For many in our profession, it is a daily challenge to promote great learning practices while simultaneously fighting off budget cuts, library staff reductions, dilapidated technology equipment, and outdated job descriptions. One is reminded of those movie scenes where the hero is trying to simultaneously race through traffic while fending off sniper fire. We are in an era of flight or flight. It’s tiring. Do we stay, fight the good fight, and continue to get black-eyed from time to time? Do we escape, knowing that our perspective and resources are valuable for kids and that by abandoning the fight, they may get to college unable to negotiate their professors’ research paper expectations?
And what are we fighting for? A static profession of books? Storytime at the carpet? Deep rigor? Curriculum leadership? Circulation statistics? Whiteboards? After-school tutoring in our spaces or online? Pathfinders? Books? Multimedia? Critical thinking? Laptop carts? Innovative instruction? A place where teachers can requisition batteries and kids can buy poster boards? A large room where quarterly standardized testing brings new learning to a halt?
What is the future of school libraries? More particularly, what is the future of school librarians? At the present time, libraries aren’t being closed in schools; librarians are the loss leaders.
For those of us still working in schools, what are we working toward? For those of us sent back into classrooms or other professions to await a better future, like Eastern European partisans waiting in the forests for rescue after Soviet Occupation, what would life after liberation look like? Both are valid and valuable questions.
Those are some of the question we posed to the extended school librarian community. What is the future going to be like? What do you see? What can you hold up from your own practice as a lantern to illuminate the way for others? These questions are too big to be answered by any single librarian, district, organization, or task force. They take collective thinking. And so we made an unusual overture: all voices would be heard, regardless of experience, reputation, or perpsective. (We drew the line at muckraking and fingerpointing; for our original guidelines, visit http://bit.ly/ebooksubmissionguidelines.)
As we began to envision this book, both of us were acutely aware that print books, the bread-and-butter of libraries for hundreds of years, were undergoing a dramatic format shift. Like the tablets and scrolls of societies past which had given way to bound print titles, the deckle-edged pages are now ceding to eBooks, eReaders, and digital text. Will print books, like the document formats of the past, disappear from our shelves? Or will print and digital texts co-exist, like microwave ovens and stoves, each providing affordances that the other cannot match? Or will yet a new wave of developments take over? No one knows for sure. Ownership and licensing arrangements are in nascent stages. Some librarians fear eBooks, worrying that eReaders remove bookstores and libraries as the traditional “middlemen” between reader and word. How do we deal with such fears while simultaneously moving forward?