Saturday, June 23, 2012

Being Relevant in a Time of Constant Change: Introduction

This is the introduction of my keynote speech for tomorrow's session on school libraries at the 32nd ASDAL Conference. I will try to post the rest of the document tomorrow and this coming week in parts.

Simon Cowell, a former judge of the reality TV show American Idol, would make positive comments at aspiring singer-contestants whom he finds relevant. The recipient of the affirmation would smile bashfully or jump in glee. Fans of American Idol know how discriminating Cowell could be to all American Idol hopefuls so, a good word or a praise from him is precious.

       I often wondered what set criteria he'd used to base his judgement of relevance to an American Idol contestant. Is it the commercial value of the singer that promises big record sales? Is it the singing talent that is rare and innate in a contestant? Is it the singing style and charisma of the American Idol aspirant? Perhaps all of the above: the complete package.

       What if one day, a critical judge of  school libraries visited your school library and tells you, "I no longer find your library and your job relevant." What would you do?

       I have come face to face with that question several times in my professional career as a school librarian. May I know who among you experienced the same challenge? Even as a student of library science in college, I was thrown that challenge by supposed mentors and peers who demand that I prove my course's worth in the teaching and learning process. Early on in my job as a pre-school librarian, I had to show my co-teachers the value of the early education library that I was tasked to organize and manage. There were many success stories of the effort and hard  work I put forth to make an impact in the learning community, but the question of relevance on the role that I contribute in the learning system  and environment has not ceased to haunt me till this day.

       This is the issue I wish to discuss with you today. Together, let's ruminate on the relevant role that school libraries and school librarians play in the learning community. To do this, I will begin with stories, both personal and that of others, that bespeak of school library experiences. We will go back in time, not very far back, just at the turn of the 20th century to look at the landmark contributions of librarians in general and the historical highlights of school libraries in particular. We will look at factors that shape the modern school library to what it is today. Researches, manifestos,  and position statements pertaining to modern school library management and practice that impact the learning community will follow. We will finish with school library projects, activities and strategies that promote and advocate school library services and programs. In the end, we hope to convert the question: Are You Relevant to You Are Relevant.

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