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Is Stocking Library Shelves with Nonfiction Content a Waste of Money?

I've been thinking a lot about the school library this week and I've come to a conclusion that might just be half-baked and is definitely going to rile more than a few book lovers up:  The cash that schools spend stocking nonfiction titles in the library is wasted and would be better spent on classroom devices that can be used to access the web.

Kinda makes you want to scream Lithuanian curses at the computer screen, right?  If you were here, you'd hit me for even suggesting that books bought by libraries are a waste of money, wouldn't you?  How could anyone ever hate books.  Or libraries.  Especially a teacher.

#sheeshthisguy

Gimmie a chance to explain:  My learning team is restructuring a part of our day to create a Genius Hour for some of our students.  Like other teachers who have experimented with turning a part of each school day over to students, my hope is that our Genius Hour will be a time where my kids learn about things that THEY are passionate about, whether they are defined in our state's curricula or not.

I introduced Genius Hour on Monday and since then, kids have been sussing out topics that move them.  Every time they pitch a topic to me, though, I cringe because I know that we don't have the resources -- either digital OR print -- to support their studies.  The entire week, in fact, has been an experiment in frustration as 30 kids wait to use one of my two classroom computers to begin looking for resources for their Genius Hour projects.

The experience led to this Tweet:

Sheila May-Stein --  a public librarian in Pennsylvania -- pushed back, arguing that well stocked library collections built by media professionals working in tandem with classroom teachers to identify student interests could meet my needs just as well as access to the internet:

Now PLEASE don't get me wrong:  I am NOT arguing against the importance of libraries OR librarians.

I work in the local public library three or four times a week and am constantly inspired by the vibrancy that surrounds me.  There is literally something beautiful about people coming together in a central location to learn and to study and to read and to grow -- and librarians play a vital role in supporting that work.  Heck, just last month I was singing the praises of the library publicly on Twitter.

But I'm incredibly skeptical about the ability of any librarian to build a nonfiction text collection that can meet the ever-changing interests of today's kids.  

There are just too many interests and too few dollars to go around.  Worse yet, class schedules -- for both students and the library -- automatically limit the times that students can get to the stacks sitting on the first floor.  That means even if a library DID have books on the topics that move every kids, those books would rest just out of reach until teachers and/or students could arrange a visit to sign out titles.  The result of these sad realities is students who are forced to study what they CAN study instead of what they WANT to study.

In five short days, momentum for our Genius Hour has died as my kids realized that the physical limitations of our library's collection and the lack of internet connected devices in our classroom would play a HUGE role in defining their studies. They saw through my "you can study ANYTHING you want as long as it moves you" message pretty darn quickly.  What I really meant was "you can study ANYTHING you want as long as you are willing to wait in line for the two computers we have in the classroom OR as long as you are lucky enough to be interested in a topic that our library happens to have books about."

#crappytradeoff

In a perfect world, there'd be a bajillion dollars set aside to buy a bajillion books on every nonfiction topic for a bajillion library shelves.  Schools would have six librarians to manage the collection, constantly adding titles based on the changing interests of the students in their buildings.  Coding's hot?  Let's get some books!  Someone's interested in the lost art of macrame?  Let's get some books!  The sixth graders are curious about animal dentistry?  Let's get some books!

But we don't live in a perfect world, so maybe it's time that we stop building the nonfiction collections in our libraries.

If underfunded education budgets are going to leave us stuck in a limited world, maybe the money we spend filling shelves with books about a limited range of topics that can be accessed only when schedules make it so would be better spent on devices that can provide kids with access to the unlimited sea of content on the web that surrounds them every minute of every day.  

Give a kid access to a really great nonfiction collection in the library and he can occasionally study the topics that someone else figured he'd find interesting. Give a kid access to the web and he can study literally anything RIGHT NOW.

Does this make sense or am I talking crazy again?

________________________

Related Radical Reads:

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30 Comments

Melanie Samson-Cormier commented on March 14, 2014 at 12:55am:

Noooooooooooo!

You make a very good argument but I would be devastated if our library stopped collecting non fiction. I have many reluctant readers in my class and non fiction is absolutely essential to getting them on board and reading.

