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ECP Ring Leader David Dillard

David Dillard

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Key to Literacy, Librarians now "Highly Endangered" By Lynn Thompson
Times Snohomish County Bureau The Seattle Times Snohomish County <
When Monroe High School librarian Lorraine Monprode took her first job, she was checking out filmstrips and cassette tape players. She knew when a class report on World War I was due because a clutch of students fought over the same volume of the encyclopedia. Flash forward about 25 years. Monprode guides students researching World War I bunkers to online resources that include video tours of actual bunkers, audio recollections of soldiers who fought in the war, and hyperlinks to other electronic sources, all at the same time a classmate on another library computer searches the same materials. In the age of information overload, librarians say their skills at finding authoritative and accurate sources and helping students think critically about what they read are more important than ever. But some districts around the state, including Darrington and Granite Falls, have cut librarian positions to balance their budgets. "The reality is that some districts and principals try to get test scores up by spending more time on test-taking and less time on open-ended projects, what we call discovery learning," said Marianne Hunter, president of the Washington Library Media Association and a high-school librarian in Lacey, Thurston County. An American Library Association task force last year called school librarians "highly endangered." The task force said laying all accountability for school success on reading and math scores denies the instructional value of libraries and the teaching role of librarians.

For years I have noticed that most of the school teachers for K-12 grades with whom I have come in personal contact have no awareness that in Pennsylvania (and many if not most or all states), the state through public libraries provides a collection of databases from a range of subject fields that facilitate the research of teachers, students and anyone else who obtains a borrowers card from a library participating in the program. These databases provide citations and summaries of sources like articles that contain the search terms used. Some of these databases include the full text of at least some of the articles cited in the database and these databases may be accessed by library members at home with the use of their borrower card number and perhaps a PIN or password. If teachers do not know about this program, they are probably not teaching the use of electronic databases and other resources now provided by public and school libraries. This widespread lack of instruction regarding database use and search techniques tremendously increases the lack of preparation of the high school graduate for doing quality academic work and research at the college level. It makes for internet search engine users as the only method many students know for finding content for their term papers except for those who are so frustrated that they turn to term paper mills to get a paper that requires far less effort. The loss of school librarians will only exacerbate this problem tremendously, as many of these folk stand as the only fountain of wisdom for the sharing of information literacy principles and skills at the K-12 level.