The new CSLA video “Does Your School Have a Teacher Librarian?” has garnered state and national interest (over 3,000 hits in the first two weeks). What’s the backstory behind the video?
Dr. Lesley Farmer, who suggested to CSLA that they should involve Karen Morgenstern in this advocacy video initiative, interviewed this teacher librarian, who works at an independent K-6 school library. Karen had eleven years of film industry experience before starting her school librarianship preparation at CSULB where Dr. Farmer coordinates the program.
When asked how she felt about the video, Karen replied, “It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. It’s so satisfying to show what I know, to create something to advocate to get more teacher librarians in California.”
Karen continued, “Probably the most startling statistics are the comparisons between California and Texas.” Karen remembers her research days at CSULB. “Information science has certain sets of facts based on research, but in the education world, that data hasn’t hit teacher preparation programs.” She continued, “I remember saying in my class that there needs to be a documentary about what kids are doing with information.” As a teacher librarian in an independent K-6 school, Karen was startled by the difference between the openness of Internet access for her students compared to a CSULB peer’s “closed universe” public high school. “Access to the Internet is not enough; kids need access to teacher librarians.”
Karen recounts the many connections in the process of making the video. “I heard that several CSLA members were going to do a presentation about the value of teacher librarians at the California School Board Association’s conference in San Diego last December. When I found out that no one was taping the session, I thought that the presentation should be documented for CSLA. I went to the high school Media Academy where my sons learned film making, and I borrowed a high-quality video camera from their former film teacher James Gleason.” Karen’s son videotaped the presentation, which she edited—her first foray into editing.
Karen explained to Gleason that documenting this panel presentation was part of a larger process of producing a CSLA advocacy video, and Gleason said he would be interested in shooting and editing it with his former student TerryKhai Ngo. James is very active in an ongoing nonprofit international student film festival always in need of support. The California School Library Foundation approved the funding, using Follett’s donation. “James really believed in the project, even if he didn’t know much about teacher librarians.”
Karen didn’t write a script, but organized the video’s content around interviews she conducted with James and TerryKhai of a variety of teacher librarians and other experts in the field during a CSLA conference. “The narrative would come out of the stories people told.” In one day James and TerryKhai filmed at three school libraries, which showcased the experts’ messages.
Karen said that every interview was valuable. “I have enough raw footage to create several topical videos.” Karen transcribed every interview, and boldfaced important sound bites for James to include in his draft video. Karen also interviewed her own students, prompting them: “Just talk about what I have taught you.” The results were authentic and compelling. “I’d like to compare the statements of legislators’ and superintendents’ own children about school libraries and information literacy with the statements of students who have had school librarians. It would confirm the difference that a teacher librarian makes.”
Then James handed off the video to Terry, who was a wonderful young collaborator. “He anticipated every change I thought should be made, and every problem.” Karen also connected with her school’s music teacher, Lilly Aycud, who is also a composer and performer. She and her husband, Marc Stuart, composed the score for the video, which was their first such effort. “I learned how much music can contribute to the film’s effectiveness. The film and the music came together beautifully.”
When asked what was the most challenging part of making the video, Karen answered: “Confining what we did to ten minutes without having just talking heads. The kids needed to be seen. The school settings needed to be seen. I had to strip the video down to the bare essentials.” Karen continues, “I would like to include footage showing teacher librarians in action—actually teaching a lesson.”
Karen continues, “I would like to interview college professors and have them talk about the contrast between their students who have had access to teacher librarians with those that haven’t. I would like parents to see that difference. What I see is a disconnect all along the way. Classroom teachers don’t know how to teach information literacy and many don’t know the value of teacher librarians. It’s such a waste of time and energy when students are not using reliable and accurate information. It makes so much sense for all students, including elementary school students, to have teacher librarians.”
Karen concludes, “My message is for California administrators: hire more teacher librarians. And make sure they are full time, utilized to their fullest, and let them provide professional development to other teachers. Karen also says, “I learned so much in making this video—it was a librarian’s dream.”