April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Undercover Librarian: Tech Coordinator Sarah Ludwig | Editorial

When Sarah Ludwig applied for her current job, the former media specialist was looking for the right fit for her skills. She found it, and now Ludwig has potentially forged a new model for school librarianship. As she drives tech innovation across the entire curriculum, her work is skill-centered rather than site-centered, and it’s connection-oriented while staying collection-oriented. It also emphasizes learning outcomes over gadgetry and validates the core work of librarians in meeting educational goals. She’s done all of this under the cover of the “tech coordinator” title.

In Linda W. Braun’s cover story (“Next Year’s Model”), Ludwig describes her journey from her first job as a school librarian to a second in a public library and then back into a school setting. As Hamden (CT) Hall Country Day School’s tech coordinator, Ludwig now works closely with faculty members to develop tech solutions and teaches kids how to evaluate and use technology to navigate their schoolwork. She also surfaces terrific books for teens, recommends resources, teaches information literacy, educates kids about digital citizenship, and more. Sounds kind of like being a librarian, right?

That’s both bad and good news for the profession. Ludwig admits that at first she tried to distance herself from librarianship, but over the past year, she has come full circle on that identity. “I realized I shouldn’t try to hide my skills and background,” she says. “Those are my strengths, and they connect me to what I am doing, so I refocused. That’s when I realized this job is no different from what I’ve done as a librarian.”

There are some significant differences, though. As tech coordinator, she’s considered the expert and is more integrated into her teaching colleagues’ work. “Now it’s easier to get people to trust my opinion on technology, which enables me to do more than I could as a librarian,” she says.

This is exciting for school librarians eager to find the best fit for their skills, regardless of what the job title is.

“If you get out of your library and take your knowledge everywhere, then you become a resource—no longer the keeper of a physical space or objects. You can focus on the most important skills that students need,” Ludwig says. “I don’t have to figure out if my educational goals fit into being a librarian or not, but rather do they fit the mission of the school as a whole?”

That’s basically where every educator, librarian or not, should be—integrated into their school’s central mission to give kids a great education. Ludwig’s example is inspiring as we consider how to position school librarians’ robust skills in a setting that is being rapidly influenced by the opportunity and peril brought by new technology and the arrival of the Common Core standards (see “All Aboard!”).

We can all learn from Ludwig’s ability to see her skills afresh and use them to meet students’ and teachers’ key needs. She’s creating a model for all school librarians to consider as they think about how they can become leaders in their institutions. Share her example with your school leadership to say, “Hey, look what I can do!”

But wait! What about the library? This year Ludwig will actually be housed in the school’s library, connecting her current work to the core tasks of information literacy and research. Talk about coming full circle. She’s enriching her tech role and simultaneously enhancing the status of the library. She’s also giving us all a gift by providing an invigorating view of what school librarianship can and should become.

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Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (rmiller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.