Yes, they can read on the web, but finding reading level appropriate sites is difficult and they tend to gravitate toward videos and image searches. Non fiction books offer a tactile experience with quality visuals and can sustain their attention to help thwm imprto ve thwir reading skills. There is plenty of room for the web and e-readers (both of which you love) but the phsical books remain a vital piece of our literacy approach.visuals whi

Tori Grable commented on March 14, 2014 at 4:20pm:

Yes, there are tools

Actually, there are several tools now available, among them specifically readworks.org and newsela.com that do offer nonfiction, informational text on a variety of reading levels. An avid reader myself, I agree that physical books still have a place, but I have to agree that we can never buy enough informational texts to keep up with students' growing and varied interests. We would do best, I believe, to spend the bulk of our money elsewhere, including in providing access to digital text that is much more easily and cost-effectively updated and made available to our students.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 14, 2014 at 5:32pm:

Tori wrote:

Tori wrote:

An avid reader myself, I agree that physical books still have a place, but I have to agree that we can never buy enough informational texts to keep up with students' growing and varied interests.

--------------------------------

This is well stated, Tori -- and represents my core feelings pretty darn well. 

I WISH we could build print collections that could keep up with our students' varied and growing interests and I agree that a school librarian has expertise in curating collections that are age appropriate and interesting -- but I think that's a losing battle simply because (1). budgets are limited and (2). student interests are not. 

Looking forward to checking out the sites you mention.

Bill

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 14, 2014 at 5:57pm:

Melanie wrote:

Melanie wrote:

Non fiction books offer a tactile experience with quality visuals and can sustain their attention to help thwm imprto ve thwir reading skills. There is plenty of room for the web and e-readers (both of which you love) but the phsical books remain a vital piece of our literacy approach

------------------------------

I'm with you, Melanie -- I really am.  In fact, I've got more nonfiction books on my classroom bookshelf than pretty much anyone I know for just that reason.  I think when we fail to turn kids on to nonfiction titles, we fail them period.

But I can't help to like we're fighting a losing battle when we buy massive print collections for school libraries simply because we'll never have enough books to meet every child's interests.  Wouldn't investing in devices that CAN guarantee that every child can access content that moves them every day be a better way to spend our money?

Now don't get me wrong:  I HATE that this is an either/or conversation.  It shouldn't be.  Every school should have the money to do BOTH.

But the simple truth is that we don't -- and if we are forced to pick, I'd choose devices and internet access because they offer access to content for every kid, all the time.

Does this make sense?

Bill

annonymous commented on March 15, 2014 at 12:39pm:

OOH!

Your statement:

"Wouldn't investing in devices that CAN guarantee that every child can access content that moves them every day be a better way to spend our money?"

Buying digital devices or even investing in them does not GUARANTEE that every child can access content or that they will be "moved" in the right direction.

You seem to be making some pretty broad generalizations.  For those that don't know search skills, etc. it may move them in a direction to play, surf the web, be off task.  For example 2 students went to the Media Center.  Told by their teacher what to search on the computer -- students didn't need help.  Topic:  Foods of China.  Personalized learning ---- using technology --- motivated to look it up.  On their own (genius hour?) --- time goes by-- guess where they were?  China Buffet Restaurant - copying down food.

 

What happens when servers go down?  What happens when the device can't connect?

Seems to me blended learning and a combination of resources is everyone's best bet.  Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Melanie commented on March 18, 2014 at 6:20am:

I agree that we should have

I agree that we should have both. But right now there are still more available titles in hard copy, especially for younger students and my students aren't drawn into the e versions (somewhere in junior high this starts to switch, but my elementary students have a clear preference for books they can touch.) I know you can't please everyone but I would continue to buy hard copy.

Brian Ridpath commented on March 14, 2014 at 2:08pm:

Libraries

Bill

 

Sounds like you want to reinvent a sacrosanct aspect of schools again! Well, bully for you.

When I was younger, I spent tons of time in my local libraries checking out books/film on topics I was interested in: Dinosaurs, Galapogos Islands, Mythology, Charlie Chaplin Movies, mathematics, football, etc. I loved the library at school and in my hometown. The library was the only place to get  any information on history or how things worked. I remember in college waiting a week or two just to get an article I needed for some research.

My own kids only use the library for pleasure reading now, and I never use it. My thought - a library probably should have less books and dozens upon dozens of electronic devices hooked up to site-liscensed databases of research material/books on a world of topics that could be studied by students of all ages. It's the world we live in now. It may be that the traditional school librarian has to have a different job description/duty - an "internet research expert". Change is slow though - especially in public schools. Fortunately I still like books and get paid enough to by one or two once in awhile and read them on my IPAD.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 14, 2014 at 5:24pm:

Brian wrote:

Brian wrote:

My own kids only use the library for pleasure reading now, and I never use it. My thought - a library probably should have less books and dozens upon dozens of electronic devices hooked up to site-liscensed databases of research material/books on a world of topics that could be studied by students of all ages. It's the world we live in now
.

