The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Library and Information Science

Way back when I first started attending the University of Illinois, I learned that there was a field of study known as Library and Information Science. I also learned that many of my friends at the university were enrolled in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, also known as GSLIS (pronounced giz-liss). And thus a whole new world was opened up to me. It had honestly never occurred to me that librarians were trained and certified. I, like many of my students today, thought librarians were just the ladies (I don’t think I had ever consciously known a male librarian) who worked in the library, helped people find books, checked the books out to them, and sent reminders when books were overdue. My friends taught me that librarying (not really a word but how I like to think of it) is so much more than that.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I introduced classroom jobs to my students. Several wanted the role of Book Collectors, knowing that it also meant they were going to be in charge of keeping our classroom library organised. One student, particularly, took a great deal of pride in doing this job. On an afternoon when the students were engaged in preferred activities, I noticed him over by the books, but didn’t pay much attention to what he was actually doing. I figured he was just reshelving for me. Then the students went to their fine arts class and I discovered this display:


In case you can’t tell, these are the Picks of the Week, organised by genre.

I realised that, like me, many of my students’ interactions with librarians were probably limited to our school librarian and the children’s librarians at the Urbana Free Library. I wanted to introduce them to the other things that a librarian or information scientist could do. So I contacted a friend of mine and we worked out an arrangement for a visit. I told him that the students were doing independent research projects, so he came planning on talking about how to find authoritative sources for research, but he ended up doing much more than that.

His visit was today. I introduced Mr. Gough to the class and then they asked him questions about what he did and why he did it. This led to a discussion of the different types of libraries and the different roles of librarians. Then he shared what he does as a data curator. He asked if any of them knew what that was and we saw many hands go up! One student said, “Well, we learned in art that a curator helps organise art in a museum, so I am guessing you do something like that with data?” Wow! A fantastic connection and an accurate definition! He then talked to the students about trying to record information using modern technology but also making it accessible for future researchers. He pointed out that data used to be stored on floppy disks (I absolutely loved it when several students said, “Hey, my dad has one of those!!!”) and how it is hard to access it now because most computers now use more efficient ways to store information.


The brief visit ended with a discussion of using the Internet to find authoritative sources of information and using books which have been edited and/or peer-reviewed. It was a wonderful visit! So many of the students were engaged, asking questions, and even taking notes! I am hoping that they will use this information as they finish their colony research projects. It would be especially great if several of them visited the Urbana Free Library this weekend to seek out books related to their colonies! I am also hoping that this visit, like so many of the others we have had, will inspire at least one student to consider Library and Information Science as a career. There are so many options out there for young people today, but I worry that most of them will never even know about them, so I try to bring in a variety of special guests to broaden their horizons and help them learn more about what they can do!


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