Is it possible in this fast-paced world, to see a future with technology and professionally credentialed librarians and teachers working alongside one another? Can we be one big happy family?
My last post about the loss of librarians and libraries brought a comment from a Follett representative. Follett is a for-profit company that has been around for long time. As a teacher I used their materials.
With funding from Follett we launched saveschoollibrarians.org where we are supporting the fight for Oakland and Chicago school librarians (and many others) as mentioned in this article. If a school is cutting librarians, let us know and we can provide a lot of pro-bono support to push back against the cuts and even some funding.
This took me by surprise. Follett, like many companies, has jumped on the digital learning bandwagon. They are now a key player with Future Ready Schools, a nonprofit also supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Pearson. Look at the Future Ready Schools page and you see a picture of every student staring at a digital device.
So Follett supports Future Ready Schools and books and librarians?
Thank you for sharing. However, I have concerns.
- Our tax dollars should fund our school libraries and librarians.
- While that doesn’t seem to be happening, and a partnership would appear to be the next best thing, I have several concerns about Follett.
- They want “Future Ready Librarians,” buzz words referring to personalized learning.
- They’re connected to Alliance for Excellent Education.
- The Alliance for Excellent Education is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
So it might be true that Follett is working to fight for librarians, but the above connections make me question their motives.
I received an email from the President of Follett, School Solutions, Nader Qaimari. I found it a sincere attempt to show support for librarians.
I read your post on the loss of school libraries and librarians on your blog, and was interested in a comment you made about Follett’s participation in the advocacy efforts. Naturally, as a for-profit company, I can understand that you may be skeptical about our motives. However, I wanted to write to assure you that they are likely similar to yours and the motives of all your colleagues — we believe in libraries and librarians and want to ensure that everyone, especially taxpayers, share our support for them. Follett has been in this business for nearly 150 years and on a daily basis I remind people in our organization that we cannot exist without librarians. My team, 1,300 strong, is comprised of former teachers, former librarians, parents and many others all who share a love of literacy and education. True, as a company, we have a vested interest in seeing libraries thrive. However, as a parent, I also know the pitfalls of not having certified librarians in schools. It’s part of the reason I came into this industry in the first place. Our support for Future Ready as an initiative was strategic. From our vantage point, one of the largest issues we face as an industry is the fact that administrators within districts rarely know the true value the library can bring to the district. Future Ready is an initiative superintendents all over the country are getting behind, because it aligns with their vision. By having librarians be part of the framework, superintendents and other administrators can easily understand how libraries fit into the future strategic plan. That is why we got involved in that specific initiative. It was actually a Department of Education initiative when we got involved, and only transitioned to the Alliance for Education when President Obama left office. Nonetheless, we have 16,000 librarians on the Future Ready Facebook page and we are getting tremendous traction with the message. It really is an advocacy effort and has little to do with our commercial products or services.
I would be happy to discuss this or any of our other advocacy efforts with you further. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year trying to bring the conversation to the forefront. I even wrote an article about the loss of certified librarians recently (http://digitalpromise.org/2018/03/06/striving-readers-hire-librarians/), and will continue to speak out about this. It’s a personal matter for me, as I have been working in this industry for library companies for 20 years. Please look at us as a partner trying to help you solve this problem and nothing more.
Again, happy to answer any further questions or to speak live on the matter.
Follett School Solutions
1340 Ridgeview Drive. McHenry, IL 60050
Thank you for your kind letter. As you can imagine, teachers and librarians are mixed on the subject of digital learning. Most like the idea of technology use, but reject the total transformation to personalized learning. This, of course, would mean the end of teaching (and librarians) as a profession, and quite possibly even the end of brick-and-mortar schools.
There is also growing concern on the part of parents, pertaining to datamining and online profiling of children without parental consent. Parents have no ability to see information how the data about their children is being shared and marketed. Shadow data and the data foot printing of children is just as disturbing, if not more so, as the Facebook fiasco.
Some educators have bought into technology and don’t understand this threat, or don’t believe it is real. But the fear for others, including myself, is that groups like Future Ready Schools are about this total transformation. The prototype is readily apparent in charter schools such as Summit and Rocketship. Many also see tech titans like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg as behind this change.
It is also alarming to watch school districts, struggling for years to obtain tax dollars to stay afloat, succumb to personalized learning through partnerships. America’s schools should belong to the people—not any group of individuals with a particular ideology—especially when the intent is to remake schools into an unproven image of digital learning.
No matter how glitzy the ads may make it seem, there is no research indicating that total transformation to technology will benefit children.
I was a special education teacher for many years, and Follett always stood out as a respectable company. My school district and I personally purchased resources from Follett. I can also see where companies like Follett can get caught up in the virtual learning momentum.
Your letter has an air of sincerity about it and it was much appreciated. I am glad you made me aware of your touching essay in support of librarians. I would be happy to share your letter in another post on my blog.
While it probably won’t ease everyone’s tech takeover fears, it might show that your company is thoughtful about the loss of librarians and more multidimensional in your approach to education.
Nancy E. Bailey, Ph.D.
Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students (R & L Books, 2013)
Losing America’s Schools: The Fight to Reclaim Public Education (R & L Books, 2016)
Nader graciously replied.
Thank you, Nancy. I greatly appreciate your response and totally understand your concerns. Technology should only exist to enable and facilitate the great work of teachers and librarians, never to replace them. Only those companies with complete ignorance of how education happens would ever advocate for technology as a replacement. Those companies usually don’t last. In fact, in our case, print appears to continue to be the area that grows each year, because the students have spoken and they want to hold books in their hands, especially at the younger ages. Either way, it’s great to understand your perspective. It helps us adjust our messaging to ensure that what we are advocating for is clear. Please feel free to use any of my writings.
Best to you!
I appreciate Nader’s emails. I still find him sincere. But I also think that the march to replace teachers and eventually librarians and school libraries with technology is a huge threat to society.
Here is my summary:
- Are company motives always what they seem? Are we too quick to judge? Perhaps we need better ways of working together and sharing information.
- How are district school boards used to deny or promote tech? Are parents and educators given a voice as to how digital learning will be used in their schools?
- Many parents are worried about the threat of student information being handed over freely to outside organizations and companies.
- Are educators too quick to jump on the digital bandwagon?
- Are librarians ushering in a world of technology that will someday see them kiss their jobs good-bye? Or will we always have librarians in the mix?
- And where’s the mention of teachers in the future? In perusing the Future Ready Schools website I could not find teachers mentioned once.
Tech, teachers and librarians—can they survive together? That’s the question.