Sunday, October 17, 2010

October 18 - "The Media" and The School Library

This coming Wednesday, a television crew is coming to my school to film. The topic is on innovative uses of technology in education, and their focus is on my school's use of - I will co-teach a grade 3 class and they will shoot the kids in action using Bitstrips. I will be interviewed, as will some grade 8s that used Bitstrips for their history project last year and one of the founders of Bitstrips. I'm very excited about this opportunity, as are my students.

At the risk of sounding egotistical, I'll mention that this is not my first experience with what's often called "the media". I've spoken on CBC Radio commenting on the funding directed towards school libraries, and I've appeared on TVOntario as a panel member discussing whether or not school libraries need books.

I think it's very positive and promising that news organizations are doing features related to school libraries. In a past article in The Teaching Librarian magazine, PR people from various school boards gave advice on how to "handle the media". If I recall correctly, lots of the points involved not making grand political statements or stooping to sensationalism. The thing is, the relationship between school libraries and media outlets is one of "mutual usership" - this sounds terrible, but what I mean is that each needs the other for their own purposes. I think that as long as you remember to help the media get what they want, you can both be happy by the encounter. Let me give an example. When my school board was considering cutting the teacher-librarian allocation, several of us attended the board meeting. Many newspaper reporters were there and asked for some comments to use as quotes in their articles. A friend of mine wanted to rant about how principals misue allocation by making TLs prep fairies and minimize partnering slots, as well as budget diversions from the per person recommended funding model, but another friend held her back. Prep vs partnering? Principal discretion? These were details that would confuse the general public. I was asked how many teacher-librarians would lose their jobs or have to be fired because of the decision. As tempting as it would have been to talk about out-of-work-TLs, that would have been a misunderstanding of the issue. No one would be fired, but they would be diverted to other jobs, and the school library would suffer. I don't recall exactly what I said (I was quoted and I think it was in the Toronto Sun), but I tried my best not to go to either extreme - neither TL-edubabble, nor simplistic & inaccurate scare tactics.

So, "mass media", thank you for giving time to school libraries, for whatever reasons you have to do so.

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