In an effort to not be so autobiographical...I will reflect periodically to break up "the facts, m'am."
I have always loved information. It is truly bizarre that I did not fall into this career earlier. But perhaps in the digital age, the information portion is even more consuming than ever. I just read a paper expressing the need for librarians is greater than ever before--yet we are seeing more cuts in our career than ever before in history. The current circulating myth is that librarians and libraries are virtually obsolete. Yet study after study, from years ago to the present, show that strong school libraries & reading are one of the strongest indicators to student achievement. How strange that in an age where the test scores are EVERYTHING many districts have completely disregarded that conclusion. We need to let the public know that the stereotypical librarian that we remember from our childhoods IS obsolete--BUT there is a current trend toward a new vision of libraries and librarians.
First of all, libraries are no longer private collections that only the librarian knows how to navigate. We educate our students on using an online catalog, and on the Dewey Decimal system so that they can find resources independently. We encourage noise and even a bit of chaos--learning chaos! It's pretty tough for my media to be TOO loud!
Second, media specialists are not a solo entity. Collaboration is key. We want to help students achieve as much as the classroom teacher, so it makes sense for us to work together to do so. Intertwining what we do in the media with what is occurring in the classroom will really make the learning that is happening sink even further into their brains. I became a teacher because I love to help students learn--I am STILL a teacher.
Third, digital resources has changed EVERYTHING. We now have immediate access to "the" answer. UNFORTUNATELY students think that Google is the end all. Don't get me wrong, Google is a fantastic resource WHEN students are taught thoughtful evaluation. No one is teaching students how to look at the information they find, how to effectively use it, and how to be the most innovative in their presentations. Classroom teachers are overwhelmed by scripted curriculums and the pressures of getting test results. Website evaluation doesn't hit their radar--it's not in the curriculum, and it isn't tested. Therefore, it is ESSENTIAL that media specialists attend to this 21st Century Skill if our students are truly going to be prepared for the future.
There is a belief that books are all but obsolete. To some extent, perhaps. (doubt Barnes & Noble thinks so...) But what a disservice to the young children of the world it would be to deprive them of cuddling with a parent in bed pouring over a favorite picture book. I just found several lists of the favorite 100 children's novels of all time as well as the 100 favorite picture books. A few tears appeared as I viewed the animoto of the covers of these books--many were beloved favorites from my childhood, and have been shared with my own children and students.
Does it make sense to have all textbooks in digital format. Absolutely. This would save school districts and college students loads of money. And in many academic specialties, the access to real-time current information is so appropriate. But reading for pleasure involves visual and tactile experiences--it is sad to think of that being lost for the youth of the future.