Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Too Little, Too Late?

We've all see Shonda Brisco's map of self-reported school librarian firings. How I wish there was any other topic that got librarians as energized as the prospect of losing their jobs. To be fair, I know that many school systems are in crisis and looking to save money through whatever reduction in forces they can come up with...but I have to wonder how much that is a reflection of inert library media programs not doing their best to support teaching and learning.

View A Nation Without School Librarians in a larger map

I stopped teaching graduate courses because I was too depressed about that caliber of students going into the profession. I found that the majority of these nascent school librarians were not willing to put forth more than a minimum level of effort. And this was not the case with the students I encountered going into public libraries, but, unlike the school librarians, most of them were not already working in professional positions. And the vast majority of K-12 educators, on the whole, shock me at their refusal to spend a moment on prep outside of contract hours. I've heard this rationalized as a labor issue -- if you do extra, they imply, you are essentially doing what would be someone else's job, and thus removing their opportunity for employment.

But I don't see an equivalent justification for so many educators' failure to invest in their own professional development. A school librarian in our state sent a scathing message to a state listserv after several people indicated planning on going to ALA Annual this summer. She said she would rather spend $2000-$3000 (quite the lavish conference budget!) on library materials. She clearly did not appreciate the librarians in question were funding their own travel rather than using local school money.

I am lucky to be in a state where the budget isn't in quite the dire situations of many others, in a system which is not in as dire a situation as many in the state. Next year's education budget just passed the house without any reduction in state-funded teacher units. It does not provide for classroom materials, technology, professional development, or library enhancement funds. The lack of materials budget has been challenging. I'm writing a review column for Gale, so I'm getting some really top-notch informational books from them.  Nonetheless, I've been averaging around $100 out of pocket each month for must-have fiction and office supplies. Just this morning, I bought a copy of Ellen Hopkins' Tricks for $8 in cash from a sophomore boy. We don't have a PTA, and fundraising is not a real option -- we've had three events year, netting $300 total.  But we still have heavy circulation and waiting lists for dozens of titles, and multiple classes every block. I get to school almost an hour early every day to prep. I work most evenings, too. If I slavishly followed my contract, I could do a lot less, but then I might feel a lot more anxiety about advocacy and keeping my job.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What I'm Up To

I've been away for a while, but I'm hoping a prose-style GDT "brain dump" of what I've been up and what I'll be working on will help me center and focus a bit. I spent part of my spring break with my school's administrators, who are among the most progressive and visionary people I know, at the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference in Phoenix. We were speaking on systemic and personalized professional development. Of course, I worked in some school library-specific talking points.

Also at NASSP, I heard Todd Whitaker speaking about manging difficult teachers and learned about student conflicts in ethical literacy. My personal conference highlight was Kipp Rogers' presentation on using mobile phones to support learning. Rogers divided cell phone use into three areas one, the first of which -- like calculators, cameras, and calenders --did not require service. The second area involves simple texting, allowing for students to use the technology like student response or polling systems, while the third incarnation uses web-enabled applications for full-on backchanneling and authoring. Rogers has donated handsets to bridge the digital divide.

This month, I'm looking forward to reading about some more interesting classroom applications of technology. I'm on the award committee for ISTE's SIGMS Technology Innovation Award, which highlights a collaborative project between a school librarian and content area teacher. Applications are open until the end of March, if you are considering applying.

Next month, Buckhorn will host a pre-conference for the Alabama Library Association on April 13. We were lucky enough to lure Buffy Hamilton next door from Georgia to do something really thoughtful on Transliteracy for a keynote, then Laura Pearle, Buffy, and I will reprise our presentation from the YALSA 3.0 Institute at ALA Midwinter. That afternoon, one of our librarians is sharing her trip to Forks, them my admins will talk about adolescent literacy before a teen panel on library use. It's only $15 with conference registration, which includes a plated lunch from our culinary students. Advanced registration closes for ALLA this week.

May 5th, I'm hosting a talk for YALSA in its monthly series in ALA Connect. The topic is Using Web 2.0 Tools to Promote Reading. 

If that topic interests you, be sure to register  for the half-day YALSA preconference before ALA Annual. This started off as "WTF? They ARE Reading!" but the work-friendly title is "Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools." It's all about electronic texts, multimodal books, and ways to engage with readers in new, digitally-facilitated ways. Eliza Dresang will be opening the afternoon, talking about Radical Change, and then we will ahev some top flight authors -- John Green, David Levithan, Malinda Lo, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl are confirmed -- as well as amazing practitioners to share their transliteracy success stories. At $99, it's a bargain, too.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Adventures in Wonderland

Like millions of people, I went to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland yesterday. Lewis Carroll fashioned an enduring character who seems to represent, in her dreamy blue, a sort of blank slate for our dreaming unconscious.

That gorgeous 1903 Alice digitized by the British Film Institute was making the rounds this past week. Isn't THAT experience the very best of the Internet? It makes me giddy, a sort of twenty-first century equivalent of the museum sickness from E.M. Forster or Daisy Miller. Of the two, it's my favorite.

Burton's version of Through the Looking Glass tells us much about our own time. There is more than a whiff of the abstinence allegory (um, Twilight?) and I think the digitized leaping and slaying beasties were appropriated from Avatar along with the 3D cameras. Burton's affection for collaborators Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are palpable, and he brings out their best,  but the decision to portray Alice as almost twenty yet still in short skirts is as truculent as this incarnation of her manages. The final note is a confused combination of simultaneously feminist, colonial, militaristic and capitalistic. As perhaps befits our collective unconscious.

I expect to see the Alice influence in prom dresses and also predict a sudden trend for tying ribbons on your upper arm, slave-bracelet style.