While looking up on books for professional reading I came upon a wonderful resource-The Indispensable Librarian by Doug Johnson. It is immensely useful and beneficial for taking guidance for managing an effective school library program.
It is while going through the book and having visited the author’s blog that certain questions came to me while taking a regular library lesson. Doug has asked the questions in his blog and I too am just voicing my opinion about the same. In his blog (http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/) he questions: “… it’s only fair to ask if libraries, library programs, and librarians will be around long enough to make such a reading worth your time.” And like him my answer is also a yes. But a weak yes. You may ask why?
I work as a librarian in an Indian school where the position of a school librarian is yet to develop from the status of a bookkeeper. And it’s not just the authority to blame. There are still librarians who are complacent in their place and do not desire a growth for themselves. Information explosion has not made them look up from their seats and the see the various roles that we can now play. The roles that not only enrich us professionally but also give a fulfilment within. Sadly, there aren’t many takers of this and so books that can help develop skills to make an efficient school library program are not treasured yet. Hence the weak yes.
Having worked with schools with different curricula like CBSE, IGCSE and IB, I saw a stark difference in the way the role of a librarian is perceived. Not all CBSE schools give their librarians the scope for development since they are overworked. Being a part of administrative staff, librarians perform duties other than the library profile which takes away time from their work. They are understaffed and thus he/she does not have time to develop a library program or even organise engaging activities. They are given board duties, invigilation work and other such works without a thought that the work of a librarian is specialised and that it cannot be performed by anyone else. The very essence of a library period is lost when students are sent for substitution to library in the absence of a teacher. CBSE schools are yet to recognise the strengths of a librarian in curriculum and project designing. Ver few school engage a librarian in department meetings when syllabus is discussed. The use of library is restricted to reading and research. What they fail to see is that library can become the hub of the school if given a chance. But for that librarians should be allowed time to do so and not be scattered into different directions as need be.
And yet there are schools and librarian who show a way for the others like G D Goenka school library and Ms. Madhu Bhargava, the librarian who also happens to be the Director of IASL, which has a comprehensive school library program that not only engages the readers but also teaches students about information literacy, plagiarism, intellectual property rights, etc. She has developed lessons to integrate classroom teaching with the library lessons by way of Collaborative planning and teaching, develop curriculum contents by interacting with international communities and also train the teachers to use web tools and integrate in teaching. So, the students and teachers are Digital citizens as well. In the same lines, we have S. L Faisal from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pattom, a beacon of how library can be developed into a hub. A visit to the blog gives you glimpse into what potential a library holds, if only right opportunity and support is provided.
I call myself a novice in technology integration as I have a long walk ahead. I have just tasted a drop in the ocean. Our names have now changed to Information specialist, Library media specialist, Information manage, etc. Thus, we all need to adapt to changes in technology to keep ourselves updated and well-informed. It is our responsibility to create and mentor effective library programs in our respective schools.
But the impact and influence of the program is our sole responsibility. There is need devote more time on effective promotion and evolving extensive ownership of the library program. We all know that our roles keep evolving just like the physical facilities, our areas of knowledge, our collections will become more heterogenous, and the services by the school library will also be different each year.
Here comes the second question Doug Johnson has asked in his blog: “So a second question then comes up: Will our libraries be so changed from what we now consider libraries will they still continue to be called libraries.”
And I echo the YES, he provided in his blog. It has become a motto for me to better my services as a librarian and yet not be limited in any means. The answer is:
“If, we maintain the core values that will transcend the specifics of library programming.” In rather very simple words he has summarised the key to a successful library program.
I have often heard remarks that librarians would soon be redundant with the emerging technology. To these I answer, we have Google, but for a person to arrive at the information he/ she is looking they need a librarian to train them to be critical thinkers and search for relevant information. Otherwise there is every chance of drowning in the ocean of information. We are yet to receive the acceptance and recognition for all the behind the scene work.
In India, the position of a school librarian is very side-lined. It is very rarely looked upon with respect. The wealth hidden in the potential of a librarian is yet to be mined in the schools. Little is done besides the regular lending and borrowing. We are taught Ranganathan’s five laws of library science. But very little is taught on the application of the same in a school scenario.
There is no help or training provided as to how one is to apply the rules in a school set-up. So, I have been on the lookout for the basic core of librarianship and how it stands in a school environment. Doug in his blog has listed the enduring central or “core” values of librarianship as identified by long-time academic librarian and past ALA president Michael Gorman. (Gorman, 2000). These values stand the storm even though the impact of technology can be heavily felt:
- Intellectual Freedom
- Literacy and learning
- Equity of access to recorded knowledge and information
These core values may or may not summarise everything but they do provide me a starting point to analyse my own core values as a school librarian. Keeping in mind the Five laws of Library science I embrace:
- The primary objective of a school library is to help a child to become a thinker and develop his/ her own views about the world. They are not to be taught what to think, rather How to think. And this is achieved when they can have opinions and not be agreeable to all.
- Every child is unique and comes from varied cultural, social and economic background. Thus, their individuality is to respected to help them become better library users.
- It is of utmost priority to teach children to honour and respect their privacy and that of others as well.
- The ability to find, evaluate, organize, synthesize and communicate information is a basic skill for every child. (Doug Johnson)
- Reading skills are best developed when a child voluntary reads through personal interest and is not coaxed. Hence, the job of librarian to help a reader find his/ her book.
- Every child is must be taught the skills and sensibilities of digital citizenship. (Doug Johnson)
- The success of a library is determined by the services provided to the students and how much they benefit from it.
- The skills taught and resources provided by the library program are critical to a free society.
- Information in all formats should be treated equally and a child’s preference for the same is to be respected.
Striving to achieve this in the Indian schools is like climbing uphill. The lack of support and understanding makes it difficult to explain the roles a librarian can play in a school and enhance the learning and teaching process. Collaboration between teachers and librarians are unheard of. There is so much that we could bring to the classroom if only given a chance to step out of the island we are closed in. We have been branded Teacher- librarian, but how many of us have really given a lesson in a class. And nowadays without understanding the real value of a librarian there are institutions who are employing technology experts and not people with library background. But can these experts answer the questions Doug Johnson has put: “Who will fight for information access for all students? Who will fight for intellectual freedom? Who will be concerned about the privacy rights of students and faculty? Who will insist that information literacy is right of every child?” They may value these but unlike librarians will it be their principal task? A librarian is not just a bookkeeper, given the provision and occasion to display their knowledge and expertise and help make school libraries the heart of every organisation.
Gorman, Michael .Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century, Chicago: American Library Association, 2000. Gorman.
Johnson, Doug. The Indispensable Librarian, Linworth Publishing, Incorporated; 2nd Revised edition edition, 2013.