The Instruction and Outreach Department manages and coordinates library research instruction for students, faculty and staff through course-related workshops, outreach activities, personal consultations, research guides and other instructional materials.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The tale of a high school librarian

A little over a month ago I came to the head of Instruction and Outreach, Diane Harvey, and said as a high school librarian, I would like to learn about what is going on in academic libraries. She said that would be great and as a matter of fact, I could help her by talking about what is going on in high school libraries. So last week I gave an informal presentation to about a dozen librarians with a vested interest in the subject. I tried to be positive about it, but in the end, the news is not good.

I am a new librarian, only two years removed from library school at the University of Pittsburgh, and my head is full of idealistic visions of teaching information literacy, actively collaborating with teachers, and preparing my students to be life-long learners in the 21st century. That has not been my experience to date unfortunately. When I sat down and thought about of all the various roles I fill in my school (i.e. teacher, instructional partner, information specialist, media center program manager, technical support, and webmaster), which ones take up most of my time? Program manager, where I make sure everything in the library is running smoothly on a day-to-day basis, and technical support combine to take up about 70 percent of my time. Where is teacher and instructional partner? At the bottom, taking up about 10% of my time...

Why? The biggest reason is that budget cuts resulted in the elimination of my full-time assistant and I am simply stretched too thin. There are over 1100 students in my school. I am the only librarian. I have student assistants, but they often require as much of my attention as they free up. As technology becomes more prevalent, my responsibilities as tech support grow. In the end, I rarely teach information literacy skills and almost never get the chance to plan lessons together with teachers. I have a plan to change this, however. Like the saying "pick your battles," I've identified the best area for me to focus on to make a difference. So I am positive about this coming school year and finally being able to do what I signed up to do.

Finally, to demonstrate how my experience with budget cuts reflects a national trend, please check out "A Nation Without School Librarians." This Google map is only a few months old, but already has hundreds of locations where school librarian positions have been reduced or eliminated. I fear there are many, many other librarians out there who are also stretched very thin and do not teach information literacy skills as often as we should be.

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