Monday, February 16, 2009

In Praise of School Librarians

All of us who work with law students know how difficult it is to wean them away from quick-and-dirty Google searches and teach them to use more focused research methods and resources. At the beginning of this semester, I did a diagnostic quiz (using clicker technology) in my Advanced Legal Research class to try to get a sense of what level the class was at. Among the things I discovered was that most students had a very poor understanding of how to construct a basic Boolean search on Lexis/Westlaw despite training sessions during their first year of law school, and that even fewer had ever used an index, whether online or print. Things might be better in the future if school librarians have anything to say about it. Today's New York Times has an inspiring article about school librarians who constitute "a growing cadre of 21st-century multimedia specialists who help guide students through the digital ocean of information that confronts them on a daily basis. These new librarians believe that literacy includes, but also exceeds, books." School librarians today are teaching students how to evaluate the reliability of sources (something I reviewed in class last Thursday) and how to develop PowerPoint presentations and online videos. In addition, they are taking advantage of social networking sites to help students debate controversial topics and comment on other students' work. The article points out, however, that as schools are forced to cut their budgets in these difficult economic times, school librarians are often the first employees to be laid off. This statistic is disheartening: "More than 90 percent of American public schools have libraries ... but less than two-thirds employ full-time certified librarians." In New York City, the situation is even worse. "Only about one-third of the city's public schools have certified librarians, and elementary schools are not required to have them at all." You could argue that the New York City schools, which are educating immigrants and other students for whom English is not the first language, are more in need of librarians than most other school systems in the country. The video accompanying the article is worth watching.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Thank you for posting this, Marie! I do remember my school librarian! I don't know if Mrs. Silk's influence had anything to do with my choice to become a librarian myself, but I do know she was a wonderful librarian. This is a great article and I am so glad to know there are dedicated school librarians out there now. My kids had a good school librarian by high school, but not in earlier levels. And the article and video are right. That's too late!