The 21st Century Librarian

21 02 2009

In a previous post “You don’t look like a librarian” I shortly described a book dealing with Librarian stereotypes and what can be done to defeat tired old perceptions and create positive new images…

I really liked the comments of Jenny and Creaky, basically confirming that there is something like a librarian “subtype”: “we look like nice people – curious, friendly, social” (Jenny) and “approachable” (Creaky, who is often spontaneously asked for help when she steps into a Border’s or a Barnes & Noble Bookstore.)

However, although THE stereotypical librarian does not really exist any longer in this information age, the picture continues to exist in some people’s mind (Ruth, the author of the book).


Quite coincidentally @AllergyNotes (Ves Dimov) pointed that same day to an article in the New York Times about the “Twenty-First Century Librarian” highlighting that

“librarians are no longer just reshelving books but play a new role in the information age, since technology has brought out a whole new generation of practices.”

The article describes school librarians who connect kids not only with books but also with information. As an example a video is shown of Stephanie Rosalia, a librarian at an elementary school (see below). Stephanie does do the usual librarian things, but also learns kids how to surf the net and how to search databases using boolean operators(!) and she teaches them website literacy. For instance, a completely fake web site is shown to the kids, who have to learn what information they can trust and what information is suspect. They learn what to do when their search for Christopher Columbus yields 99 million returns in Google. “Kids are overwhelmed, they are swimming in an information ocean.. and they’re drowning”. Librarians like Stephanie guide the kids though the flood of information that confronts them on a daily basis.

Really impressive what crucial skills young kids learn these days, at least in the VS*. Yet as school librarians increasingly teach students crucial skills needed not only for school, but also on the job and in daily life, they are often the first casualties of school budget crunches. Certainly with the global recession kicking in.

* I wonder as how far these 21st century school librarians are specific for the US. My kids (elementary and high school) are not trained in web literacy by a school librarian. But I wish they were.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

By the way, there is a funny blogpost confirming Ruth’s idea that a few (?) people still think “that librarians, they don’t know nothin’ ’bout them complicated computer thingamajigs” on Caveat Lector by Dorothea Salo (hattip @eagledawg – “Nikki”)



3 responses

22 02 2009
Bibliotheekontwikkelingen in februari 2009 « Dee’tjes: over internet, zoeken en bibliotheken

[…] Positieve geluiden over het werken in een bien: diverse blogs (Moqub,laika en laika bv) hebben al aandacht besteed aan het feit dat bibliotheekpersoneel er nog niet als zodanig hoeft […]

23 02 2009
Ulrich Schrader

Thanks for the post. They don’t have a school librarian for my 2 kids in Germany. The post of a school librarian is often filled by parents “more or less guarding” the books. To have a fully feldged school librarian would be a very important position to fill at the schools here.

I thing we are missing the point, when it is talked about the importance of teaching the skills required for web literacy and information/literature search. To have the skills does not do a thing if they are not applied. Rather the goal should be to teach the habit of literature or information searching and the habit of applying the skills of web literacy.

23 02 2009


Thanks for your comment.

The same is true here in the Netherlands. Of course you’re right that skills alone are not enough and that skills should be practiced.

Lessons in searching are not sufficient. But I wouldn’t call students information literate after 1-2 lessons. So isn’t it really a matter of definition?
Anyway, lessons should be well integrated into the curriculum or into everyday practice or the “students” have to really need these skills right at that time.

As for those kids I think that the whole idea was to learn them the skills in practice. The aim of the school librarian was to give a practical course (and continuous support) so “these kids will know for the rest of their lives how to look for information on the web”.

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