As I work with students and teachers, I keep close tabs on my email and RSS feeds throughout the day. It’s not killing time, it’s keeping up, and it’s essential to my work as a school librarian. And I’m just as quick to respond to a request from a colleague thousands of miles away as to help those in my building. And when I have a question, I throw it out to my PLN, educators and librarians across the country and around the world using a vast variety of networks, automation systems, and applications in a diverse range of settings. And the response is always useful, and often thought-provoking.
It’s what’s called being a Connected Educator, and this is how it’s described ‘ by the’ eponymous organization:’ “Online communities and learning networks are helping hundreds of thousands of educators learn, reducing isolation and providing â€œjust in timeâ€ access to knowledge and opportunities for collaboration. However, many educators are not yet participating and others aren’t realizing the full benefits. In many cases, schools, districts, and states also are not recognizing and rewarding this essential professional learning.”
I’d venture to say that many school librarians were connected educators before connected educators were a thing.If you’ve worked in this field for more than a decade, I’m sure you can remember earlier incarnations of burning up the bush telegraph, via listservs, gopher-esque discussion boards, or text-based email between buildings or across the state. Then blogs and RSS started cropping up, making it even easier to pull the information you want, rather than just the information you need, or to push your own information to others.
So many youth services librarians work alone — as either the only information professional, or the only teen specialist, in a larger institution. And I hope that our professional preparation armed us for combating this this isolation. I remember signing up for two listservs as a requirement in an introductory class in library school in the late 1990s. I chose one for art librarians (I had majored in art as an undergraduate) and one for newspaper librarians. And I now know ridiculous amounts about working in those type of special libraries, just because of that passive exposure years ago.