Thursday, February 19, 2009

In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update - Guest Blogger: Sara Paulson-Yarovoy responds to New York Times Story

(Editor's Note: Some of my readers know I started my career as an innovative educator serving as a library media specialist. I’ll always remember the song from my childhood – If you’ve got any question at all…you can call…on the li-brar-ieeeeeeeeeeee. It is a field that I truly love and one about which I am passionate. A few years after becoming a library media specialist, I managed iQuest a program that provides professional development for librarians across New York which allowed me to connect with and strengthen ties with librarians across the city. One of those librarians was Sara Paulson-Yarovoy with whom I have worked on many projects over the past several years. Ms. Paulson has served as a library media specialist since 1998 and currently works at "47" The American Sign Language & English School in Manhattan.

Recently Paulson updated her Facebook status with, “Sara is happy for school librarians today! Thanks to NYTIMES and Stephanie!” So, I asked her to write a post about the story she was celebrating. Here it is.)

It was fabulous to read the article and see the video of NYC school librarian Stephanie Rosalia in action, as an essential part of New York Times’ conversation on the future of reading.

Elementary and middle school students are hungry for online living (listening to music, watching YouTube, chatting with friends) and Stephanie is pushing them one step further: to find interesting online reading. Librarians in NYC schools also teach kids how to download audio books to their computers or mp3 players. Your students live online and 21st century librarians know that’s where you reach them. (For examples visit TIE's Online Books).

Mirroring the research that good teachers are more important than small class size, cited by Nicolas Kristof in the NY Times op-ed Our Greatest National Shame, we witnessed that good librarians are more important than the library collection. Good librarians will create one, weed one, and shape one, from both digital and print materials, to reflect the needs of the curriculum and the interests of their students.

The NY Times article enable readers to witness a good librarian in action. The story and accompanying video provided a look into the life of a certified, committed, communicative information specialist, collaborator, and teacher--all rolled into one--working the room. She taught the metacognitive skills of finding online, print, and audio reading material that will help kids help themselves to become better readers.

Like all good librarians, Stephanie Rosalia teaches students to access and evaluate information, and create new media (webpages, podcasts, comics, animations, videos, images, and audio) to deliver their work, based on their research. Through creating media and reflecting on messages media give, kids learn media and information literacy, two sets of 21st century skills, and collaborating teachers learn along with their students.

Rich noted that Stephanie was a “rarity.” So where are all the good librarians? Where are the innovative principals and school districts that will harness their collaborative position and information expertise to create competitive 21st century schools?

Quote: More than 90 percent of American public schools have libraries, according to federal statistics, but less than two-thirds employ full-time certified librarians.

Response: Instead of pointing fingers, let’s assume it has to do with the changing nature of the delivery of information. Some schools created the computer lab instead of transforming a library of old books into a library media center, as envisioned in the seminal 1998 ALA publication Information Power: a place to access, evaluate, and create new media. In large schools, some librarians work in collaboration with a reading specialist; in others, with a technology teacher. In small schools, librarians must play dual roles, and certified librarians have the skills to do so. But the key is collaboration between specialists in a resource-rich environment. Think personnel, not resources. Students need mediated access. It is not too late!

Quote: School librarians still fight the impression that they play a tangential role.

Response: The disintermediation myth that the Internet will take the place of libraries is no longer credible, but myths die hard. The best proof is the increasing demand for information literacy instruction in higher education. As Stephanie said, if you start in middle school, it is too late. Students need a head start.

Thank you to Motoko Rich who created a great piece of media, which information specialists can use to articulate what they do and communicate the heightened role they have as teacher today. It is very timely.

Stephen Kotkin capped his recent Times business book review of “The Race Between Education and Technology,” written by Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, with the historical truth that, “Greater investments in human capital once put Americans collectively on top of the world.”

With the new stimulus plan underway, will American educational leaders—especially in inner city schools like the ones we work in—place “greater investments” in library/information specialists who are qualified to teach K-12 students 21st century online information skills? In students across the digital divide, preparing them for daily life and work in a web-based communications world?


ALA. Information Power.

ALA. Information Power Books.

Kotkin, Stephen. Minding the Inequality Gap. Oct 8 2009.

Kristof, Nicolas D. Our Greatest National Shame. Op-Ed. Feb 14 2009.

Rich, Motoko. In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update. Feb 15 2009. (see video on the middle left).

Note to readers: If you are interested in guest blogging on The Innovative Educator, please email me a short bio, story idea, and information about the audience with whom you will share the post at


  1. When the article cites that Stephanie Rosalia is a "rarity," I believe the author is referring to the dearth of certified librarians in public schools, not that Stephanie is a rarity for teaching information navigation (as outstanding a teacher as she seems). The Times article was not news to us in the field; hopefully it grabbed the attention from the school administrators who are not always knowingly aware of the potential and impact of our work. Stephanie herself related on NYCSLIST (the electronic communication network that links NYC school librarians) that "all during Motoko Rich's observations I stressed to her that it was not unique to me or my library program that this commitment to information literacy / reading motivation exists. I told her repeatedly that this is what we ALL do EVERYDAY."
    Sara offers in her post a very thoughtful and thoroughly researched response, one that I hope reaches a larger audience than that of this blog alone, one that includes Arne Duncan, our new sec'y of education, as his team works out the education portion of the stimulus plan. Thanks Lisa and Sara!

  2. I was thrilled to see such a great librarian featured in the NYT article. Stephanie is a real asset to the profession and to the children and teachers she serves.
    I must have missed the part where the author noted she was a rarity. Is she? I've been working ten years as a librarian - 7 of them as a school media specialsit and I don't think she's a rarity. What's rare is to have the cooperations from school administrators to do our job to the utmost. I know that Stephanie is in a unique position, because her principal really sees what a library/librarian can do for students.