Although this school year is only Stephanie’s second year working as Teacher Librarian, and like me, she is also working under a California Emergency Teacher Librarian Credential, I have been able to quickly identify Stephanie as a technology leader among our district’s library team. She was a co-participant of mine in the GUHSD Google Ninja Program, a professional development series that gathered technology-advocating educators from across the district, and recently, she was a session presenter at a regional East County Tech Fest. I attended her Tech Fest presentation on “Researching in the Information Age” and was proud of how well she represented librarians at the educational technology event.
Going into the interview, I knew that prior to becoming a Teacher Librarian, Stephanie had worked as an English teacher. She confirmed that she had started teaching in 1994, but what I didn’t realize is that during the years between then and now, she has had a variety of professional experiences including teaching in higher education, working for a publishing company, and developing an online high school program. Even after the interview, as I worked on writing this blog post, I did a quick Google search for her name and discovered that she has even authored a number of books! I emailed Stephanie just to be sure that there didn’t happen to be some other person out there with the same name who was responsible for all of the work, but she confirmed that she is indeed the person I had found online.
Given all of the discoveries I’ve made regarding the scope of Stephanie’s experience, I am even more grateful to have had the opportunity to hear her perspective regarding the role of emerging technologies within the information community of Teacher Librarians.
To start off, I asked how her relationship with technology has changed since she has become a librarian. She explained, “I’ve always been really interested in technology, but it wasn’t until I became a librarian that I was really able to immerse myself.” I was surprised to hear this since she seems like someone who has been tech savvy for years, and so I asked her to expand on this. She noted that the Teacher Librarian Program she is currently enrolled in through Fresno Pacific University has prompted her to use a number of multimedia technologies that she had never used before. Since she started the program, she has made and edited her first movie, created and published her first podcast, and more. This “exploration with technology” is something that she identifies as having been a luxury when she was a classroom teacher simply “because you’re so busy planning and grading.”
Hearing about how she is using technology so extensively in her Teacher Librarian coursework made me realize that the field is now expanding with a whole new generation of professionals who will be grounded in utilizing technology as part of the learning process. This foundation in technology seems even more timely for the community since Stephanie explained, “My job has primarily been to be a technology support person for students. I’m the student contact when there are technology problems.” Thus, while libraries have been earmarked in past years as becoming defunct due to the rise of technology, in many schools like Stephanie’s, the library has instead evolved into being a center for technology.
Having heard about how Stephanie supports students with technology, I was curious to see how technology also support her own professional development as a Teacher Librarian. She listed a number of professional growth opportunities she has been involved with, including a Google Apps for Education Conference and both local and national Computer Using Educators conferences. She also uses social networks on a regular basis, particularly Twitter, Google+, and blogs.
Hearing Stephanie’s list of professional outlets, though, I noticed that she did not mention any of the school library organizations such as the American Association of School Librarians or the California School Library Association. I asked her whether or not participation with educational technology communities has resonated with her more than participation with other Teacher Librarians, and she commented that while she follows many librarians on Twitter, she has found:
the things that they post are not about technology at all, they’re always about reading programs, and guest speakers, and fundraising, whereas the Ed Tech Community always has a lot of information about technology and schools and how teachers can use that technology.Stephanie’s comments reminded me of a question that has been lingering in my head throughout my study of Teacher Librarians as an information community: How do Teacher Librarians balance and prioritize their participation in the professional community of Teacher Librarians with participation in other communities?
My interview with Mary Ann Harlan had previously highlighted how important it is for Teacher Librarians to “listen in” to their school communities. And now, Stephanie’s comments made me think about the way that Teacher Librarians may benefit from participating in educational technology communities. How may we do a better job of listening in to this community as we explore how to utilize technology with and for our students and teachers? Furthermore, as seen through Stephanie’s participation with the educational technology community, what are the opportunities to not only gain different knowledge from this pool of other educators, but to also serve as an ambassador for Teacher Librarians.
Another final thought that I have is regarding how Teacher Librarians might reflect more upon the conversations that are taking place within our Information Community. How much have the conversations shifted as the profession has evolved, and is there a need to add more diversity to the topics that we commonly discuss? A previous interview that I had with David Loertscher highlighted a lack of participation by Teacher Librarians within the school library professional community, but now I wonder how many librarians like Stephanie are less active with the information community, not due to a lack of motivation, but perhaps because they are finding more relevant conversations and choosing to prioritize participation in other communities.