Apr 20, 2010

Questions That Keep Me Up At Night

Q. What do you call a library without a librarian?

A. A warehouse of unrealized potential and a waste of taxpayer money.

Q. How many school library positions could possibly be cut in Indiana in one year?

A. I am thinking of a number between 129 and 131, but the year isn't over.

Q. How much does the Indiana Code require that schools spend on their library programs every year?

A. $8 per student (see below).

Q. How many schools comply with this law?

A. Due to a lack of transparency in the way compliance forms are shared, tracked, and reported, we must try to answer this question using a collection of anecdotal data. The answer is approximately: Not Very Many

Q. Please read the following statement. Then find and define the phrase "all schools" and the word "integral."

511 IAC 6.1-5-6 Media program

Authority: IC 20-19-2-8; IC 20-31-4-17 Affected: IC 20-31-4-1

Sec. 6. All schools shall have a media program that is an integral part of the educational program. A licensed media specialist shall supervise the media program. Each school shall spend at least eight dollars ($8) per student per year from its 22200 account to maintain its media program. (Indiana State Board of Education; 511 IAC 6.1-5-6; filed Jan 9, 1989, 11:00 a.m.: 12 IR 1192;readopted filed Oct 12, 2001, 12:55 p.m.: 25 IR 937; readopted filed Nov 20, 2007, 11:36 a.m.: 20071219-IR-511070386RFA)

Source: http://www.in.gov/legislative/iac/20071219-IR-511070386RFA.xml.html
A. All schools = all schools, oh, they must mean all of the schools in one school district. Wow, legalese if fun!

Integral = warehouse? No, how about this,

Integral = I am not really sure but if we have to have one librarian we could say they are the supervisor of record in the high school. Then we can disregard student achievement AND maintain accreditation status for our information illiterate graduates (shhh, don't tell higher ed...).

I mean, after all, a fiscally responsible school would never consider paying for a specialist in the elementary school building who is actually devoted to helping children learn to read, think about what they read, communicate what they learned from reading, and do it over again because they love it not because it is required. And don't even get me started on middle schools...

Q. I can't believe someone hasn't done something about that law!

A. Actually, the DOE/ Professional Standards Board tried. Here is a nifty draft they worked so hard on. Notice in the media section what they tried to do to the meaning of "integral." http://www.doe.in.gov/news/2009/07-July/documents/09-481.pdf

Q. How much does the average school librarian pay out of pocket to be a member of their teachers' association, and what has said association done to help save school librarian jobs?

A. Between 500 and 700 per year. Oh, I'm sorry, was there another question? What? School librarians are teachers?

Q. Doesn't seem like you have a lot of friends in high places theses days, does it?

A. Nope, it sure doesn't.

Q. What is the average cost of a new, library-ready, nonfiction book for secondary students?

A. Between $25 and $30 (see minimum pseudo-required budget above)

Q. Well, everything is online right? Even books? Just buy online books, how much could that cost?

A. No.
Yes, but not all of them.
It depends on the license, but for one good database subscription in a mid-sized high school somewhere between $1,500 and $4,000 per year.

Q. Can't kids just use what they find "on" Google for homework? It's free.

A. They could, but no intelligent person would ever do or teach academic research this way, at least not yet (waiting on Googlebooks info, but in no way will it be free). And, there is still a high rate of our students who do not have a reliable computer or high speed internet at home.

Q. What! everyone has a computer right? I don't believe you, how many kids are we talking about?

A. We have little empirical data on this issue locally, but a nonscientific sample of one metropolitan district shows that at least 15% of students fall into that category.

Q. That isn't much, why the big deal?

A. Maybe I should restate that more specifically. In a district sample of 1000 students, 15% means 150 children.

Q. Well, most will be OK, right?

A. It depends on your definition of OK. Many people call this social injustice the digital divide. Others refer to it as digital apartheid. Some say it kind of reminds them of something the old timers used to call Jim Crow. Take your pick.