------------------------------

This sounds about right to me too, Brian -- and I think it would be a great transition for libraries to make.  They remain some of the most beautiful places in the community -- public or school -- in my opinion because they provide a gathering place for learners.  Anytime we can bring learners together, we celebrate something valuable and important.

But the way we access nonfiction content is changing.  That seems to suggest that our libraries need to change, too.

Bill

Lydia Smith-Davis commented on March 14, 2014 at 3:01pm:

Funding Libraries

Reference and non-fiction PRINT formats are indeed becoming obsolete.  But don't throw the baby out with the bath water!  Digital access to e-books and especially databases--with content taken from scholary sources such as journals, magazines, newspapers, video, audio, images, podcasts ect ... is where we want to direct our students.  Finding info from popular sources on the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant!  Fund your school library and a fully credentialed school librarian to get the most bang from your buck!

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 14, 2014 at 5:29pm:

Lydia wrote:

Lydia wrote:

Reference and non-fiction PRINT formats are indeed becoming obsolete.  But don't throw the baby out with the bath water! 

---------------------

Definitely not throwing any babies here, Lydia! 

I agree completely that the library and the librarian both play vital roles in both school and public communities.  I tried to make that clear in my bit, so if it didn't come across the right way, many apologies.

I am arguing, though, that the way we spend money on libraries -- especially in a world where fully funding libraries are unlikely -- has to change if we're going to meet the growing calls for differentiated and personalized learning spaces.  There's just no way that we can create stacks of print materials that are custom tailored any more -- and custom tailoring is becoming a new expectation of today's learners.

Does this make sense?

Bill

Jennifer Henry commented on March 14, 2014 at 6:54pm:

Innovation and Cooperation

I'll admit that as a school librarian when I first read your post I wanted to bang my head against my keyboard in frustration. However after re-reading it a few times I think we all may be wishing for the same thing, we're simply describing it differently.

Lydia is on the right track, schools shouldn't be sinking tons of money into print non-fiction. That's of course different than saying schools should not sink ANY money into print non-fiction. There are some wonderful print non-fiction titles out there, especially geared toward younger readers that libraries should have on hand, for many of the tactile reasons that Melanie mentioned above. The days of the physical encyclopedia and thick reference books are gone. 

I think as a librarian what we need to investigate further is how to get the 'most bang for our buck.' This means working cooperatively with other entities and being creative with funding for innovative ideas. I teach in New York State where we have what are called School Library Systems, a structure funded partially through the state education department that coordinates services for and between school libraries in a particular region. In our region we were able to get 20 school districts to take part of their library funding EACH YEAR and pool it together to continuously build a massive collection of non-fiction ebooks that could be accessed anywhere by multiple users. This is a win-win for all involved. 

It seems like in your post that you were not simply frustrated about the  lack of computers you were frustrated about the lack of student access to information. Those are two completely different things. Research is a multi-step process and it can unfortunately take time. I think as a society we've become used to being able to quickly type something into Google and retrieve an immediate response, but that doesn't always make it the correct response. Sometimes gathering and reviewing materials (even if they're online) can take days. Much longer than something that can be completed in a free period. Whether they are researching a topic of their choosing during their flexible time or not, they need to be able to fine tune what they are searching for. While a librarian can't gather materials to prepare in advance for a student's 'free choice' of topic they can show students how to use the district's online databases and resources to access research materials and ebooks on computers located in the library. You had mentioned looking in the library for physical books but it didn't sound like there was an opportunity for students to meet with the librarian and use online resources in the library. It sures seems like if there was an opportunity for your librarian to meet with students in small groups, or one-to-one for reference interviews it would help solve some of the problems you were having with access. 

I truly don't believe that simply purchasing more technology, more computers, more devices will solve the problem of students being able to find the information they're looking for. We know that the world is drowning in information at the moment. Handing a student a device with all of the world's knowledge available will not guarantee that they'll find the answers they seek, but it will guarantee that they'll need the skills to determine accuracy and relevance while they're looking. 

