Monday, April 16, 2012

Extinction Event: School Librarian

As a kid I loved the library, I was a book a day kid.  I didn't really care what it was, as long as it was interesting in some way and over 300 pages.  I never understood picture books as the picture created in your own mind was the fun of it.  I still own a decent science fiction collection from the 50's and 60's.

but.. I think the school teacher librarian and the idea of a library itself is on its last legs.  The non fiction section completely lacks relevance (it always was too small to be useful) and has been surpassed by online resources or class based texts.  The day of the printed book, even fiction, is passing.  I realised this when I watched my wife prefer to read her book on a backlit iPad than the paper copy next to her.

Specialist research tasks are no longer the domain of the librarian.  There's no reason why a bibliography by a student can't be written using a tool like 'Papers' - it's a task now that does not need a specialist teacher.  There's no reason why a teacher can't prepare a list of articles for students to research from and keep for later use - I've never seen this done by a librarian anyway (albeit it was more common with paper books).  Electronic documents can be annotated and highlighted just like paper - without printing and photocopying time/expense.  Students with laptops are ringing the death knell of the library being IT centres, distributed computers in classrooms are just more useful.

When I look at a library I see a shell of the learning centre it once was.  I see broken computer labs with kids playing games, too loud to promote study.  I see old mouldy books last read in a previous decade.  I see old brown furniture that wasn't even that well made to begin, not old enough to be retro, not new enough to be modern.

Libraries could become study centres again with the right management in place.  Librarians though are too expensive to use managing study centres.  Once a fertile ground for breeding librarians, now that paper books are becoming extinct, so are librarians.  The person choosing, storing and sorting books has been overtaken by digital resources selected by the masses or distant experts.

Where does this leave the librarian?

Sadly, I'd suggest out of a job.  I can't see such traditionalists re-inventing themselves into something as required as the librarian was.

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