Mark Ray sounds the call for librarians to step up to a larger role
What can school librarians bring to the table? Plenty, says Mark Ray, a presenter at SLJ’s 2012 Leadership Summit, October 25–27, in Philadelphia. But to do that, Ray says they’ll need to define their roles more broadly and make sure they’re leading the way in schools.
Ray, the manager of instructional technology and library services at the Vancouver (WA) Public Schools, is no stranger to the challenges that today’s media specialists face. As a former teacher librarian who was named Washington’s 2011 Teacher of the Year (the first time a librarian received that honor), he’s experienced many of those headaches firsthand, and he wonders if the word “library” is part of the problem and if media specialists may be facing extinction because of “internal and external forces beyond our control,” such as shrinking budgets and unsupportive administrators.
But just because Ray’s 45-minute presentation, “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m a Librarian: Leadership Beyond the ‘L Word,’” reflected on school librarians recent woes, doesn’t mean he’s not bullish on the profession.
“I love the library, and I firmly believe in it,” says Ray, a 20-plus-year veteran of the Vancouver School District. “But what I also think is that we can redefine perceptions on the part of administrators and decision makers by not necessarily wearing the library on our sleeves.” Media specialists, he says, need to take a tip from his teaching heroes in Washington State and “be informed but not defined by their librarianship” and do “some of their best work outside of their librarians,” which means reaching out to those in the classroom.
As for trying out those new, more expansive roles, Ray says that school librarians need to become digital strategists (who advise administrators on the best choices for tech programs and mobile devices), data and metadata mavens, teaching pioneers (who are “the first ones to adopt Common Core” in their schools), technology whisperers to make the user experience understandable and manageable, virtual administrators, and innovation integrationists that excel at making connections between various organizations.
And that’s not all. Ray drew a knowing chuckle from the afternoon crowd of 240 media specialists an vendors when he suggested that media specialists also need to be “blended-learning baristas—using technology and teaching in fluid ways.” If librarians can do that, says Ray, “You can provide services to teachers and to students that’s personalized and powerful.”