Jo commented on March 14, 2014 at 9:38pm:

Balance

Right now, in my elementary school library, I have approximately $3000 plus our Follett contract (which includes WebPath Express at another $1300+) for digital resources and only $2000 for books.  Not all of that $2000 goes to nonfiction.  I have 12 wireless laptops available for student use, 6 of which are always out and fired up.  Students may also use the circulation desk computers if we are too backed up and they need to do a quick catalog search.  So, at school, I feel like we have great access to digital resources.  However, at least 30% of my students have limited or no internet access at home, so I have not really jumped on the bandwagon that says books are unnecessary.  My students still "love" our books to death and we repair them often.  My circulation stats are high and I would hate to lose the bit of book money I do have in the name of getting more digital resources that many of my students can only access at school.  The idea that students may or may not have internet access at home rarely comes up in these discussions about where school library money should be spent and that worries me.  (Not to mention that I still need fiction to feed their little souls... and that costs money too.)

Linda Lindsay commented on March 14, 2014 at 10:38pm:

Stocking Library Shelves with Non-fiction

What does your school community want and need? That is KEY.

Just ordered some beautiful art books, math study books, health books the school counselor can push toward students in need, education-related books for our Curriculum Committee to peruse, and human trafficking books for our Global Issues teacher. All were requested.

Granted, our non-fiction section is smaller, but it is curriculum-focused, need-based, and therefore solid. Paper books are fantastic for sharing and discussing, face-to-face -- what better way to build community?

School community needs change, of course. The savvy librarian will be on top of the changes and adjust accordingly. I am always weeding, just like in the pre-Internet days, and my budget now includes database subscriptions.

BTW our students are very fortunate to have full access to the Internet via school computers and their personal devices, so yes, they could easily do a Genius Hour. And I agree that student access to the Internet is important. But there definitely is a place for non-fiction books, at least in our school. I hope this never changes.

Janet commented on March 15, 2014 at 6:12am:

School Library funding...

I think you would find many public & school librarians in agreement. Many of my colleagues and stretch our already slim budgets to include subscription databases for all ages - including visually driven services for very young learners. The non-fiction print books I buy these days are high interest books that my kiddos can check out and take home. The cost of doing business dictates that a certain number of those get lost and damaged before they are outdated. They are often science topics, and of course the subject matter is always being updated so they need to be replaced, much in the same way that subscriptions must be renewed. Digital resources with adequate hardware to access is an up and coming alternative. The publishing industry and libraries are working to update their business models to serve the public who can't afford to pay the price for reliable information. Exciting times in the information world.

Cathy DuPre commented on March 15, 2014 at 10:03am:

Be Careful what you wish for

I would like to address several statements you have made and tell you the impact it would have at our school.  First of all I am at a school 93% EDS.  Most of our population is ELL and EC -- the majority of our population is not your typical average or above average grade level.  Our students come to us speaking little to no English.

Your opening statement "The cash that schools spend stocking nonfiction titles in the library is wasted and would be better spent on classroom devices that can be used to access the web."  This would mean that as our library lost books or as books were not returned -- we would be sending home little to no informational text.  Our "massive budget" per year for 796 (approx) students -- $1,400.00 (not even 1 book per child).  Many of our students do not have digital devices at home.  As a teacher you should know that it is very hard to "flip" a classroom when there a lack of technology at home. 

I read your expalanation.  "Like other eachers who have experimented with turning a part of each school day over to students, my hope is that Genius Hour will be a time where my kids learn about things THEY are passionate about........."    Your statement "The entire week, in fact, has been an experiment in frustration as 30 kids wait to use one of my two computer to begin look for resources......"

You seem to miss the point that well stocked libraries built with digital ebooks, databases as well as the print resources PURPOSEFULLY SELECTED provides quality resources on a range of levels that kids are passionate about.   When you turn kids loose on the web to select their own --- yes, its personalized learning  you will see what the result is.  Read the report from Project Information Literacy -- real facts from real high school students who have gone to college and have found they lack the research skills and grab the first thing on the internet.  Read the report highlighting what employeers have said.  Same thing -- college gradates hired to do research, etc. -- don't have the research skills, keyword searches, etc. Be careful with personalized learning ............with guidance and instruction yes.  But if our students are one to one and don't have the skills, strategies to find the resources will the technology make the difference?  Or will our students be drowning in a sea on information where they too will grab at the first search item that "pops up" on their topic.  I believe some call it the "shallows."

