Monday, December 28, 2009


"It's not the rats you need to worry about. If you want to know if a ship is going to sink, watch what the richest passengers do... If your ship is sinking, get out now. By the time the rats start packing, it's way too late."

Seth Godin's very smart post highlights the importance of paying close attention to your "market," adjusting your service model, and remaining relevant to your customers. In the world of school libraries the rats leaving the ship is analogous to finding your job on the cut list. By the time your program is on that list it is too late.

How do you avoid this fate? Be curious, be bold, find out what the smartest school librarians and educational tech visionaries from around the world are doing and saying, and see how it can be implemented to the benefit of your students and faculty.  Embrace the unknown, and be prepared to jettison the familiar if it fails to move learning and student achievement forward. Be a crucial voice in discussions of change and innovation and the first to roll up your sleeves to make it happen.

As we embark on the second decade of the 21st century, these are a few of the projects I believe will keep the school library central and indispensable.
    1. Transform the "library" into a "learning commons." Libraries are crucial in this age of abundant information, but only if they provide relevant support for those actively navigating the digital environment. Hang up your "shhh," stop fussing over the coffee cups, welcome students in with wide open arms along with their mess and Facebook. Give them new tools so that they can find, evaluate, and create. Teach them how be ethical and productive citizens. Teach them how to communicate responsibly and publish to the world. Creativity can be messy and loud. Get over it. Welcome to the learning commons.
    2. Stop paper training students. Push information out to students digitally and also teach them the critical skills of finding and evaluating it for themselves. Paper is our orientation, but doesn't do any favors for our digital natives. The age of the reading packet is gone because it can't be accessed by students with reading disabilities. It can't be posted to a collaborative platform for analysis and discussion. It can't be linked or embedded, and it isolates the learner. Students need to manage their information and materials using  RSS feeds, web portals, and collaborative platforms. They deserve the opportunity to share learning with an authentic audience made up of peers, experts in the field, or a global audience. Use paper only as a last resort.
    3. Be a leading voice in bringing new ideas to your community as a tool for evaluating current practice. Change is hard. Be enthusiastic of innovation and supportive yet positive with those who may feel overwhelmed.  There is no such thing as a "dumb question". Recognize and value the best of "old school" methods with the same vigor you use to promote the new.
    4. Advocate for the diversification of formats.  Planning for the future still involves books, but collections should also include ebooks, MP3 books, graphic novels, and collections that are rich in media. This means leading investigations into new technologies that will allow us to manage, catalog, and curate media productions, media files, student artwork, student performances and more. This means researching vendors, piloting digital textbooks, and supporting hand held digital devices for students.
    5. Treasure and promote curiosity and creativity in our students. Bringing new tools  to teachers as a way to provide alternate ways for students to find information, create meaning, and share their learning is a unique skill librarians can bring to their schools.
Wishing everyone curiosity, joy, and healthy budgets in 2010.


Blog inspiration:
Seth Godin
Seth's Blog 
It's not the rats you need to worry about

    Photo Credit:
    R. Cicchetti
    Using LiveBrush

    Labels: , , , , , , , ,


    Blogger Susan Erickson said...

    As usual, you are an inspiration. The CCHS community is lucky to have you! Happy New Year!

    December 28, 2009 at 7:40 PM  
    Blogger Ms. Paradis said...

    This is excellent Robin! Can I link it to the Advocacy wiki for MSLA?
    Judi Paradis

    December 29, 2009 at 12:28 PM  
    Blogger tess said...

    Well put. I worry about school's filtering Web 2.O tools --where instruction can occur there's no access.

    December 30, 2009 at 11:39 AM  
    Blogger Ellen Brandt said...

    This is great! Concise, eloquent and inspirational. I'd like to share with the staff at my elementary school.
    I hate when teachers and administrators chastise the students to be quiet because they are "in a LIBRARY". I'm not advocating a 'free for all' but a gentle reminder about staying on task and being respectful of others in the school should suffice.

    January 3, 2010 at 11:48 AM  
    Blogger Koehln said...

    Great Post. I see that you are using Librarything at your HS for some of your fiction. I was just teaching some juniors today how to use it to get recommendations of other books they might like. How do you use Librarything with your students and do you recommend i?. We use a message board to post book reviews with students but I think Librarything might be more useful.

    January 6, 2010 at 10:35 AM  
    Blogger Nicole said...

    Great information!! Kudos to you.
    I have issues with I'll just say "veteran" teachers and "the no drink no food," "quiet" policy in the library...until something happens for the worse, then I will enforce a stronger no no policy. It is rather pathetic that "we" librarians need to always fight for ourselves and our jobs...

    January 6, 2010 at 11:48 AM  
    Blogger Ralf Lippold said...

    This is really cool - libraries are the think tanks of the future:-)

    Everything is possible there - one only has to adapt the surrounding and setting a bit and oops you have an innovation place!

    From youngsters from school, over students and even seniors moved out of work research on their own projects they had for years on their mind creates a basis for truly change;-)

    Check out (the blog of the State Library of Saxony, translated from German via

    January 9, 2010 at 7:17 AM  
    Anonymous David Truss said...

    Wonderful post! Insightful and to the point. I'd call this, (and also this by Joyce Valenza ), essential reads for every librarian!

    January 9, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
    Blogger mark underwood | knowlengr said...

    The paradigm shift underway is wrenching but essential for a knowledge-based society. Exploiting the seductions of pop culture and alternate platforms are fine by me, as long as it gets us to a more civilized place.

