Category Archives: Debate

You’re Not a Luddite if You’re Not Jumping on a Bandwagon

Kristin Fontichiaro had, as always, an interesting and thought-provoking post last month on the School Library Monthly blog (link below).  She fears being a so-called Luddite because she is hesitating in embracing e-readers.

Okay, first of all, just to get this out of the way, the real Luddites hated technology in general.  Particularly machines that might cost people jobs.  Now I know, I know–there are those who think everything will go to electronic books, there will be no more paper books and libraries and librarians will be obsolete.  That is a big bunch of hoo-ha and it’s also not the point of this post.  Plenty has been written on that.

So I’m assuming the wonderful Ms. Fontichiaro was mis-using “Luddite” to mean someone who is afraid or otherwise reluctant to embrace a new technology.

I also think this idea is not true.  Just because you are not an early adopter doesn’t mean you’re a Luddite (in either sense).  Now, to be fair, Empowering Learners urges us to become exactly that: early adopters.  But I think there is a range to that idea.  I don’t remember where but I remember reading a funny essay about regular vs. hybrid & electric cars.  The writer went off on early adopters saying that the newer technology cars weren’t worth the premium ect., etc.  But then he went off on the slackers who remained with the status quo and kept buying gas guzzlers.  He ended by pointing out how we need both groups.  If we didn’t have the early adopters then things would never change and there wouldn’t be enough innovation at a fast enough rate.  But we also need the “regular” car-buyers to stick with the tried-and-true (and hopefully steadily improving) technology to fund the companies so they can afford to innovate.

I think the same thing is true with the ever-growing list of advances in technology for school libraries.  It’s definitely in our best interest to remain current.  I always try to disabuse my colleagues who try to label me a “techie.”  No, I don’t know how to fix your printer.  I just try to stay current.  But staying current does not mean you have to embrace everything.  You don’t want to end up with the “Ready, fire, aim!” syndrome Doug Johnson often mentions at the Blue Skunk blog.  It’s good to remain both open-minded yet skeptical and make sure this new thing or website or whatever fits your population.

But staying current doesn’t mean we have to embrace every single thing that comes down the pike.  E-books may make perfect sense to some populations.  There are school librarians (most notably, our own Buffy Hamilton) piloting the use of these in high school settings where they may or may not make sense in the long run.  Without pioneers like Buffy, we’d never know. The rest of us just need to keep up with what’s out there and see what’s working and what we might need at our schools.  We also need to be ready when a new technology becomes more standardized so we’re informed and ready when it becomes part of a district-wide retrofit.

E-books are a long way from being of use in most elementary schools, but perhaps your population has good reasons for piloting the use of something like an iPad.   Interactive whiteboards are cool, but they’re not for everyone.  Maybe your library would benefit more from a document camera and projector.  Perhaps you prefer to use a wiki or other collaborative site rather than use social bookmarking.  Not using a certain technology does not a Luddite make.  That’s called collection management and being a good steward of public funds.

I think that’s the key.  Don’t adopt a technology just because you saw it at a conference or someone sent you and article and it looks cool (“Ready, fire, aim!”).  See what you and your school’s needs are first, work with your committee, then see if there is any technology or resources that fit that need.  Do your research, but don’t be afraid to slowly try something new.

I look forward to your comments!


Jim Randolph

Partee Elementary Library

Snellville, GA


Econfused about Ebooks” by Kristin Fontichiaro

Before we take the ebook plunge” and “iEd” by Doug Johnson

The Great Reading Debate Goes On

David Brooks packs a truckload of thought on reading and learning in his recent op-ed titled “The Medium is the Medium” at

Brooks reminds the print vs. digital reading debate of the notion that the literary world is a “hierarchical universe” with “classic works of literature at the top and beach reading at the bottom.”  He makes the point that digital writing doesn’t have the same hierarchical context as a book.  The result is in the lesson learned, or not.