We need to be advocating for flexible access to the library and resources and a chance to learn at the point of need.  You do make a valid point "that if a library DID have books o the topics that move .........kids, those books would rest just out of reach until teachers and/or students could arrange a visit to sign out titles."  (does your library really sign out titles?  Is your school library not automated with check out system -- or are you trying to infer libraries are antiquated?)  Please understand that many libraries are closed to students for class pictures, meetings, community groups and the like.  

Your next point "The result of these sad realities is students who are forced to study what they CAN study instead of what they WANT to study." Then you contradict yourself in your statement "....I cringe because I know that we don't have the resources -- either digital or print--to support their studies."  So are you now sayiing everything is not on the web?   Students at most schools in my district can study what they WANT or choose a project that interests them.  We are building a virtual library where we are teaching students digital literacy through their chosen topics and areas of interest.  

"But I'm incredibly skptical about the ability of any librarian to build a nonfiction text collection that can meet the ever-changing interests of today's kids."  With this statement you do seem to be judging the ability of librarians (with the fact that you chose the words "about the ability of any librarian".  What if I said I was skeptical about the ability of any teacher to build a classroom environment that met the ever changing interests of today's children?   Wow.  Those who have a discerning eye know that librarians carefully build a range of digital and print resources and databases to balance all the needs of their population.  Not just the most affluent.  Not just the poor.  Librarians curate resources and sent items of interest to teachers, help students navigate the sea of information available.

 

"Give a kid access to the web and he can study literally anything RIGHT NOW." Again read your other statement.  The two don't go together.  (".....I cringe because I know we don't have the resources -- either digtal or print -- to support their studies."  With the right strategies, instruction, and motivation, yes students can study on the web.  For an hour at a time?  Really?  Before judging Genius Hour I would like to hear more.  What does the teacher do during genius hour?    

Elizabeth Kahn commented on March 15, 2014 at 3:07pm:

Discussion on non-fiction print sorely needed

I definitely understand the dilemma of having a non-fiction book on every topic that students are passionate about.  I am librarian in school with 350 students. My district gives me a budget based on the student population. So my budget is small. On top of that, we serve students in grades 6 -12.  That means the needs of the students are spread widely.  There is just no way that I can keep up with student interests and cuuriculum needs and have an outstanding up to date collection.  It just is impossible.  We have a 1:1 laptop program so I think that my students can be better served with electronic resources provided by the library.  Easy access and universal access--so I agree the non-fiction collection in print no longer serves the purpose for which it was needed.  I as librarian am still needed to curate the electronic sources and teach the students how to effectively access and use them.  

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 17, 2014 at 5:53pm:

Elizabeth wrote:

Elizabeth wrote:

I as librarian am still needed to curate the electronic sources and teach the students how to effectively access and use them.  

-----------------------

This is spot on, Elizabeth.  We will always need librarians that can help to determine the kinds of online databases and digital content that's worth having access to.  We'll also always need librarians to help us determine the kinds of print nonfiction that IS worth buying and to help students learn to evaluate the quality of the information that they come into contact with.

Librarians AND libraries add incredible value to a school and a community.

The challenge is that until the people with the purse strings recognize that value, y'all will continue to be underfunded -- so we've got to figure out the best way to stretch the bucks we have.  My assertion is building a large print collection of nonfiction books isn't the best way to do that.

Bill

Jo commented on March 15, 2014 at 3:12pm:

Balance

Right now, in my elementary school library, I have approximately $4300 used for digital resources and only $2000 for books.  Not all of that $2000 goes to nonfiction.  I have 12 wireless laptops available for student use, 6 of which are always out and fired up, and the others are easily accessible.  Students may also use the circulation desk computers if we are too backed up and they need to do a quick catalog search.  So, at school, I feel like we have great access to digital resources.  However, at least 30% of my students have limited or no internet access at home, so I have not really jumped on the bandwagon that says books are unnecessary.  My students still "love" our books to death and we repair them often.  My circulation stats are high and I would hate to lose the bit of book money I do have in the name of getting more digital resources that many of my students can only access at school, even if the school provided them with a device.  The idea that students may or may not have internet access at home rarely comes up in these discussions about where school library money should be spent and that worries me.  (Not to mention that I still need fiction to feed their little souls... and that costs money too.)  My $2000 of book money buys about 100 books per year for a school population of close to 1000 students.  Please do not make this general recommendation for diverting funds from book buying to purchasing digital resources without a better idea of how those funds are already distributed.  As the librarian, it is my job to try to balance all of this, and you are speaking out of turn.

