What Expertise Do We Lose Without School Librarians?



By Doug Johnson
Reposted from the Blue Skunk Blog under a Creative Commons License

As a school librarian at a small K-12 district in Illinois, Angela K. is at the center of a battle of extremes in educational technology and student privacy.

On one side, her district is careful and privacy-conscious when it comes to technology, with key administrators who take extreme caution with ID numbers, logins, and any other potentially identifying information required to use online services. On the other side, the district has enough technology “cheerleaders” driving adoption forward that now students as young as second grade are using Google’s G Suite for Education.

In search of a middle ground that serves students, Angela is asking hard, fundamental questions. “We can use technology to do this, but should we? Is it giving us the same results as something non-technological?” Angela asked. “We need to see the big picture. How do we take advantage of these tools while keeping information private and being aware of what we might be giving away?”

School librarians are uniquely positioned to navigate this middle ground and advocate for privacy, both within the school library itself and in larger school- or district-wide conversations about technology. Often, school librarians are the only staff members trained as educators, privacy specialists, and technologists, bringing not only the skills but a professional mandate to lead their communities in digital privacy and intellectual freedom. On top of that, librarians have trusted relationships across the student privacy stakeholder chain, from working directly with students to training teachers to negotiating with technology vendors.

A School Librarian Caught in the Middle of Student Privacy Extremes  DeepLinks Blog, Electronic Freedom Foundation, February 8, 2017

Gennie Gebhart does a fantastic job of describing the role of the school librarian in helping educators understand and follow best practices on student privacy issues. (Please, please, please read the whole article – one of the most informed pieces on the issues of student privacy I’ve read in quite a while.)

Hopefully, your school librarian plays a role like Angela K’s in your school. I also hope your librarian is the go-to person on issues related to:

  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Digital Literacy (finding and evaluating information sources)
  • Intellectual Property/Copyright/Fair Use
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Free Voluntary Reading
  • Digital Conversion
  • Social Networking
  • Personalization of Educational Resources and Materials
  • Performance-based Assessment

If you do not have a librarian (or worse yet, have librarian who has refused to evolve along with technology and educational practices), who is the “go-to” person in your building when questions on these topics arise, when new educational resources and practices are considered, when policies and guidelines are written? Who in your school sees the big picture of technology adoption?

Who is your school’s guide through the digital jungle?

Google?

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