Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Library Advocacy

Hello, colleagues. As the possibility of cutting a library position in Newport has been announced, I know that Stacey has been gathering thoughts about services that we will need to cut if our position is cut. Jane, I know you have also been preparing ideas.

I'm sure you're aware of the BEP wiki that Dave Fontaine set up. Here's the URL for quick link: http://ribep.wikispaces.com/. I have been reading it with interest, particularly since I have not been able to attend the meetings. Has anyone else been able to attend the meetings? Will any Newport representatives accompany Barbara Ashby when she and other RIEMA professionals attend the Board of Regents meeting?

I think we could set up a portion of our wiki to collaborate on our efforts, while using the BEP wiki to keep track of the overall RI effort. What do you think? Let's meet on the wikis and advocate.


unlibrarian said...

Dear Jen,

I've been thinking a lot lately about the skills our kids need to be productive 21st century citizens/workers/functioning members of society.

I am beginning to think that Dewey's 20th century pedagogical structure (teaching content - ie. teaching skills through subject areas, with skills subsumed under each subject heading) needs to be flipped around. Instead, I would like to see somewhere a school structure that focuses first on essential skills, making them the basic structure or pillars of the school day, and subsuming content under each. For example, I think I would start with the three basic skills anyone needs now to become an independent and lifelong learner. In my opinion, they would be:

#1 READING: This is really becoming the new "digital divide".
99% of our kids have access to computers now through their library or at home or at friends, but increasingly, we will see a divide between those that can read fluently, and those that cannot read, or read well. (Attaboy to Newport for going to the SIPPS program, as phonics are now proved to be the best system for all students, including the developmentally challenged.) I include writing, spelling, and the ability to alphabetize among this first skill. Without the ability to read, there can be no knowledge.

#2: INFORMATIONAL LITERACY: The second most valuable skill set after reading is in my opinion informational literacy - how to find, evaluate, access, organize, and synthesize information(i.e. the everchanging CONTENT of the sum total of human knowledge).
3) NUMERACY: the ability to count, add, subtract, divide and mutiply (we need to bring back the memorization of the multiplication tables), round off, and estimate, the ability to determine if a number is higher or lower, decimals, fractions, and scientific notation.
The most useful numeracy skill I ever learned how to do was in fourth grade, how to balance a checkbook.

Then, if there are funds left over - I would definitely vote for VISUAL literacy (art) and KINESTHETIC literacy (PE)

Under these three main skill blocks, though, we could then organize the cultural and historical literacies our kids will need - ie. the CONTENT - history, civics, economics, etc. etc. etc. - those subjects that are going to change or become obsolete or will need revisiting because of new discoveries/changes.

Rather than Librarians being ITINERANTS, I think we need to start making the case to our state representatives and to the education world in general, that to prepare our kids to be 21st century learners, either we should mandate that all teachers become certified information literacy specialists, or make library/informational literacy an integral part of the curriculum, i.e. it needs to be at least one third of the time spent, every day in every class.

I know this is radical, but I think the time has come for some radical proposals.

More and more I am convinced that teaching CONTENT first without these skills is a waste of time: Our knowledge base is changing so fast, we waste precious school time teaching Einstein's theory of relativity when it has already been superceded by quantum theory, and doubtless will be superceded by chaos or string theory by the time our kids graduate.

With the proper informational literacy skills, any kid could go home and research whatever content he wanted whenever he wanted, thus extending the learning day.

Our problem as kids was FINDING information.

Now, kids have TOO MUCH INFORMATION, and the key to turning information into knowledge are the set of skills that ONLY LIBRARIANS teach - HO TO TAKE INFORMATION AND TURN IT INTO KNOWLEDGE - and then to communicate or share this knowledge through a variety of technologies.

With 90% of the jobs we need to train our students to fill ain the next five years not even INVENTED YET, the best we can do for them is to make sure they have a good skill set, so they can apply them to a world we can't even yet imagine.

Could we not in our library Advocacy, start to build this case - not for keeping librarians, but expanding the informational literacy skill set to become the fourth R - reading, writing, rithmetic, and research?

Jennifer Long said...

Your comments are both insightful and fabulous. I think your business background lends you a fresh lens through which to view such topics. Your head for education AND business is refreshing. I agree that instead of fighting for our positions, we need to restructure education. Let's examine your opinions in further detail and begin our advocacy soon!
We do need to address visual, kinesthetic, and auditory (music)more completely, since I believe these literacies contribute invaluably to quality of life and reshape the wiring in a child's brain to more readily accept other learning.

Stacey Lyon said...


Where I am stumped is in how to get the message of SKILLS/LITERACIES FIRST across in a way that doesn't sound too crackpotty! Any ideas? I am trying to come up with a marketing byline that is sticky....