Special Report

An Underused Resource

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 10, 1997 2 min read

Library media specialists can be a big help to teachers who want to learn more about technology, three experts who have experience in the position say.

“They’re underused,” says Kathy Schrock, a former library media specialist who was hired last February to oversee technology for the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District in South Yarmouth, Mass. Schrock manages a World Wide Web site for educators that is popular among teachers nationwide.

“What teachers don’t realize is that librarians have been trained on how to search and how to evaluate” information, she says.

Most of the nation’s schools—93.7 percent— have a library media specialist, according to the American Association of School Librarians. The nation has 97,976 library media specialists.

Educational technology is often concentrated in a school’s library. Schools with only one Internet connection frequently have it there, and many school library collections contain CD-ROMs and software programs as well as books.

In Madison, Wis., the district librarians have put together an electronic library of Web sites, organized by subject. In addition, they are trying to teach students and teachers better search skills, which are more important now than when a library’s resources were all pre-selected.

“We’re very concerned about the time teachers and students waste on the Internet,” says Madge Klais, a former school librarian who is now a program support teacher for the Madison district’s 46 school libraries.

Library media specialists feel much the same pressure that teachers do to get up to speed on educational technology.

A School Library Journal survey found that in the 1993-94 school year, 75 percent of respondents said they’d had training on instructional design/consulting with teachers within the previous two years; 71 percent had received training in integration of information/computer skills into curricular areas; and 40 percent had participated in Internet in-service training. Respondents said they had participated in other kinds of technology training as well, including CD-ROM technology and on-line searching.

Librarians also are usually the only people in a school who have been trained in copyright law. Schrock says that when she gives talks about copyright laws pertaining to electronic publishing, some teachers turn their eyes downward because they realize they’re not seeking proper permission to use information from the Internet.

These areas of expertise should encourage media specialists to break down the walls that divide libraries and classrooms, believes Carol Simpson, a former school librarian now in charge of library technology in the Mesquite Independent School District in Texas.

The library should be a resource center that is always open to students, she says, and, in turn, librarians should venture into classrooms to work directly with teachers.

“Most educators still have the mindset of the library when they were in school,” Simpson says. “The librarian is a clerk: check out, check in books. Their curriculum experience goes unused.

“We don’t want to have that little-old-lady-intennis-shoes image.’’

A version of this article appeared in the November 10, 1997 edition of Education Week as An ‘Underused’ Resource