March 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Superheroes Among Us: Librarians are the unsung tech leaders in our nation’s schools | Editorial

Super hero figurine on desk

Photograph by Mark Tuchman

Action figures don’t usually weigh in on SLJ’s design, but Flash, the iconic DC Comics superhero, zipped into the story this month. He snuck his way into my purse and then onto my desk just as editors Kathy Ishizuka and Rick Margolis and I talked about our cover strategy with art director Mark Tuchman. Flash didn’t say much, but his force was unstoppable.

Our conversation about the findings of SLJ’s 2012 school library tech survey focused on how to acknowledge the diverse tech leadership represented in them. A glance at “The Dossier” (pp. 26–27) is telling. First, a full 87 percent of respondents are responsible for technology use in their library. That is not in itself unexpected, as everyone thinks of the library as the librarian’s domain, but the survey illustrates that the librarian’s domain can extend well beyond the library walls when it comes to tech. The majority of librarians surveyed, 60 percent, help activate technology use at the classroom level. This number could rise as teachers find themselves overwhelmed and librarians further tap their powers to bring them the technology needed to support the kids.

There are some other exciting numbers (see fig. 5): 44 percent of respondents serve on their school’s tech team; 39 percent impact technology adoption school-wide; and 21 percent officially serve on the district-level tech team. SLJ hadn’t surveyed school librarians on this particular point in the past, and we will trend it over time, but we hope, and expect, these numbers to also rise as their secret powers are further revealed to tech coordinators, principals, and superintendents. The schools and districts that are drawing on the tech savvy of librarians get it—they get that librarians are right out front in the fight to help their schools embrace new tools and keep up with trends with digital content (especially useful as Common Core arrives; see “A Match Well Made,” on p. 20).

Librarians are deploying a wide range of popular technologies to serve learning (fig. 1), and continuing to adapt, utilizing the latest hardware, swiftly adopting ebooks, creating one-to-one programs with devices, saying yes to mobile technology, and more. And, they do it in the face of drastic role redefinition brought by fearsome funding pressures. Ah! Here’s where Flash sprang into action and helped us see the superheroes among us.

Mark Tuchman took this challenge to the thrilling illustrator Jacob Thomas. At his fingertips, the librarian masters of apps, ereaders, and social networks, became what we call the dynamic App Woman, the nimble Reader, and the outrageously electric Social Media Man. They charge out of the cover and, in this installment, fearlessly engage with the Funding Tornado (p. 24) in their ongoing fight to put resources where great learning happens.

Rebecca T. Miller's Signature

Rebecca T. Miller

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Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller ( is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.