Teacher-librarians fill high-tech role

Vancouver district earns national recognition for reinventing position

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter

Published:

 

View the case study of Vancouver Public Schools teacher-librarians at

<a href="http://www.digitalpromise.org/futurelibrarian">www.digitalpromise.org/futurelibrarian</a>

Learn more about Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools at

<a href="http://www.digitalpromise.org/league">www.digitalpromise.org/league</a>

Read Mark Ray's blog, Librarian Provocateur, at

<a href="http://www.librarian-provocateur.wikispaces.com">www.librarian-provocateur.wikispaces.com</a>

o Washington school districts often use the newer term teacher-librarian instead of the past titles school librarian or library media specialist. The term teacher-librarian acknowledges the librarian's teaching role in addition to managing the library.

o The number of school librarians nationally dropped almost 8 percent between 2007 and 2011. That's about one librarian for every two schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

o Bucking the trend of cutting librarian positions, Vancouver Public Schools employs 33 teacher-librarians.

o When he was teacher-librarian at Skyview High School, Mark Ray was named 2012 Washington State Teacher of the Year, the first librarian to receive the award.

View the case study of Vancouver Public Schools teacher-librarians at

www.digitalpromise.org/futurelibrarian

Learn more about Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools at

www.digitalpromise.org/league

Read Mark Ray’s blog, Librarian Provocateur, at

www.librarian-provocateur.wikispaces.com

As schools have stepped boldly into the 21st century, so have school librarians.

Formerly the keeper of the library books and charged with inspiring students’ lifelong love of reading, now teacher-librarians also are the keepers of information and technology.

“It’s like any other profession,” said Traci Chun, teacher-librarian at Skyview High School. “You have to evolve if you want to be successful.”

At a time when many districts are cutting back on library services, Chun’s employer, Vancouver Public Schools, has been recognized as a national model for how to reinvent the teacher-librarian role by using librarians to bring its schools solidly into the information age.

Selected by the nonprofit Digital Promise, the district was picked as a model of the evolving teacher-librarian, said Jason Tomassini, Digital Promise spokesman.

“The new model is a person who can collaborate and find ways to connect teachers and students with information,” said Chun. “I love the freedom and flexibility to go out to teachers and say, ‘Hey. What are you working on? How can I help you?’ “

Before she earned her librarian certification, Chun was a classroom teacher at Truman Elementary. Chun’s day includes teaching classes in the school library, but also helping individual students and teachers. A student might request help in formatting a research paper or finding a particular bit of information. A teacher recently asked Chun to help her set up a docking station in her classroom.

Evolving librarians

A decade ago, facing shrinking student enrollment and budgets, the Vancouver district cut several librarians at elementary schools, saving $450,000 during the 2004-2005 school year. Fourteen elementary schools shared librarians, with each librarian working at two schools.

o Washington school districts often use the newer term teacher-librarian instead of the past titles school librarian or library media specialist. The term teacher-librarian acknowledges the librarian’s teaching role in addition to managing the library.

o The number of school librarians nationally dropped almost 8 percent between 2007 and 2011. That’s about one librarian for every two schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

o Bucking the trend of cutting librarian positions, Vancouver Public Schools employs 33 teacher-librarians.

o When he was teacher-librarian at Skyview High School, Mark Ray was named 2012 Washington State Teacher of the Year, the first librarian to receive the award.

Previously, each school had its own full-time librarian. Although the district saved money, the arrangement was not ideal for librarians, teachers or students. The Vancouver Education Association filed a grievance, and eventually the full-time positions were reinstated.

Then when the Great Recession hit, the district faced more budget cuts. Nationwide, the number of school librarians dropped almost 8 percent between 2007 and 2011.

At the same time, Vancouver planned to bring its schools, employees and students solidly into the information age. The district’s goal was to put a personal computing device in the hand of every student in grades 3 to 12.

Mark Ray, who was the librarian at Skyview High School at the time, approached district leadership with an idea. He asked: Why not retain librarians, and increase their technology training so they can train teachers, staff and students on using the new technology?

As technology becomes more prevalent in schools, a lot of districts have responded by cutting library services and library positions, said Tomassini of Digital Promise.

“But what Vancouver has done is the opposite. It’s gone against the grain,” Tomassini said. “Librarians are the perfect people to help schools transition into the information age. It made sense to highlight what Vancouver has done. We wanted to create a blueprint for other districts to follow.”