Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Library Without Books

I hope Dr. David Loertscher won't mind if I quote his email of September 17th about the topic of a library without books:
"Ten Things Worse Than a Library Without Books:
1. A library without a credentialed teacher librarian.
2. A library without information in the formats users prefer.
3. A library that restricts access to information in any format.
4. A library that most teachers ignore.
5. A library that most students Google around.
6. A teacher librarian who is afraid of or ignores the impact of technology.
7. A library that only deals in print materials.
8. A library of antiquated computers and computer networks.
9. A library where tech directors have a big sign back of their desks reading: Just Say NO!
10. An empty library."

Dr. Loertscher has been a leader in bringing teacher librarians into the 21st century. He has inspired many young and not so young to embrace the new technology, engage students in how to use it properly, and so much more. When I studied in library school ten years ago so much of this new technology did not exist. I was slow (Turtle Learner) to embrace it, and now realize how much I could have done in my library had I known more. My school was the most requested Magnet school in Los Angeles unified. However, it had a library that was smaller than most elementary school libraries, and was trying to serve a K-12 population. I knew I needed to embrace computers but I only had space for one for student use. Teachers in elementary school brought their classes, but middle and high school did not. It was lonely and frustrating. I spent the bulk of my time as well processing and ordering and collecting textbooks. Of course, I provided many new materials (those were the days of S080 funding for school libraries) and displayed current and popular titles. I increased the multicultural content of the library. I shared websites constantly with my teachers, especially in middle school. But it was still frustrating. The students at my school were not being served. Now I know I could have provided a library website that students could access in the classroom, or maybe at home, to do research, play games, practice math, and so much more. So, yes, I had many books, but I didn't have enough of what the students wanted, even then. I allowed them to research and print their documents. But they needed much more.
P.S. The image here is an elementary library in the valley of Los Angeles that has a gazebo!

SmallTalk: Weekend quotables

SmallTalk: Weekend quotables
Michael Klonsky has some great food for thought on this "SmallTalk" blog. He's posing the questions that we all want answered when it comes to education. Clearly our system in Los Angeles isn't working but we are not convinced that selling off our schools to Charters (partly to fund our District which is out of money, and partly to qualify for stimulus funds from President Obama) is the way to go. Too many charters do not offer a rich and varied curriculum to its students. More importantly to me, they do not provide social and psychological services that many of our students need. One charter I know has a student who is suicidal and cuts himself. How do they help him? Let him walk around school or sit in the office, basically do whatever he wants to do. The leadership of this school is very caring, but this is not helping this student. How can we offer choice as well as comprehensive services to our students, who, as the great Stephen Krashen says, are suffering from poverty, not bad education. How do we really serve these underserved students? How do we give them equal access not just to curriculum but to technology, libraries, music, art, dance, etc. etc. etc.???? One of my colleagues believes that Los Angeles Unified is falling apart, imploding from within so to speak. Our students will suffer even more if this is the case. And breaking up the district means even more inequality and lack of access to all.
My students in south and southeast Los Angeles do not go to libraries except those at their schools. Now the District is cutting library services for our students. How is this equal access?

Our Changing World and What It Means

My friend Benito Del Aguila Malvaez shares wonderful video clips from youtube on his Facebook page. This latest one is from 2008 and I had hoped my Library Services department would share it with our Teacher Librarians. It's titled "Did you know 2008 3.0" and asks "So what does it all mean?" Also available from Teachertube, it lists many facts about our changing world, including the fact that India and China are likely to become great powers soon. But it also emphasizes how much information is available to people compared with earlier times. China will soon become the number one English speaking country in the world. Our students are being prepared for jobs that havent been created yet. "We are living in exponential times." There are 540,000 words in the English language -- five times more words than in Shakespeare's time. Mind boggling numbers that make the job of teachers, especially teacher librarians, a challenging responsibility. I am grateful for School Library Learning 2.0 and for the CSLA Conference coming up in November. There will be many sessions devoted to library advocacy and technology for our changing world. One hot topic is the educational use of cell phones -- our students are always using them, how can we make this an educational tool? I have become addicted to my BlackBerry although I now wish I'd bought an iPhone. I'm sure that when I purchase my next phone, there will be many more uses for a cell phone. Pictured here is my almost four year-old granddaughter Elena who is being a DJ - one of the 34 jobs she might have in her lifetime. She loves to do puzzles on Jigzone. What will her world be like? Will her education be as good as mine was?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Standards for the 21st Century Learner

