This past year, I had the opportunity to attend the annual NYSAIS Education and Information Technology Conference (NEIT) for New York Independent School Librarians and Technologists. During the conference, I realized that while there is some understanding of what connects librarians and technologists (it is one conference after all), I work in a unique learning environment that genuinely sees my position as a bridge between the two roles. With my “technologist” hat on at the conference, I connected with technology integrators and EdTech professionals who often feel frustrated by confusion around their job descriptions, a lack of awareness in schools on how best to utilize a tech integrator’s unique skill set, and requests from administration to start teaching skills beyond what we think of as technology integration. Substitute “technology integrator” for “school librarian” and these frustrations might start to sound familiar. Most surprisingly, I was often the only educator with an MLIS sitting among the technologists! To me, the connection between 21st century library skills and effective classroom collaboration, responsible technology use, and faculty development could not be clearer.
As I’ve mentioned in previous ALSC blog posts, I feel increasingly fortunate to work in a school that understands the importance of meaningful tech use, and how a trained librarian can bring their skills into a position that aims to integrate technology efficiently, collaboratively, and ethically into a middle school. There’s a clear delineation between my position and strictly offering “tech support” to students and faculty – although, by the time this blog post publishes you can bet I will have helped with my fair share of classroom projector emergencies!
For the rest of this blog post, I thought it might be helpful to list a few of the ways that my small, but mighty department has successfully unified as a library and technology team. These efforts have both raised awareness of how librarians and technologists can add benefit to any school and also paint a picture of how a technology integrator’s role can be an effective bridge between tech and library worlds.
- Department Meeting Drop-Ins & Faculty Development: Last year, my team – which consists of the Director of Educational Technology, the Middle School Librarian, and myself, made an effort to visit each department meeting once per trimester. During these visits we reminded teachers of the library and technology resources available to them, took a quick survey of upcoming projects and how we might be able to support them, and pointed to collaborations happening around the middle school. This increased visibility and reminder that we’re available led to an increasingly successful portfolio of projects – some of which involved just technology, some just the library, and in many cases both! We also now consistently co-present during work week sessions in June and August. These are great opportunities to highlight successful collaborations that occurred throughout the year and get an idea of what teachers are thinking of doing in the coming school year.
- Books & Bytes: This cleverly named newsletter was developed by my team as a way to regularly share middle school tech & library updates to faculty, as well as the occasional book recommendation, app feature, and digital student showcase. Sent via email every two weeks, it also sometimes features what’s happening in each of our Digital Essentials classes – a weekly digital skills class taken by every middle schooler, as well as important tech reminders.
- Library & Tech Learning Sessions: Playing off of Books & Bytes, we have also developed library and technology faculty learning sessions we named “Bagels, Books, and Bytes.” These short, casual monthly meetings take place before Homeroom and rotate between featuring a tech resource and library resource available to teachers. A few examples from last year included sessions on Sora, Explain Everything, and GALE databases. Coupled with bagels—of course!—and the occasional book raffle, they are a great way to connect informally with faculty, while highlighting school resources that may otherwise go unnoticed.
In conclusion, for this post I took a close look at the ALSC Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Libraries. Sure enough, a “Ctrl + F” search for the word “technology” turned up more than a few results, including:
- Integrates technology in program design and delivery appropriate for children and families.
- Designs programs that foster a variety of literacies and learning methods including but not limited to pre-literacy, early literacy, family literacy, media literacy, technology literacy, computational thinking, STEM, and maker-centered learning.
- Possesses technology skills and cultural competencies that enhance communication.
It’s my hope that with increased awareness of what skills a 21st century librarian is trained in, more schools will look to library school graduates when hiring for EdTech and technology integration positions. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in adding “technology” to your job title! Especially in independent schools – which seem to be consistently looking for ways to innovate with technology, and do not require the same certifications as public school librarian positions – I believe it can become a reality.
Manuela Aronofsky is one of the Children & Technology committee co-chairs. She is also the Middle School Technology Integrator and Digital Essentials teacher at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York. She earned her MLIS from Pratt Institute in December 2019. Contact info and more can be found at manuelaaronofsky.com.