and Other Educators by Odin L. Jurkowski, I have realized that the responsibilities of a school librarian have changed drastically in the past several decades.  In addition to the wide variety of print materials that are available, now school librarians are also responsible for the organization and administration of computers, computer software, multi media instructional material as well as training students and teachers on information tools, instructional technology and much, much more.  From computer networking and automation systems to individual barcodes on checked out material, the librarian has much to keep track of and maintain in a modern day library.

Information Tools in the library can be anything from desktop computers to network wiring.  It is important that the school librarian be familiar with how these systems work so that they can better serve the population of their school.  The computer case, the hard drive the network and sound cards are all important components of the system which students use to access important information and resources.  School Librarians need to decide what kind of accessories will benefit their students.  Speakers, DVD players, types of mice, USB ports, scanners and printers come in a variety of options.  In addition, librarians have to be aware of the operating systems that are available for their library.  I was surprised that the librarian is responsible for so much of the network set up and operating systems maintenance. As we know, librarians are an essential part of the instructional process and their collaboration with teachers is a must.  Therefore, deciding which programs to include on the computers can make all the difference.  Decisions about office suites, networking, photo editing programs and Web browsers contribute to a strong library program.  In my building teachers rely on the library staff to be an integral part of technology and resource planning and count on them to instruct students on the use of many programs and equipment.

Information Resources focus more on the software that students use to enhance or facilitate classroom curriculum.  There has, over time, been the idea that computers or computer software can somehow replace teacher led instruction, but the truth is that students need personal instruction and educational software is best used as a supplement to an instructor.  There is a variety of software on the market with different goals and results.  Information Resources also includes blogs, wikis, databases, and websites.  Blogs and wikis can be a great way to keep students updated and facilitate discussions between students or colleagues.  The Internet and development of databases have changed the way that students and teachers research.  There is an abundance of information out there and it is the responsibility of the school librarian to evaluate these resources and ensure that students have access to them.  A good library website can be a great tool.  90% of school librarians do keep up with a website for their library (69).  The library website in my building is where I sign up for computer labs, check the library/lab schedule, reserve a video and see the latest book reviews.  The important things to remember are to know your audience, make sure your website is organized and try not to overwhelm your users.  The library website should be a working resource with things like databases, book reviews, book trailers, on-line catalogs, teacher resources and more.

Technology in the classroom has come a long way in the past several decades and school librarians are now responsible for more technology than ever before.  Film strips were advanced technology in their day and gave teachers an opportunity to offer students a new perspective.  Technology used in the classroom often has its origins in the library.  Much of the technology that teachers use is checked out from the library and often times teachers are trained on the technology by librarians.  Some examples include: digital cameras, digital recorders, flip cameras, document readers, e-books and interactive whiteboards.  In addition to these, librarians need to be aware of their patrons with disabilities.  Having resources like large print materials, books in Braille, magnifiers and hearing devices can help make important resources available to more students.  Finally one of the most important pieces of technology used by teachers is the mobile computer lab.  In my building, the mobile computer labs are in constant use.  The mobile computer lab/cart makes computer access for all students convenient.  Teachers can take the computers to the classroom for work on projects.  The logistics of a mobile computer lab can be a struggle for librarians.  Deciding on the cart, the storage, the maintenance and the movement of the cart can be hectic, but this technology is still a good choice for teachers.

Taking care of the administration of the school library can be a very complex task.  There are many things to consider including an automated card catalog and check out system, bar coding and student computer maintenance.  The selection of an automated catalog and checkout system is one that requires consideration of cost, technical support and maintenance.  Automation systems take care of things like circulation, interlibrary loan and security.  Planning technology for a school library takes a great deal of forethought, funding consideration and planning.  You have to be sure that you do not under plan for the future nor over spend for your budget.  You have to tie it to standards, set goals and get input from a variety of people.  In addition to planning, maintaining student computers can be a challenge.  There has to be a procedure in place to check the condition of the computers, to find the best positioning for the computers, to ensure that the software is updated, and to plan for upgrading the technology.  The librarian also has to set the standard for policies about games, e-mail, and access to information on the internet.  Finally this section outlined the need for security in some libraries.  There are different strategies that libraries use to maintain security which could include using electromagnetic strips or radio frequency.  Different buildings have different needs when is comes to security depending on the age group and the past issues with materials.  Something that I think some teachers don’t realize is all of the work that goes into securing the materials in the library and making sure everything is working properly for students and staff.

Most school librarians have a background in teaching so it makes perfect sense that the librarian serve as an instructor in any school building.  Often times librarians are left out of the teaching faculty even though they not only teach students but teachers as well.  One of the most important things that a librarian can do is teach teachers what the library has to offer so they can pass it along to their students.  In order to do this, librarians have to find a way to bring teachers into the library for professional development.  This can be a difficult task because teachers are busy and have very little free time.  Some things to consider are providing training during the school day, identifying objectives and goals, being enthusiastic about the topic and providing some incentives for teachers.  A lunch time session might be appropriate for this type of training because teacher are already at work, they enjoy a free lunch and it can be convenient and a fun change of pace.  This also really adds to the well publicized library.  One thing I had not considered until my Foundations class was the marketing piece of librarianship and how important it is to promote the library programs.  Not only can librarians teach about the library resources but also about the wide variety of Web 2.0 capabilities including blogs, wikis, content sharing sites and social networking.

In conclusion, the school librarian is also a teacher, a technology specialist, a record keeper, and an administrator!  There are so many things to consider in running a well used and maintained library.  The school librarian needs to not only stay on top of the latest publications but also the latest technology.  There are many skills required to coordinate all of the resources in the library and the library staff must work diligently to keep everything running smoothly for the students that it serves.  I would recommend this book to all media specialists, teachers and librarians.  It really helps you to realize all that goes into being an effective school librarian.

Jurkowski, O. (2010). Technology and the school library: A comprehensive guide for media specialists and other educators. 2nd Edition. Lanham,MD: Scarecrow Press.


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