Furthermore, I was doing something similar to genius hour 18 years ago when there was little to no internet information available and database searching was charged by the minute.  The difference is that I helped the students by having them turn in 3 - 5 questions ahead of time, then chose the one or two that I thought we could best answer via books, encyclopedias, phone calls, etc.  We had a lot of fun, the students were engaged, and we were very successful with many parents seeing it as their kids' favorite activity. I am glad we have digital resources so that this activity can be even more fun for the students, but the digital resources cannot, on their own, make or break the activity.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 17, 2014 at 6:05pm:

Jo wrote:

Jo wrote:

Furthermore, I was doing something similar to genius hour 18 years ago when there was little to no internet information available and database searching was charged by the minute.  The difference is that I helped the students by having them turn in 3 - 5 questions ahead of time, then chose the one or two that I thought we could best answer via books, encyclopedias, phone calls, etc.  We had a lot of fun, the students were engaged, and we were very successful with many parents seeing it as their kids' favorite activity.

---------------------------

Jo,

Do you think that kids today have different expectations about access to information than the kids you were working with 18 years ago?  And if so, how do those changing expectations about access impact the faith that students have in schools as places of learning when we can't meet their expectations?

The kids in my classroom today are far different than the kids I was teaching 21 years ago -- and honestly, they seem to be growing more and more impatient with us.  They recognize that learning at school is difficult because they don't have access to the information they need even though that information is instantly accessible when they aren't in our buildings. 

Does that make sense?  And more importantly, what role should that play in the choices that we make about stocking our media centers.

Bill

 

Jo commented on March 18, 2014 at 1:34am:

Balance

I note that you focused very narrowly on one part of my post, so I'll answer that part.  Maybe we are talking the difference between secondary and elementary here or the difference between wealthy kids and those who are not.  I have always worked in situations where the majority of students come from families who have to budget carefully, and connectivity does not edge out food/rent/electricity (thus the 30% of students without connectivity at home and others who have VERY SLOW connectivity).  The parents generally all have cell phones, but several are pay as you go and they tend to stop and start service often.  So, no, I have not found that my students' expectations have changed all that drastically.  They are excited to get to learn about all sorts of things and are so happy when someone not only gives them the opportunity and resources to learn, but ties that with the expectation that they can do it.  Even in my school, where I consider us to be very well connected, I would still probably preview questions to help ensure their success.  My favorite anecdote about these questions was the child whose favorite question was where do we go when we die.  As a 10 year old, I questioned him a bit more about this question only to find out that he was looking for some "facts" that heaven really existed.  I still do not think even with the huge amount of resources at my disposal that there are great resources at his level for him to answer that question at school.  I collaborated with his parents to gather some resources, suggested some other places they might want to look (churches, cemeteries, etc.), and basically started a conversation within that family.  He later told me that he was happy with the answers he had gotten.  Even today, the results he would have gotten in his own online searches would have been confusing and difficult for him to process without an adult to help him a bit.  So, we chose one of his other questions for his "school" project, but made sure he had avenues to answer that question outside of school with plenty of support. 

As stated earlier, my students don't necessarily have this instant access you speak of outside of our building.  In fact, in our building is one place that they do have access to both print and digital resources.  Because of this, it is important that I have lots of information that is portable that they can carry home (dare I say, books???).  Again, I point out again that our school is actually funded better for digital resources than print items, and that decision is made above my level.  So, without knowing each individual school's budgetary situation, I think it is not very logical of you to automatically decide that resources should be diverted from print to non-print resources.  Also, book money does not just go to non-fiction and fiction is a very important part of kids' reading and interests.  I am not disagreeing with you about the need for plenty of digital resources.  I am just disagreeing that there is a one size fits all choice for diverting resources to digital items.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 16, 2014 at 7:46am:

In the midst of a breathless

In the midst of a breathless rant, Cathy wrote:

You seem to miss the point that well stocked libraries built with digital ebooks, databases as well as the print resources PURPOSEFULLY SELECTED provides quality resources on a range of levels that kids are passionate about.

--------------------------

Cathy,

I don't want to get wrapped up in some ridiculous digital fight with you, but you are the one missing the point.  In our school, we don't have the kind of well-stocked library that you describe here.  What I am suggesting is that when a school is forced -- because of budget restrictions or policies that make BYOT impossible -- into an either/or choice, I think they should choose devices over print nonfiction texts. 