Q. OK, now you are just trying to confuse me with all that techno-babble. I know that the State says if 90% of the kids graduate on time, then schools are doing a great job! What does NCLB stand for again?

A. No Child Left Behind - the US Educational Policy that has been adopted by our state as law. You are correct in your definition of what an excellent high school looks like to the DOE. In a school of 1000 that means it is not OK but EXCELLENT for the schools to fail 100 children. Have you ever been in a room with 100 children? That is a lot of children! And we are only talking about one school. Decide what 10% means in your high school. Of course most of our high schools have not yet reached the percentage of excellence. But there is still time, right? And, just because kids do pass the "test" and are allowed to legally graduate, that doesn't mean they are "well educated."

Q. Right, so you don't like high-stakes testing then? What kind of crazy liberal are you?

A. Pretty crazy. Whether or not I like standardized testing is not the issue. The issue is school library programs not being valued in an "institution of education."

However, if you believe that kids who pass bubble tests are intelligence incarnate, then you may want to know that research studies from multiple states, including the great Hoosier boot, found that students in schools with certified librarians and well funded library programs are more likely to do better in school. That means they pass tests more often. And yes, researchers controlled for all those crazy empirical things like poverty and race. Here is a link to all of the state studies in case you are interested: http://www.lrs.org/impact.php.

Q. Computers, tests, budgeting, teaching? But, all you do is shush people, stamp books, and berate students who forget their library cards. Why should I listen to you about this? Who is the expert in you building? Let me talk to him.

A. I would answer this but it would be difficult to explain to someone who has not seen the inside of a school, or a school library, in over 15 years. But please, feel free to stop in.

Q. I went to the public library yesterday. It was nice. We can just send kids over there for this stuff right?

A. I'm glad you mentioned this. The public libraries are a big part of the community. And they do have a lot of great resources and programming run by librarians who specialize in helping children and teens. But obviously you don't read the local paper. The public library is funded by property taxes, which have been capped, and the public sector is still feeling the economic backlash from the recession. So, there might not be enough computers, books, or librarians to help kids at your local branch. That is IF it is still open. These libraries are hurting for money too. So, if you get a lot out of your public library, you probably should vote NO to allowing property tax caps to be written into the state constitution. Unless of course you think private citizens are willing to provide enough out of pocket money to pay the library bills...

Q. Do schools really need libraries?

A. I'm sorry, did you just ask if schools really need brand new football stadiums, that extra gym for the basketball team, the semi truck for the marching band, to purchase that administrator a car? No, of course not, how silly of me, I must have misunderstood.

Q. How many School Librarians does it take to educate students for 21st century success?

A. The world may never know. Well Indiana may never know. It will be hard to find that information on Google. Oh, wait, maybe not. Wow, look at this: A Nation without School Librarians: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=117551670433142326244.000482bb91ce51be5802

This is so cool and so sad at the same time. But very organized and clear. I bet it was created by a librarian, or someone who spends a lot of time with librarians.

Q. You are just a Google Hater, right?

A. No, actually I love Google. I love their free and open source philosophy of web based applications and their helpful resources for educators and librarians. I even like Google Scholar sometimes. In fact, I love Google so much I think if our schools would actually take advantage of these resources instead of selling our souls to Microsoft we could afford wonderful, high-tech, library programs. I would love to be a YA Google Librarian. I bet they hire librarians. Hey Google, we have a lot of librarians (I mean information specialists) in Indiana that need a job! Are you hiring?

Q. So, you think you have all the answers?

A. Well, I do my best to find them. It's what I do for a living. Oh, and I teach your children how to find answers too. And how to think about questions before they look for answers. And how to present their answers clearly. And how to do this online without violating their student code of ethics. And I organize all kinds of information so they can find it. And I talk to them about great books, and the value of reading. And we create 2.0 environments together. And...

Where did you go?

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