From School Librarian to "Information TeAchnician":
a Challenge for the Information Age

School librarians have a unique opportunity to adapt their professional skills to meet the challenges of the "Information Age". As electronic access to information proliferates in K-12 schools, librarians can model the adventure of lifelong learning by teaching faculty and students how to search the Internet for pertinent information, evaluate the reliability of information retrieved, analyze and synthesize the information to construct personal meaning, and apply it to informed decision-making. Library/media centers can be transformed from static repositories of print and audiovisual materials into dynamic and evolving information technology centers.

Cynics have noted that previous technological revolutions have failed to reform education, pointing to the intransigence of institutions or the resistance of teachers. In my experience, discussions of information technology too frequently focus on hardware, infrastructure and data as if these tools and resources alone will automagically reform educational practice to produce competent lifelong learners. Experienced educators know that we must add an "A" to "tech"; technology in isolation ignores the "a" in "teAch". School librarians have the professional training and expertise to guide information-processing learning activities, so let's call them "information teAchnicians".

School Librarians and the New World of Information

Teachers must be given professional development opportunities to learn to use new tools; they must have adequate time to explore these resources in a supportive environment with ongoing feedback and assistance. (See Training is for Dogs: Teachers Teach, Teachers Learn.) Margaret Fryatt critically examined several models of professional development in Proposed Models for Successful Internet Implementation. Her analysis may be useful to librarians who have assumed the role of technology leaders in their schools. .

 Librarians at all levels have been exceptionally quick to recognize the potential of an electronic "library without walls". They also have been particularly proactive in identifying and analyzing issues pertaining to Internet use. Three professional organizations have guided policy-making and standards development:

  1. American Library Association
  2. American Association of School Librarians
  3. Association for Educational Communications and Technology
The American Library Association adopted Access to Electronic Information, Services and Networks, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, in January, 1996. Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning, a joint project of AASL and AECT, identifies nine standards and 29 indicators of proficiency in information literacy, independent learning, and socially responsible use of electronic information.

 Peter Milbury's List of School Library Home Pages demonstrates the extent of school librarians' leadership in emerging electronic publication. The Librarians Information Online Network (LION), maintained by the Philadelphia School District, is an exceptional resource for K-12 librarians. ICONnect, a project sponsored by AASL, offers online courses in Internet applications.

Basic Starting Points

To learn about the Internet, explore Hobbes' Internet Timeline by Robert H Zakon, hosted by the Internet Society. Use a well-designed tutorial to introduce teachers to online research:
  1. Exploring the World Wide Web, a workshop tutorial on Internet applications, combines text and exercises.
  2. Elementary teachers may prefer The Internet Island, a Web tutorial for teachers, because of its graphic replication of the Netscape screen.
  3. Harnessing the Power of the Web for Classroom Use: A Tutorial focuses on student projects on the web, and is also available on CD-ROM.

Locating Information

New and novice users frequently complain that finding pertinent and relevant information is like searching for Waldo in the popular children's books! Three guides to Internet research designed particularly for K-12 users may be helpful:
  1. Searching the 'Net is a series of interlinked, short pages with some introductory exercises to help students focus on electronic searching skills.
  2. Info Zone: Research Skills was compiled by the Assiniboine South School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  3. Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators features instructional exercises in addition to a well-organized collection of curriculum resources.
More detailed and comprehensive references for teachers and high school students can be found at:
  1. Internet Searching, a compilation of guides to research and a wide variety of search engines.
  2. Internet Search: Tools for Finders and for Wanderers.
Two university-level resources are also quite valuable:
  1. Library Research: A Hypertext Guide from Cornell University.
  2. Finding Information on the Internet: A TUTORIAL from UC Berkeley.


Evaluating Information

Rapidly expanding access to the Internet compels school librarians to emphasize the importance of evaluating information retrieved. In addition to Searching the 'Net and Kathy Schrock's Critical Evaluation Surveys for students, three resources in particular can help guide teachers' thoughts about using the Internet in the classroom:
  1. Evaluating Educational Web Sites.
  2. Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources.
  3. Blue Web'n Learning Applications lists their rubrics for evaluating the educational web sites they have included in their "library of Internet-based instruction".

School Librarians and Larger Issues

For librarians to successfully redefine themselves as "information teachnicians", they must also keep informed about the larger issues pertaining to the use of Internet in schools. Andy Carvin's EdWeb is an excellent hypertext online "book" which explores technology and school reform. Child Safety on the Information Highway is another hypertext guide which is suitable for concerned parents.

Defining adequate acceptable use policies requires thoughtful consideration and experienced leadership. Resources to guide the successful implementation of technology in schools abound on the Internet, although, ironically, one already must have Internet access in order to benefit from them.

 Librarians who find themselves propelled onto the information superhighway without adequate skills and preparation can use their Internet connectivity to guide their own growth. The map is in the glove compartment!

Janet Murray, Librarian
Kinnick High School, Yokosuka, Japan

[This essay was adapted from a workshop presentation at the Texas Computer Education Association annual conference in February, 1997. Many more Internet resources are linked to the workshop page, From School Librarian to Information TeAchnician.]