I wonder how many primarily digital readers of this article got the allusion in the article title to that fusty old communications prophet Marshall McLuhan.

Tim Wojcik
Librarian, Our Lady of Mercy High School – Fayetteville

Dangerous Statements for Librarians to Make

As usual, Doug Johnson has created a very thought-provoking post on this topic on his Blue Skunk Blog. The comments that follow Doug’s post are excellent too. I’ll share a couple with you here but please read the whole post and thread!

11. Wikipedia/blogs/Twitter/etc. is not an acceptable source of information.

12. If only the principal/teachers/parents knew what I do they’d appreciate me!

Jim Randolph added to Doug’s list with this statement:

“You can’t check that out–it’s not on your reading level.”

I believe that what we DO is what matters but sometimes it’s easy to forget that what we SAY has a huge impact on how others perceive us.

Judi Repman

Georgia Southern University

The Future of Libraries?

Seth’s Blog: The future of the library via kwout

Seth Godin, thinker, social media expert, and marketing guru, set off a firestorm yesterday with his post, “The Future of Libraries.” While the post is directed toward public libraries, librarians from all walks of life jumped in with their responses:

What do you think about the conversations that are taking place around this post?  How does it relate to us as school librarians and school libraries?

Buffy Hamilton, Ed.S.
Creekview High School

Bookless Libraries

Cushing Academy in Massachusetts has set off a firestorm with the decision to remove all print copies of books from its school library.  James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing, says, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.”

Headmaster Tracy believes that the purchase of 18 eReaders and additional computers will meet the reading needs of their student body; others, however, do not share that optimism.   The school is spending over $500,000 to create a “learning center” in place of a library; while the official name for this new conceptual space is not yet finalized, it will feature three large screen televisions, study carrels designed to facilitate laptop use,  and a $50,000 coffee shop.    It is not clear which school stakeholders other than Tracy were involved in this decision or how this decision was made other than Tracy’s concern that the books were taking up too much space for the current library facility.

In a May 14 speech to the Noble and Greenough School,  Headmaster Tracy stated:

“I no longer see the point of maintaining this huge warehouse of underutilized space that we call a library.  Better to free up that space while at the same time expanding by many orders of magnitude the school community’s access to information, literature, art, music via terminals that I term “Portals to Civilization.”  Rather than libraries becoming obsolete, we can transform them into vibrant centers of learning, giving ready access to everything humans have achieved, from every civilization, across an ever-expanding universe of culture.  At the same time, we can use the space now freed up from books to build convivial areas where students and teachers are encouraged to interact – yes, even talk –  about ideas, so it becomes a place of interaction…”

Apparently, Headmaster Tracy doesn’t realize that school libraries are more than a “warehouse” and that they can indeed be places of authentic learning, interaction, and conversations; in fact, they already are in schools across our country!  While I respect and applaud  his desire to incorporate 21st century learning tools and to increase access to more books,  Tracy lacks a fundamental understanding of how school libraries should function  and that they can reflect all the qualities he desires without creating an “either/or ” situation on his campus.   Why not weed outdated or little used titles and keep the print copies that are essential, popular, and supportive of the school curriculum while adding the ebook options instead of making ereading the only option?

What is especially troubling to me is the absence of any discussion in the article about the role school librarians play in cultivating information literacy skills.   People like Headmaster Tracy assume that all one has to do is present access to the information, and that is enough.   No mention is made in the Boston Globe article of who will facilitate this space or how this “learning center” will enhance students’ information literacy skills.   If the certified school librarian is not to be leading this “learning center” how will students master the skills set forth in the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners or NETS for Students ?

As you can imagine, the blogosphere is abuzz with debate over the pros and cons of this radical decision.  Here are a few blog posts (and ensuing comments) to consider for reading:

What are your thoughts on this issue?   Please share your ideas here!

Buffy Hamilton
Creekview High School, Canton, GA

*crossposted from the AASL blog*