And before you get whipped into a full-on "Save Our Librarians" lather, please notice that I never question the role of the librarian in my bit. 

So take a deep breath and realize that this post isn't about protecting your position.

It's about suggesting that the way we are spending the limited amount of money allocated for libraries needs to change if we're going to provide opportunities for kids to access information about their own interests during the school day.  If personalization is a stated purpose of a school -- if ownership over the direction of learning matters to a faculty or a school community -- we can't keep denying kids access to the web.

Oh -- and one more thing:  Please stop suggesting that librarians are the only ones who can teach kids to search the web efficiently.  That's pretty darn insulting to classroom teachers. 

#sheeshchat

Bill

Cathy DuPre commented on March 16, 2014 at 9:24am:

In this "professional forum"

In this "professional forum" I was simply speaking to your points and how alloting all the money to digital devices would affect the population of many Title 1 schools across the nation.  I thought we were speaking to student achievement and success.

Collaboration and community are a huge part of the common core.  With collaboration all members of the team can make a difference in student achievement.  Yes, all teachers have a resposibility to teach effective web search, digital citizenship -- don't believe I used the word only............

Brianna Crowley commented on March 16, 2014 at 5:59pm:

Title I access...

Cathy,

What I'm still not understanding from your converation here with Bill, is what you view as the practical gain of spending money on printed text vs. digital access to text. What again is the advantage?

My reading of Bill's argument is that he would like to see the physical role of the library shift to being a place where digital access is expanded AND curated/facilitated by an expert researcher rather than a place that houses books curated by an expert researcher. The advantage to this would be more room and money invested in devices, databases, furniture, and tools that allow for students to learn the vital research skills you point out but without the stacks and stacks of printed materials that currently become out of date within a short period of time.

I think everyone agrees that having a expert librarian to work with both students and teachers is a crucial role for any school community. However, I'm with Bill in the "bang for the buck" argument. Title I schools have a limited amount of funds. Access to digital resources allow them to do more with those funds; therefore, student learning can be more easily personalized with the same amount of funds.

Now, where I could see an argument is if the implementation of those funds goes awry. I've been in a school where the infrastructure of wireless Internet and working devices has been a thorn in my side for years. If the funding is diverted away from print resources and put into devices that don't have a strong and open network to support them, than the students would suffer. Their access to those fantastic digital resources would be frustrating and their print alternatives would be diminished. That's a no win.

But I think history will be on the side of educators, schools, and policies that work to increase access of digital content for students. I think fighting to save print content is a losing battle in the long run.

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 17, 2014 at 6:44am:

Well said, Brianna.  

Well said, Brianna.  

Thanks for clarifying my position.  

One of the things that always catches me off guard is the incredible vitrol that comes at me every time I write about reimagining libraries.  It's intense and it is ugly -- even when I write a bit like this that includes multiple direct paragraphs celebrating the value of libraries AND librarians. 

My only intention for this piece was to push people to consider that print collections come with access issues -- and in an era where personalization matters in learning spaces, access issues are a barrier we need to address.  Replacing print purchases seems to me like a step that might be worth pursuing.

#sheeshchat

Bill

Gary Metzenbacher commented on March 17, 2014 at 9:24am:

vitrol

I didn't see any vitrol in any of the comments posted here.  What I did see was passionate rationale given on both sides of the argument/question.  The idea of reimaging the library is not new.  Librarians have been reimaging libraries for a long time; providing access to information in a wide variety of ways and formats.  Digital content is not new but intelligent access to and the use of it requires some guidance.  Librarians are uniquely qualified for and experienced in that guidance.  Quite often reductions in funding library collections, which contain a variety of media types [including digital media], have not resulted in increased funding for devices and access to digital content.  The student loses on all counts in that somewhat regular scenario.  When over 70% of the schools in the US lack the bandwidth to handle todays technology needs does anyone think that 1to1 is going to solve anything?  There has to be balance.

Kathleen Noble commented on March 16, 2014 at 11:03pm:

non fiction collections

Without non fiction books in our library to supplement my huge collection of non fiction books, my first graders  would lose valuable  motivation to read.  Nothing is celebrated more than a child who runs up to me in the library with a book about a subject they are interested in.  Perhaps it is due to the fact that in the animal category alone, most of my students find topics that not only interest them, but motivate  them to read more!

