CIL2007 – my impressions

Computers in Libraries has come to an end — and it’s a good thing, because my head could not possibly hold any more. Tonight I’m compiling my notes and packing up to return home tomorrow. This conference and its complement, Internet Librarian, are my 2 favorite professional conferences and training opportunities. I’ve summarized the best of the sessions I attended over on SELCO Librarian. This posting is about all that peripheral stuff wandering around in my head.

  • I have a week’s worth of web sites to try and ideas to assimilate to share with our libraries. I can’t wait!
  • There are 2,500 people here. Some are geeks, some are semi-geeks, and at least one is a don’t-wanna-be-a-geek. I met her, I think she was sent here perhaps by a supervisor who hoped it would be a transformational experience.
  • Following a cold and storm front cross-country is not a good idea. It’s warmer in Minnesota this week than it is in Washington D.C. So much for southern sunshine, tulips, and cherry blossoms. At least flying west to east on Sunday was not as bad as it was for our friends from New England, who flew straight into a Nor’easter, if their flights took off at all. Hmmm, seems to be a pattern here: the last time I attended this conference in 1999, it snowed 9 inches and we were virtually snowbound in the hotel.
  • Lots of talk about library automation systems. Marshall Breeding, the guru of library automation summed it up best when he said that the level of ILS innovation is below libraries’ expectations and that library automation vendors are taking baby steps in Library 2.0 technologies. All the while we have been admonished in almost every session to plan and execute technology services aggressively to meet the demands of the public.
  • Conference rooms need more plug-ins. Lap-top computers have batteries that don’t hold a charge for a full day’s note-taking.
  • While in-room hair-dryers and coffee-pots have become ubiquitous in hotels, Hyatt Regency apparently did not get the message about the coffee-pot. Not a good thing for me, who relies on coffee to wake up. Ditto for wireless connectivity. This is the 4th hotel I’ve stayed in the last 2 weeks, and the first where I’ve had to pay for Internet access.
  • Another message someone didn’t get — pedestrians in cross-walks in Washington D.C. are just as fragile as they are in Minnesota. Please don’t run over us! (you’ll be glad to know Donovan and I did NOT get hit Sunday evening).
  • An evening spent with old friends who live in town is a special blessing.
  • I’ve met some great people and collected lots of business cards. It’s true – a stranger is a friend I haven’t met yet.

A sad day for kids and school libraries

Today I learned that another school has eliminated their school media specialist. The budget is stretched to the max, and something has to go — so it’s the professional teacher librarian media specialist who teaches kids how to learn and where to find the information for successful learning. The teacher librarian is part of the curriculum teaching team that teaches kids the literacy skills to help them succeed in a world where being a lifelong learner is critical. Just as the student uses the school library to complete the assignments from the classroom, the graduated student will use information seeking behaviors learned from the teacher librarian to complete life’s assignments.

I’m heartsick to think that the successful information literacy program this teacher has built has no value to the board who makes the decisions what to pay for and what to ax. Minnesota has no enforceable standards for students’ access to instruction by a certified teacher librarian. Indeed, the opinion of a number of schools is that they will keep the library open with a (much cheaper) non-teacher to carry out technical tasks. I wonder, how do they expect their students to acquire the higher level literacy skills of research, critical thinking, and problem solving without the curricular involvement of a skilled and certified teacher librarian.

A long time ago, when my mother began her teaching career in a one-room school, her classroom library was a collection of several book shelves, each with books for a different reading and learning level. When I attended a 2-room rural school in Wisconsin, my classroom library was a low shelf of books under the window. That world of information was somewhat finite and manageable by the classroom teacher.

As the world of information increased through the latter part of the 20th century and exploded through the technology of the 21st century, the need for instruction by a skilled information professional has become critical. Children must learn to learn – and keep learning. While we cannot predict what they will need to know as adults, we can equip them to be lifelong learners using the network of the communities’ libraries as their learning lab. Children who have not learned the information literacy skills critical to continuous learning from a teacher librarian will enter the adult work world with a fatal learning disability and handicap.

Stillwater Library is #1 on BB today

A Monday morning chuckle from the Pioneer Press Bulletin Board this morning.

Will The Library Let You Borrow That Book? It’s ‘TOO SOON TO TELL.’
Pioneer Press, Article Last Updated: 04/01/2007 08:24:35 PM CDT

I finally made it down to the new library in Stillwater yesterday. It’s been open now for an embarrassingly long time, but I haven’t been able to get there.

Anyway, after selecting a few books and chatting about the beautiful new library with an employee, I asked her if she could check my books out for me or if I needed to go downstairs to the main desk to do it. She pointed over to a do-it-yourself scanner and said: ‘You can do it right over there. Let me know if you need any help.’

Being a woman of the ’90s … oops, I mean ’00s … I figured: ‘I should be able to tackle this with no problem.’ So I walked over and scanned my card. The machine said ‘SWIPE YOUR FIRST BOOK,’ or words to that effect (not to be confused, of course, with ‘Steal This Book,’ so popular in the ’60s.)

After ‘swiping’ my book, the machine came back with a prompt that said ‘TOO SOON TO TELL,’ so I swiped it again, more slowly this time, and again saw ‘TOO SOON TO TELL.’ After trying a third time, and coming up with the same prompt, I looked down disgustedly at the machine, then at my book … and felt my cheeks turning red as I noticed the title of my book was ‘Too Soon to Tell,’ by Calvin Trillin. . .