I'm taking Jackie's advice today and posting this link to AASL's standards for the 21st century learners. Right now some of us in Los Angeles are fighting to keep the jobs of our paraprofessionals. And I think our professionals' jobs are not safe either. Two teacher librarians were cut from their schools because the principals were given the "choice" to keep them or pay for other positions. This has set a dangerous precedent. As well, our paraprofessionals have been cut from all elementary schools under 550 students -- interestingly enough many of these are the best physical facilities as well as the highest performing schools Los Angeles has. So the Board has chosen to further diminish its ability to turn out well-educated students. The Board of Education members are the ones who need to be reading the standards from AASL. Unfortunately our Board of Ed is not run by educators but politicians who are there to further their political careers. Tamar Galatzan, who seemed to be sympathetic, because she has two children in school, turns out to be running for another office. Monica Garcia, Yoli Flores-Aguilar and other board members were promoted by our Mayor whose goal is to be King, apparently. He was originally put in office by the support of the teachers' union where he once worked. Now he attacks the teachers union as hindering progress. Mr. Opportunist -- sorry, I know I shouldn't be attacking people in a blog, but seriously, he and others are using our children to further their careers. Most of them wouldn't dream of having their own children in a school without a well-run and fully stocked library media center. And I don't believe our President or Secretary of Education would allow their children to attend a school lacking the latest in information literacy which is provided by the library media center. Our public school students are expendable, apparently. All they need to do is get high scores on tests. Politicians are not interested in turning out well-educated, critical-thinking students. They have sold our education system to the highest bidder and turned it into a private enterprise. I guess libraries are next. What can we do to stop this profit-motive movement that is undermining the greatest foundations of modern democracy????
By-the-way, this wonderful teacher librarian in my photo is Barbara Warren. I hope she doesn't mind my using this photo of her incredibly busy and wonderful library media center!! Kudos to Barbara!!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

43 Things

I am not exactly bored, but inspired by the 23 things to learn more. So I headed to the page that lists 43 things we list makers could do, many of which include some of the 23 things. The first one I went to was www.travelblog.org/VC/visited-countries.html so I could plot a map showing all the countries I've visited. I feel fortunate to have traveled a bit, as well as lived in two other countries for a year each. These experiences were invaluable. As a child my family lived in many places due to political persecution, yes, here in this great country. Then, when I was 16, I had the great fortune to be sent to Huejotitan, Mexico to build the irrigation ditch for the orchard of an orphanage in this tiny pueblo. It was my first enounter with another country, and I loved it because I wasn't a tourist, I was a worker. I and my friends built the ditch, vaccinated pigs, ran a nursery school for the village children, ate beans and eggs and tortillas, and generally lived an unpriviledged life for a month. What a wonderful education for a teenager!! After that, it was difficult to travel as a tourist. I felt I should somehow make a contribution. And I still feel that way. I hope to find out what is needed in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica when I am there. I plan to take some children's books with me, although I'll have to pay extra. Children of the earth deserve books!!! We throw away books that many would treasure. I just sent 8 books to Tanzania where my dear friend is teaching and it cost $42. Wow!! More later.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Keep on Turtle Learning

I'm trying to motivate myself to keep up this blog. At the moment I'm consumed by the fires in our area -- too close to home for health sake, but not in danger of losing our home. My secondary concern is the state of the Library Aides in Los Angeles Unified School District. I am working with a group of them -- there are about 500, and 180 have had their hours cut in half and lost their benefits. My job was also cut, along with five of my coworkers, in this first round of cuts at lausd. About 2000 teachers also were cut, but they managed to save all but about 330 of them. Meanwhile, our superintendent and board have sold our schools to the highest bidder (they want the Race to the Top money) and are telling us on their KLCS TV broadcasts that we shouldn't worry about job cuts, some other employee will step in and do the job!!
I worked at the lowest pay level in 1979 when we were all suddenly cut due to Prop. 13. Our bosses were not cut, and my immediate Director was redecorating his office. When I told the Board this, one of them told me I was a liar. This was pre-television days and tact played no part.
Once again, LAUSD is picking on the lowest paid workers. Actually, this has been true throughout its sorry history. My mother, who never went to college, was able to ascend to a top secretarial position, only to be demoted the following year. Money had to be saved, so the Board targets classified employees. Actually, this year was the first time in my memory that large groups of certificated were also targeted. Fortunately they have stronger unions. Classified have been divided into several units, and therefore conquered. Some of their unions are really "associations" and not unions at all. They know they are in danger of losing so many members, but they don't know how to fight back.
The Library Aides are an intelligent and caring group of people who earn some of the lowest pay in the district. They keep their jobs because they love them. Medical benefits made the job possible for many with families. Sadly, we are not the only district who has cut library personnel, both classified and certificated. My fellow blogger, Jane the librarian, now has a TL in the Classroom blog because she was cut.
I am appalled at a society, state, and government that do not value libraries. Particularly when our economy is in deep, deep recession, we need our libraries to provide people with resources they won't otherwise be able to obtain. I am equally appalled at a society that will allow the richest to stay rich at the expense of the poor. This is happening in our District, and it is happening with the health care debate. Every other advanced capitalist country has paid health care. How is it that we succeeded in brainwashing our citizens into thinking they don't deserve health care??? Actually, polls show that 70% of us favor a single-payer, Medicare type system. I hope for once the majority will prevail.
And I hope that the lausd Board and Superintendent will come to their senses. Our students DO NOT GO TO ANY OTHER LIBRARY except their school library. They need these and their Library Aides to instill early a love of reading. Working in the 21st century demands a literate public. Why are we failing our students???