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Library Media Specialists and the Future: A Conversation with Ken Haycock

By Joyce Kasman Valenza - Posted Jan 1, 2006
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Editor's Note: In our search for an article to address the theme LMSs and the Future, we found our way quickly to a timely book just published by Information Today, Inc.'s CyberAge Books. (Information Today is also the publisher of this magazine.) In Super Searchers Go to School, Joyce Kasman Valenza interviews a dozen prominent K-12 educators and educator-librarians who share their strategies for helping students become effective, lifelong information users. There, we felt, was material about where the profession is headed--or should be headed. So we got permission to create an MMIS feature by excerpting from a chapter in Joyce's book.

In this excerpt, Joyce elicits wisdom that points the way toward a successful future for K-12 libraries from Ken Haycock, whose impressive professional experience includes being a school librarian; principal; school board president; senior education official in Vancouver, British Columbia; president of the American Association of School Librarians; author; editor of Teach­er Librarian magazine; and, currently, director of the school of library and information science at San Jose State University.

(For more information on Super Search­ers Go to School, go online to

Ken, some of us have to convince administrators of the importance of integrating information skills across the curriculum. Can you offer some wisdom from an administrator's perspective?

I think we have a huge communication gap and librarians don't always bridge it well. I'm not sure that we have really begun to determine what teachers would find most useful to know and use. "Information literacy" is a term that's unknown outside of our field. We tend to use jargon to clarify our own thinking in a complex discipline, but that jargon alienates others from us.

But what we're really talking about in terms of working with teachers is that there are some common elements in every curriculum guide that describe how kids access and use information effectively. Those elements can form cross-curricular unity throughout a building. There are very few opportunities for us to find things that bind us together. So why don't we look at those common elements, try to rationalize them, build a structure that's going to enable kids to be successful users of information, and use that as our cross-curricular context? For many teachers, this approach has new meaning. They can see that it actually can make the world easier to comprehend and easier to manage. I'm not sure that we've always made those connections. We need to help people understand the tools that will make their lives easier.

I wrote the book on search tools [The Neal Schuman Authoritative Guide to Kids' Search Engines, Subject Directories, and Portals. Haycock, Ken, Michele Dober, and Barbara Edwards. New York: Neal-Schuman. 2003.] because I was quite surprised to hear teachers and school librarians in early intermediate grades saying that they have kids use Google. I asked, "But can they read what they get from Google?" "Well, sure," they would say. I tell them Google is an adult search tool. Why do we bother trying to find reading materials at lower levels if the kids are quite capable of comprehending the information they find through Google? Teachers tell me they hadn't really thought of that, and they ask what else is available. Actually, there's a fair bit available. But it's amazing that people are willing to invest time in planning lessons around children's books and other resources, but they aren't willing to invest time in mastering 15 to 20 very good search tools.


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview, Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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