Apr 2, 2009

Change. Blink. You Missed It. Here it Comes Again.

Hey, you. Yeah you. The library hipster drinking that Red Bull and Vodka at the bar. Your School Media program is OLD, OBSOLETE, OUT DATED, and INEFFECTIVE! Yep, you blinked, and one nanosecond later, you are reduced to the 21st Century equivalent of the bunhead herding teens out of the restricted section while book-talking the merits of the new Nancy Drew series.

Many of you who graduated from Library School in the last 10 to 15 years are probably feeling indignant or at least uneasy with this bold statement. You are no doubt thinking something along these lines...

Change? Us? But we are CHANGE incarnate! We are the GC (Generation Change)! WE brought Harry Potter, streaming media, manga, and blogging into the world of the school libraries. WE cast a pox on Donald Rumsfeld for his snide disinterest in the looting of Iraqi libraries and museums (yeah, "Stuff Happens" doesn't it Rumsfeld? People under pressure just "step down" from their jobs too...). WE (hand-and-hand with our bunheaded forerunners to be sure) earned the honorary title of "Radical, Militant Librarians" from the FBI for daring to question the Magnum Opus of the Bush Regime! WE don't shush people! WE even renamed our Libraries and call them Media Centers by golly!

So, how could the "new" generation of teacher-librarians be behind the times already? We are just hitting our stride, right? Wrong. Why?

Simply put: We are part of an outdated organizational structure that has been busy with the job of staying in business instead of effectively serving it's patrons. The Public Schools.

Our society has changed, rapidly. Our teens (and little ones too for my elementary hipsters) are Digital Natives. They come to school because they "have too" not because they "want to" or because they know it is the only way they can "get ahead" and "earn a decent living" someday. Schools are not in harmony with the rest of their social schema. School is a place apart to be tolerated. It does not connect with how they live and what they do in their natural habitat. This isn't about teen angst, rebellion, or coming of age. For the first time in history, we are literally speaking a different language (not just adolescent slang, yo) and living in a different world than our students.

But why? Why is it so hard to make changes that are research based or based on common sense? Don't bother asking the legislators and politicians who hold the purse strings because frankly, they don't know. That would be like asking my hairdresser to recommend the correct dosage of Prozac (that is, if I really needed to take Prozac, and being a teacher, chances are good that I would) and then asking my physician what level of developer would make my hair that lovely shade of strawberry blond (that is, if my hair wasn't naturally that color, and it is, really...).

We should instead ask the academic gurus (teachers, union reps, principals, supers, school boards, School of Ed professors) right? Here are some of the the answers I got when I asked:

- The teachers' union make it too difficult
- Parents would not like it or understand
- We would have to change the way the system works, (or better yet):
- The system can't do that (system being computer networks, scheduling programs, grading software, etc...)
- Teachers are not trained properly and will reject this change
- Our students just can't handle it
- The administrators are uninformed or don't understand the need
- There is not enough funding available
- We have to be very careful about how we spend tax payer money that is available
- and my personal favorite: I don't think we can do this under the current education laws and/or school board approved policies.

Frustrating right? At times, it kind of makes me want to stick my head in the wheels of the machine and be done with it! Well LMS's, times have changes, we missed it, we are still missing it, we have missed that we missed it, we are 1.0 in a 2.0 world, we are pullers not pushers (of info I mean) and we are NOT serving our patrons with the measure of equality they deserve.

Not surprising that over the years, and especially over the last 10, change (or reform if you dare) in public schools has been slow at best, stagnant as a rule, and punitive for students and change agents at worst. I know from experience that to introduce change, I mean real lasting curricular and pedagogical change, you must tirelessly fight the machine. If you are a change agent, you are a cog out of place. You will hopelessly throw everything out of whack if you go messing around with the way things are done and darn it missy/mister, they just can't let you do that! At the very least, not without a written and approved proposal, an action research pilot project, committee discussion, legislative action, and a papal bull!

But what exactly needs to be changed? All this talk of change, but no clear answers, no marching orders, no strategy? If you want to know what needs to be changed and how we can change it, join me for my BEDA installments and I will share with you what I am learning, real time.

But I warn you, if you want to make change my friends, get ready for a fight. Thankfully, the odds are in our favor. You will NEVER find a profession that can organize and defend civil rights like a School of Teacher-Librarians. We helped fight Donny, the FBI, and the Supreme Court, almost simultaneously, and we persevered! We can take on this insignificant institution we call public schools, right? Hum, well, we can always call on Batgirl and the Ninja librarian when we need reinforcements!

Keep reading, writing, and loving it, because you can!

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