School librarians and their libraries
With the information highway stretching endlessly into the horizon and the Internet literally at the tips of students’ fingers, libraries are struggling to keep children’s interest.
“My training was as a librarian, but I need to be a computer expert,” said Janet Nowlin, librarian at Fritsch Elementary School. “It gets frustrating.”
Despite her frustration, Nowlin said libraries are not necessarily in competition with the new technology. The two complement one another.
“We probably have more kids reading more books now than ever before,” she said. “I think kids get interested about the things they read on the Internet, so they read a book about it.”
Sharon Arnold, librarian at Bordewich-Bray Elementary, said her motto is “any way you can,” when it comes to keeping students interested in libraries.
“My goal is to encourage children to love libraries,” Arnold said. “We don’t have the quietest library, but if we make it a comfortable place to be, the kids will develop a love of reading and a love of books.”
Once librarians capture the students’ interest, the resources must be current.
The Associated Press reported, for example, that about 50 percent of books in Boston’s elementary schools have copyrights more than six years old.
Gaylene Miller, librarian at Seeliger Elementary, said her school updates a little every year.
“We try to keep up as much as we can,” she said. “We get some new things every year and discard some of the old.”
She said she would like to see more funds go to the library but understands the limited budget.
“I am also a realist,” Miller said. “I realize that not all the money can go to the library.”
Arnold said librarians at Bordewich developed a system where, when a staff member has a birthday, the other staff members buy a new book and donate it to the library in that person’s name.
Nowlin said in some areas their library is current but in others it is out-of-date.
“I would never say we were totally up-to-date,” she said. “We’re an older library so we have some old books.”
She said they are lagging furthest behind in science.
“Science is advancing so fast, it’s hard to keep up there,” she said.
The Boston Globe reported that it found one book in the Boston library titled “Planets, Stars and Space.” It was copyrighted 1957 and said a trip to the moon can’t yet be made.
In Carson City, Arnold said that if a student needs information on a certain subject, the information will be there.
“One way or another, I would make sure they could get it,” she said.
But Arnold said that the library is more than just an information center.
“If students are having problems on the playground, we want them to feel like they can come to the library,” she said. “If you move to a new town, there will always be a library there.”
Nowlin said she is sure that technology will not be the end of the library.
You can’t take a computer a lot of places,” she said. “You can take a book with you anywhere.”