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Sunday, September 16, 2012

School libraries are still about teaching students 'to use information efficiently and ethically'

"Especially at the elementary level, libraries are an important component of what schools do to ensure students read proficiently," Argot said, adding that school library programs help students find research materials and teach Internet safety, in conjunction with regular classroom teachers.

School libraries are called "information media centers," since they offer iPads, e-book readers, DVDs and laptops, in addition to print materials. At the high school there are more than 100 titles in e-book format.

"Instead of buying encyclopedia sets, libraries purchase online databases," Zelenky said, which students can access at home as well as school.

Students can collaborate online on programs like GoogleDocs, with the library using technology to foster online learning groups.

The library curriculum used to be about information (reference) and literacy (books), with a librarian helping students to find a book with the facts they needed.

"Today, the librarian helps by teaching a student how to develop a topic, how to narrow the search results by identifying key words, how to evaluate the results and how to give credit to the author," she said.

Information is easy to come by today, but understanding and using it is not, Zelenky said.

"Students today must learn to be critical thinkers, they must understand how to approach learning as inquiry, they must develop the ethical behavior specific to the modern world," Zelenky said.


In the past, the librarian was more of a selector, protector and preserver of materials, Siwert said, sharing books and fostering a love of reading.

"Today, a school library-media specialist is more of a discerning cultivator matching their patrons with the print and digital resources to meet their information needs," she said.

Computer labs are connected to the libraries in both elementary schools, Siwert said, so students can immediately apply the skills she teaches them.

As students start doing research in third grade, Siwert said she sees them eagerly going to Google or other search engines to find the answers to questions.

"I teach them to not always trust those search results. If they are looking for facts, they need to use reliable resources," she said, such as online encyclopedia databases and others that the district has purchased.

"It is the hub of technology — that's definitely how we see the direction of our library," said Capri Stiles, head librarian in Carlisle Area School District.