First Year Experience as a High School Librarian

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I can’t believe that my first year as a high school librarian is already coming to a close. This year has been challenging to be sure, but ultimately really helpful in providing me with practical, concrete skills, resources, and understandings needed to be an effective school librarian.  This was my first full year as a media specialist and with no prior shadowing or experience in a school library setting.  I was hired because I did have four years of academic library experience and very passionate about information literacy.  This field experience class and school library class was very helpful in giving me practical tools I needed with facing district wide financial constraints.    My passion for libraries began in 2008 when I first started working at Johnson C. Smith University as an evening library supervisor.   I learned from working in an academic library setting that so many students did not acquire information literacy skills in the high school to prepare them for college level research.  Thus, the reason I decided to transition from college to the high school library setting; to be able to prepare students for 21st century learning.  With the vast wealth of information I learned from this year and applying the knowledge to my current position as a media specialist, I am pleased with my career decision.

My challenging part for me was the balancing act of working in the media center alone to service1600 plus students and 80 plus teachers.  I am not alone and have learned many media specialist work in this capacity.  I am very passionate about high school students being prepared for the future and very much concerned with the digital divide that affect so many students.  I am mid-way through the year and embracing and enjoying all of my challenges.  I am definitely excited to see what the remainder of the year has in-store.

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Senator Kay Hagan Congressional Hearing @ My Library on Technology! Nov 2013

I was very excited to have the opportunity to host the North Carolina Congressional Hearing on Technology at my library.  I was able along with the Chair of the English department to prepare one of our extraordinary students for his speech on technology in the 21st century.  I was able to share with him key concepts like the digital divide and information on media literacy.  The event was exciting because there were key school district members, like; school board, and other representatives in other school districts throughout the state.   Although I was not able to speak with Senator Hagan, I was able to share my thoughts on technology with guest and the importance of technology in regards to the digital divide.

The hearing was hosted in the library/media center but the conversation did not focus on libraries but more on technology in the classroom.  This had me thinking about advocacy and how we must stay relevant in terms of education and technology.  The panel was filled with students, teachers, and administrators.  I often find that I am pushing for students access to library and technology.  I did however have my library advocacy elevator speech ready if the opportunity became available. Overall, the hearing was great and I enjoyed being a host for such an important event.   Below I have added the news coverage of the hearing:

MY NCLA EXPERIENCE – Oct. 18th 2013

MY NCLA EXPERIENCE 

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The week of October 15-18, 2013, I had the opportunity to attend my first NCLA 60th Biennial Conference that was held in Winston-Salem North Carolina at the Benton Convention Center and the theme for this conference was: The conference was a great opportunity for networking with new and seasoned librarians and exciting for me to see attendees from other library conferences I had attended. The sessions were great and I attended several sessions that related directly to school librarians. I attended a number of workshops geared towards STEM being that I work as Media Specialist at a STEM High School.

Highlight:

Before the session started, the UNCG ACE Scholars were able to meet and talk with Ms. Stripling and she wanted us to know that she once lived in North Carolina and once worked as a media specialist. I had the golden opportunity to talk to her one-on-one and talk with her about my concerns as a media specialist.  Mrs. Stripling noted that advocacy was going to be the key to success. She even told me I could contact her from time to time. She gave a keynote speech that was very inspiring about how librarians impact individual lives that sometimes can have an ongoing lasting effect. Overall, I was pleased that my principal allowed me to attend this conference and I was able to share some of the ideas learned with colleagues.

Information Centers: Challenges in a Digital World

Many public academic libraries are under tight budget restraints that seem to have no end in sight.  In many cases, collections suffer due to this lack of funds.  This is the vanguard of other problems, and presents templates on how these challenges will be handled.  The debate over electronic resources and print resources is one that will continue.   As the library changes as a space, these information centers will have to implement measures in development policies in order remain current in resources as well as making these resources, print or digital easily accessible for users. One of the positives to this situation is that many libraries are collaborating in digitizing local material and storing them in institutional repositories.  But how will these changes affect vendors and content providers?  These are just a few of the issues libraries and librarians are and will continue to face going forward. Will libraries go digital? The “simple” answer is yes and no. Today most libraries are “hybrid libraries,” offering access to both print and electronic resources.  Libraries have had to be hybrid, because not all resources were available electronically and not all readers were able to access information online.  But as electronic journals reach the tipping point, libraries are asking how long they should maintain access to both print and electronic versions of the same journals.  Providing access to both formats increases expenses, consumes more staff time, and takes up more space.