Also, information on the internet is very overwhelming for a first grader and they are unable to filter out web sites with misinformation, etc.  

Give me more books anytime!

Bill Ferriter Bill Ferriter commented on March 17, 2014 at 6:53am:

Kathleen wrote:

Kathleen wrote:

Nothing is celebrated more than a child who runs up to me in the library with a book about a subject they are interested in.

---------------------------

I totally agree, Kathleen -- I love these moments too and spend more than most teachers I know on nonfiction content for my classroom library.  Heck, I'm a science teacher.  Nonfiction content matters.

And I love the nonfiction collection that we DO have in the library.  The images and the content is engaging -- and there really is nothing like holding a big ol' book full of engaging images and visuals.  Those moments are really beautiful considering the importance of turning kids on to nonfiction while they are young.

But here's my pushback:  My kids get very few opportunities to run up to me in the library with a book simply because getting to the library is hard to do.  We go together as a class once every two weeks in our school.  That's because the media schedule doesn't have time to schedule full class browsing more frequently and I don't have any more class time to give up to get down there.

I wonder if those moments where kids stumbled onto content that they were passionate about would happen more frequently if we spent more on providing digital access beyond the library. 

A buddy of mine describes it as bringing nonfiction content to the kids instead of bringing the kids to the nonfiction content.

Does this make sense? 

 

anonymous commented on March 17, 2014 at 5:36pm:

Great passion

I do see passion on both sides. Great observation rather than labelling a "rant".  As Seth Godin would say "...........burn that bridge down to the pilings."

Angela Maiers has just written a book "Passion Matters!"  "I believe passion to be the single most important asset as educators, leaders and organizations.  Passion differntiates us and defines us and needs to be constantly nutured, evolved and invigoratd by the poeple entrusted to keep it true and alive."

The conversations needs to be clarified.  In Bill's first statement he says "The cash that schools spend stocking nonfiction titles in the library is wasted and would be better spent on classroom devices that can be used to access the web."  

Now some of you are leading with the premise that we need to move to digital resources.  The two are different.  Digital resources, databases, more accessibility. YES!

WASTED is a pretty strong word................and maybe it the word choice on his part that irritating.  Yes, I said it.  And he says "schools" as if he knows the budget of all schools and what they are and what is spent.  Good point about $1500.00.  Won't buy many devices at that school!

Remember it is not just the ones with the bullhorn or those with close proximity that are the experts.

Jim Zanel commented on March 17, 2014 at 8:52pm:

Library, reading, & opportunity

Bill - I think the argument gets clouded by the mode of content delivery. I agree with the premise of cost management, but fundamentally we should not assume that the quality of learning is going to drop if we replace non-fiction books with technology tools. The opportunity these tools provide could be as valuable and mroe relevant to the kids. I use an interesting product called Themeefy to create reading opportunities using the vast repository of the Web and also get my kids to use the same. I recently saw a post by one of those guys titled "No, the Internet does not dumb down our kids" (http://tmblr.co/ZugZjr172Snv0) - was a very interesting read where they argue that as educators we should all look at adjusting instructional practice to accomodate the opportunity and deliver greater value to the learning experience.

Colette Cassinelli commented on March 24, 2014 at 1:16pm:

A Different Type of Genius Hour

I'm going to come at this from a different angle.

Don't set your kids up for failure.  Understand the limitations of your classroom and print collection.  Consider having your students work in groups to explore Genius Hour topics -- within the parameters of what they can access online and with the materials you have.  Your goal is to get students excited about learning - right?  Why not model for them that this excitement can happen even with limited access to information.  How can they get creative about what they want to learn?  Can they bring in some information from home and share it with the group.  Can one student go to the public library and share that book with his group members.  Can the class as a whole choose a topic and part of the process of participating in a Genius Hour activity is figuring how to find the information you need.  Don't let the non-print collection dampen your spirits.  Teach the students to be resilient.  Model for them that learning is hard and they can't always find the answers in the results of a Google search.  Yes, every school wants a dynamic print collection and access to technology tools but there are ways to keep the spirit of learning alive with simple and realistic expectations that learning takes time and the benefit of really working for the information is worth it.

Side note:  An elementary Librarian sets aside a porton of his budget for students to choose which books to purchase (they research, poll, gather, vote, decide, etc).  What a great way to involve students in being passionate about what they want to learn.  http://barrowmediacenter.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/honoring-student-voice...

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