Author Archives: andyspinks

Common Core and Library Media Programs

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs […], yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”
-Rudyard Kipling

From what I know of the CCGPS, I can see why some teachers would be in a panic: Middle and High language arts teachers are going to be teaching a lot less literature and focusing more on informational texts. Meanwhile, teachers in social studies, science, and other “technical subjects” will be charged with teaching subject-specific reading and writing skills. Students on all levels will be expected to read, write, research and think at higher levels. Next generation assessments are being developed that can actually test information literacy, rather than just factual recall. And tightening budgets don’t make any of this easier.

With that said, the CCGPS looks like the most exciting development for library media programs that I have seen in as long as I can remember. It is built on the concept of integrating “21st Century” skills into every subject, a concept which we in library media have been calling “information literacy” since way back in the 20th Century. It requires students to do much more research, and use research to answer “self-generated” questions. It requires that students read text that is at a higher level than what is in their textbooks. And it requires teachers to step outside their comfort zones.

ALL of these thing play right into our hands. Language arts teachers need a partner who is more comfortable with non-fiction informational texts. Teachers in social studies, science, and technical subjects need a partner who is more comfortable teaching literacy skills, source citation, and the like. All of them will be clamoring for help with research projects and help finding non-fiction sources beyond their textbooks. They will need someone experienced in matching the right text level to the right student, someone experienced in teaching these newfangled “21st Century” skills.

Any library media specialist who has spent their career solely promoting fiction, who has failed in 14 years to get on board with the whole Information Power thing, or who has ceded the direction of their program over to AR probably should be panicking. The rest of us should be seizing this incredible opportunity! Finally, the state curriculum is fully coming around to agree with what we have been saying is most important for students to learn since 1998. Will we have all the perfect resources to support it right away? Of course not, but we are already far better prepared for it than any individual classroom teacher. We have GALILEO, our existing non-fiction print collections, expertise in research and literacy, and an eagerness to collaborate. That will be plenty to get us started, and when the needs arise in the coming years, we will be better able to make the case that funding, staffing, and supporting library media programs is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

Who’s Absent?

I admit that a lot of things escape my notice. I don’t read all the email messages that come over the GeorgiaMedia distribution list, I don’t attend every conference session, and heaven knows that (after grueling days at work) I sat through many a grad school class in a state of semi-sleep. However, in my twelve years of working in public schools, I can’t recall any significant discussion about how library media specialists are recruited into the field.

Certainly, there are a number of fine graduate programs that offer great programs to those who are interested—but what makes one interested in the first place? What makes a teacher decide to earn a master’s degree in library media instead of administration, counseling, or their current curriculum area? I’m sure it has something to do with the fine examples set by the library media specialists in their schools, but I’d like to know more specifically what it is.

Why is this important to know why library media specialists choose this field? It’s important because we need to become active recruiters—headhunters, even—for the profession. In order to be successful as a library media specialist, one must have a great deal of training, but there are some essential traits that cannot be taught. (I can teach someone to catalog, but I can’t teach someone to love children.) Consequently, it is in the best interest of our students to identify the specific traits that are necessary for success and to actively recruit people who possess them.

So I ask you, fellow library media professionals, how do we recruit the best people into our field? What made you choose this profession? What are the attributes that you feel are most essential to success? What are the best ways to identify the people who have those attributes? What are the best ways to convince those people to pursue the Greatest Job in the World?