MOOCs & Libraries

Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs are very popular right now and could have a dramatic impact on the education landscape.  A MOOC attempts to deliver learning content online to anyone who is able to take the course.  Universities, public organizations, and for profit companies are some of the entities using or employing MOOC style resources to convey some message or information whether it be a class on informatics where you receive a certificate from a university or a class offered by your local library on searching the catalog.  What sets MOOCs apart from other online education systems is its ability to support massive enrollments into the tens of thousands and it flexibility in terms of schedules.  Courses can be self-paced and don’t necessarily have to adopt the traditional academic calendar.  Libraries and MOOC could form a valuable symbiotic relationship.  One that would further add to the library’s relevancy in the 21st century while strengthening MOOCs ability to disseminate the best information to the most people available.

I think MOOC’s will be a great equalizer in access to higher education in the very near future.  The potential number of students is dizzying to think about.  Presently the low price tag of a college degree from a MOOC is enough generated interest in n this trend.   Add to the fact that distance is no longer a factor and MOOC’s start to look more attractive.  However MOOC’s are not perfect.   Graduation rates are very low.  Fewer than 10 % complete their respective programs.  In the near future MOOC’s will have to figure out better ways of retaining students.  I have used free MOOC’s in the past such as iTunes U and Udacity.  Both have great classes to choose from as well as distinguish educators, but the academic support you would receive from a brick and mortar school is lacking.  I can see libraries taking advantage of this trend in many ways. Not only in the academic classroom as it is used now, but as an information literacy tool as well.

Libraries are at the basis of what a potential MOOC student’s need which is internet access.  The library can become the new millennium lecture hall for millions.  Providing this basic service at such a high rate as public and academic libraries do could change how drop-outs, pregnant teens, ex-offenders, retirees, and a myriad of other segments of the population receive education, instruction, and training.  In an academic setting Librarians can continue their role as liaisons to faculty in finding the best free open access materials for instruction.

As MOOCs evolve, Libraries also have the opportunity to design their own MOOC style content which could be tailor made for certain populations.  Resources such as video and screenshot tutorials on using the library’s catalog is one example of how libraries are experimenting with this relatively new method of teaching and learning.  There are endless possibilities and I think that it would be in information business best interest to keep abreast of MOOCs.

Nelson Mandela and Librarianship

Since entering graduate school I have been a frequent reader of blogs covering librarianship, and I consider blogs to be a useful tool in which one may read about issues impacting the field from the perspective of fellow colleagues. One of my favorite blogs is written by Johnnie Romon Blunt, an alumnus of Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science who currently serves as the Reference and Instructional Services Librarian at Oakland University.

Mr. Blunt recently wrote a blog on the passing of Nelson Mandela, and in particular how his death may impact librarianship. Although more important is his concern for social justice and peace in being ideals that should be adopted by all librarians. However, Mr. Blunt made it a point of emphasis to remind the reader of the psychological prison in which countless minority youth of today find themselves imprisoned. This psychological prison is a structure felt by many minorities regardless of economic, social, or political status; throughout our society you may find weapons that target minorities for a process of instilling within an inferiority complex. This complex becomes very pervasive, and once latched on to by the targeted individual any aspirations to become a productive member of society may end up being curtailed.

According to ALA statistics, African American men make up less than one-half of one percent of all librarians, statistics which causes Mr. Blunt to provide a framework on what he perceives as a form of apartheid afflicting librarianship. With so few credential African American male librarians, the idea of having a comfortable career with the main objective being efficient service should also be accompanied by a set of principles born out of a desire in seeing information impact the lives of others in a radical manner similar to Nelson Mandela. Right information will hopefully lead to a solution of sorts, or the information may simply serve to quell one’s curiosity, but the key is for all parties to remain mindful of the transformation aspect of information.

For without access to proper information, the 27 years that Mandela spent in prison would not have nurtured the fire of protest within; the combativeness that Mandela showed towards social injustice was made possible by accessing information which turned out to be all the more transforming.

The Evolution of the Academic Library

This past semester I took a course which focused on the academic library, and the question often raised is what exactly constitutes an academic library? The inner functions of the academic library has evolved over time, ever more so since the advancements made by technology within the field of librarianship. I was eager to take this course as it would provide a foundation on the role of the academic library, a role which may fluctuate depending on the atmosphere afforded by higher education.

