5 Ways School Librarians Embrace Technology

5 Ways School Librarians Embrace Technology
The Editorial Team December 19, 2013

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With the days of dusty card catalogs long gone, school librarians are taking a leading role in bringing technology into K-12 education.

Promoting the importance of technology in education is just one of librarians’ many roles in schools. By serving as role models for technology use and demonstrating how technological resources serve students’ learning aims, effective school librarians are an essential part of education.

Use of Research Databases

Librarians know more than just the Dewey decimal system, and they are at the front lines of teaching students critical-thinking skills. When middle school or high school students need to write an essay, a quick Google search just isn’t enough. School librarians teach kids how to access research databases such as PubMed, PsychINFO or Worldcat. Providing these tools to students gives them the ability to search out primary sources, find scientific articles and identify areas for future research.

This also gives school librarians a way to educate students about good vs. bad sources. For example, a quick Wikipedia search could be a good way to learn more about Reconstruction after the Civil War. It can also give students clues about where to start searching, keywords and general concepts to cover. But when it comes time to write that big history paper, citing Wikipedia is unacceptable. Teaching students to think critically about sources is a key role of school librarians.

Open-Learning Initiatives

With the growth of online education resources, educators have thousands of tools to enhance their classrooms. For example, the iTunes U app provides an easy way for students to track classroom activities online. They can access supplemental materials, read relevant books and watch presentations. Librarians can also introduce students to free online resources such as the Kahn Academy, which has extensive, easy-to-digest lessons on topics ranging from algebra to plate tectonics. Advanced students may be intrigued by access to free lectures from world-renowned institutions such as Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Princeton.

Turning to Kindles and e-Books

In 2009, Cushing Academy became the first school in the U.S. to get rid of its paper-and-ink book collection in favor of new technological resources, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Instead, students download e-books onto the library’s 65 available Kindle e-readers or use a computer to find an article from a subscription database. The use of e-readers and other electronic devices to access information resonates with students who grew up in an online world. With the price of most e-books considerably lower than hardback books, this can be a budget-savvy choice for schools.

Instant-Messaging Your Librarian

For students accustomed to communicating via text messages or Facebook, walking into the library and approaching the information desk isn’t a realistic option. Many librarians have turned to instant-messaging platforms to reach more students. Some high schools have implemented an “Ask a Librarian” instant-messaging platform to direct students’ questions to the professionals. Whether a student needs help finding a resource about cell organelles or wants to know how to cite a textbook in APA style, quick communication with librarians is key. Recognizing that social media use is pervasive among students, some schools have also set up library Facebook or Twitter accounts to communicate news and answer student questions.

Foster a Love of Reading with Electronic Resources

Many librarians enter the field because they have a lifelong love of reading and want to transmit that passion to others. Embracing new technologies gives school librarians the chance to foster a love of the written word in students accustomed to 140-character tweets. Options include:

  • Virtual bookshelves. Librarians use apps such as Shelfari to curate virtual bookshelves of must-reads for students. Shelves can be created based on genre, age level or other divisions.
  • Reading challenges. Incorporating social media into reading challenges is a great way to get students motivated to read. Consider implementing a prize for the student who reads the most or consistently meets reading goals.
  • Promote new arrivals. Savvy librarians promote new arrivals by sending students emails or discussing them on the library’s Facebook or Twitter page, creating buzz about the latest books.
  • Student recommendations. One of the best ways to get kids reading is to involve their peers. Choose a handful of students each month to write a brief recommendation for a favorite book. Post the reviews on the library website to highlight students’ favorites.

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