    January 9, 2010 at 9:40 AM  
    Blogger Connie Masson, Mgr, Ed Tech, SVVSD said...

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    January 9, 2010 at 1:35 PM  
    Blogger Connie Masson, Mgr, Ed Tech, SVVSD said...

    Thanks for this great concise post.

    The concept of the "library commons" came into my vocabulary from David Loertscher at the TIE/CASL Pre-conference in Copper Mountain, CO in June, 2009.

    Here is a description of the presentation and the link to his website.

    Think of the challenges: the Detroit automakers, healthcare, the energy crisis, and the economy just to name a few. Evolve or reinvent? Think of the Google Generation and libraries. Do we evolve or reinvent ourselves? In this presentation, a foundation of research is used to develop a new theory of school libraries as an example of what a reinvention might look like. However, can a field actually reinvent itself? Dr. Loertscher has been a teacher librarian at both the elementary and secondary level. Having taught at several universities, he is currently a professor at the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University. His website,, focuses on professional resources for school library media specialists. He also maintains a blog entitled School Libraries: Book Reviews, Research, Issues. Dr. David Loertscher is author of Beyond Bird Units and The New Learning Commons.

    Key words: Learning Commons, end paper packets, lead the change, advocate appropriate use of all forms of media, treasure and promote curiosity and creativity.

    January 9, 2010 at 1:36 PM  
    Blogger Pamela McLean said...

    I appreciate what you say about transforming the library into a creative commons and about treasuring and promoting curiosity and creativity in students.

    I believe the greatest educational gift "we" (librarians/teachers/mentors/parents) can give to young people is the confidence and skills to be effective self directed learners. Sadly, it seems to me, that too much time (in many formal educational systems) is spent on mastering set bodies of knowledge (in order to gain accreditation) - rather than developing a pro-active attitude and an appropriate relationship with that body of knowledge (and with other people - probably online - who relate to that body of knowledge).

    It would be wonderful if librarians could help students to develop the necessary skills, confidence and relationships to learn for themselves.

    January 9, 2010 at 4:27 PM  
    Blogger Jean Terranova said...

    Here is an inspiring project and perhaps a new way to read "Moby-Dick." -

    January 10, 2010 at 11:18 AM  
    Blogger Dave Culbertson said...

    I followed Seth Godin's link to your post and love it BUT...What about the role - perhaps unintended - of the library as an archive for local knowledge? As the following article shows, the death of newspapers often means libraries are the only place to turn for community-specific historical records:

    January 10, 2010 at 10:22 PM  
    Blogger Mrs. Cicchetti said...

    Hi Dave,
    I totally agree that an important role of libraries is to archive, but not every library. Should a school library hold 30 years of back issues of the town newspaper when the local public library does the same? Archives should exist within a community network, but this should only be a part of a libraries function, and not at the expense of diverse patron services. Some libraries put books and archives before patrons and wonder why people stop visiting.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and post.

    January 11, 2010 at 5:49 AM  
    Blogger Andrew Barras said...

    Great post, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have passed this on to my administrators!

    January 12, 2010 at 9:03 AM  
    Anonymous Nonchalant Savant said...

    I saw your post linked off Seth Godin's page - good, insightful and forward-thinking.

    I was always a huge supporter of my local library until one day a few years ago I asked them if I could donate my barely used books. The librarian curtly told me that it simply cost more money for them to process those books than it would to purchase new ones.

    Mind you, these weren't moldy-oldies... most were a year or two old and all had been best-sellers. I checked afterward, and of the dozen or so I was willing to give away, my library had ONE as part of its collection.

    That event left such sour taste in my mouth that I rarely go there anymore. Could her assertion that it simply costs too much actually be true? I've had doubts about that "fact" ever since. Particularly in this era where most cities/schools are looking for ANY means possible to save money.

    Warmest regards,

    The Nonchalant Savant

    January 12, 2010 at 12:18 PM  
    Blogger Al Smith said...

    Terrific are a lovely writer! I too find myself inspired or at least provoked by Godin.

    Learning Commons? whatever...I was developing an environment that served kids years ago. Messy? well yea, but civility is not passe just sound standard of behaviour.

    Paper training. I like it. I use a ton of digital tools to push content but sound instructional design with educational content is still the avenue. Although I assist independent learners who visit me-physical or virtual, the bulk of activity is still teacher driven. Even savvy kids still work with the demands from their teachers and assessment expectations. Librarians need to develop programs that engage all patrons- especially the students' teachers.

    Almost every new instructional or educational initiative that hits our community has been at least partly exposed and practiced by our library program. If we do not lead our teachers' growth and best practice, the library program becomes irrelevant.

    We have diversified collections for years because not all teachers or students are prepared to use the same content or format. Rich appropriate content has always been essential.

    My years as a classroom teacher enriched my years as a librarian because I lived the experience and always enjoyed the creative joy witnessed in kids. Curiousity is the DNA of learning. Libraries( learning commons)without a culture of curiousity are just archives.

    Al Smith
    Kelowna BC

    January 13, 2010 at 1:09 AM  
    Anonymous RevitaDerm Review said...

    The CCHS community is lucky to have you! Happy New Year!

    December 23, 2011 at 1:10 AM  
    Anonymous Alluria said...

    I would like you to keep up the good work you know how to make your post understandable for most of the people.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:16 AM  
    Blogger devid said...

    stopbullyingquotes I believe the greatest educational gift "we" (librarians/teachers/mentors/parents) can give to young people is the confidence and skills to be effective self directed learners.

    December 9, 2012 at 3:09 AM  

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