In the context of instruction, librarians employed in an academic library offer a supplement and complement to the curriculum, usually in the form of content essential to teaching and learning. What I have gained from several readings on academic libraries is that for many, the act of instruction is paramount; it remains key for not only librarians, but quality of instruction has great ramifications for students as well as the professors who disseminate course work. Overall, the academic library stands as model of service, a collection of items open to potential users, as well as an organization noted for being hierarchical in nature.

By me working in an academic library, the course and its related content has allowed me to become better acquainted with the role of the academic library on campus, but even more interesting was learning about the history of higher education and academic libraries in the United States for they have long been intertwined together. Academic libraries in the future will undoubtedly face new challenges, but in order to grow and survive there should be librarians on staff willing to embrace change which ultimately benefits the users who themselves are immersed in a society of constant flux.

A Reflection on the 8th National Conference of African American Librarians

From August 7-11, 2013 I had the great opportunity to attend the 8th National Conference of African American Librarians with its theme being “Culture Keepers VIII: Challenges of the 21st Century – Empowering People, Changing Lives.” During the time spent in Northern Kentucky for the conference I sat in on many sessions, all of which provided me the chance to share ideas, learn best practices, and gain necessary knowledge to meet challenges faced as an African American librarian.

However, there is no definite to say the profession is generally unkind to minorities as a whole, but I consider it essential that librarians have a sense of identify of all minorities who have come before and laid groundwork in our profession as we learn collectively from those of the past, present, and future whether it be through personal correspondence or writings. Overall, attendance to the conference allowed me to network with members of the profession who remain severely underrepresented.

A featured guest of the conference who I really enjoyed was Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. She participated in an onstage conversation/interview which was followed by a series of questions from the audience. She is very much a critical thinker, and her views on political coverage were interesting along with her thoughts on the U.S. elections, racial issues, religion, and gender concerns.

Reminisces of JCLC, 2012

Although this post is over a year old in relation to the actual conference event, the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color marked the first national library conference that I have attended. More significant however, it would be my first glimpse into librarianship from the perspective of individuals cognizant of the challenges facing librarians of color today. The conference was held September 2012 in Kansas City, a city noted for its overall cultural diversity. Prior to entering the LIS program at UNCG, librarianship was viewed at from a distance, in large part to being merely a worker whose place of employment happened to be the library, but circumstances as such would render any aspect of professionalism to be a missing component of my work experience. Psychologically, this began to wear at me in the first two years of employment at Livingstone College, and there was a sense of immobility that I was coming to grips with. The only means in which I could find satisfaction in my work, and to reach the point of having a worthwhile career compatible with my own interests, goals as such would only be reached by entering graduate school.

I can honestly say that one of the most rewarding decisions that I have made scholastically has been in applying for graduate school and in turn being accepted. With diversity being a point of emphasis for the LIS department at UNCG, there is an identification on the part of the program towards the overall lack of diversity in the workforce, and to address this lack of diversity, the LIS department including both faculty and students help to instill within each other an awareness of issues critical to a level playing field within our society. Furthermore, by having a diverse student body this also helps by injecting more diversity into the workforce.

As I reflect back on JCLC, I crossed paths with many librarians who ideologically remain fixated on the limits of our profession as it concerns minority representation, but aside from having a passion in seeing more diversity within the field, the pedagogy itself would need to align with the changing demographics of communities. The most rewarding experience of the conference was in interacting with like-minded individuals, and being able to feel a sense of satisfaction in that I am much closer to becoming a professional; librarianship is a field in which the issues that I consider to be of utmost importance also weigh heavily on the minds of librarians the word over.

The Job Search

As I enter my last semester in the MLIS program my attention is divided between finishing school and starting a new job as a professional librarian.  Since starting library school I have periodically glanced over job postings to get a sense of what skills employers are looking for.   During my matriculation I have discovered a passion for digital librarianship and preservation.  I think this will be a segment of the librarian profession that will continue to grow and create new opportunities in the near future.  Using human capital such as peers and mentors is also great way to find opportunities.  As I see it, librarians know other librarians who are looking for librarians.  Why not be the one they recommend to their colleague for a position.  Also in my research of job placement I have come across some very helpful websites.  Some of these sites are for job postings only, others are networking groups for information professional, while some are blogs that tackle the challenge of landing that first, second, or third job.  These are a few good sites to check out:

  • INALJ.com
  • USAjobs.gov
  • LAC Group
  • LinkedIn
  • ALA JobLIST
  • Annoyed Librarian blog