Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

13 January 2011

Searching for a new Mayor: Part 2 - Libraries

I know I'm totally slacking on this mayor thing here. I did add some informational links over on the sidebar (so click on over RSS readers) to help my fellow Chicagoans make their decision. I had planned to go a little crazy blogging over the semester break, but the lure of books won out.

And I know that in part one of this series, I touched on libraries, but Chico's comments to the Sun-Times Editorial Board are forcing me to revisit:

If he had to choose between giving every Chicago Public School a library or every public school student a lap-top computer, he would choose: “A laptop. It opens you to the library of the world. Instead of a teacher saying, ‘Open your books, we’re going to learn about India’, she could say, ‘Pull out your lap-tops. We’re going to Skype with your fifth-grade colleagues in Mumbai.’
The purpose of a library is not to simply have access to books, but to have access to a trained librarian who can teach and guide children as they learn to be researchers and consumers of media. A laptop does none of this.

Yes, I would love for every child in Chicago to have access to the internet. But I also want them to have access to a library and a trained librarian.

In academic circles Wikipedia is a double-edged sword. If you mentioned Wikipedia early on, eyes would roll. Now not so much. More and more academics are learning that like it or not students, like anyone on the internet, will type in a phrase or term into a search engine and find themselves at a Wikipedia page. So it's not a classic encyclopedia - that's the point. We need to teach children as early as possible that Wikipedia is a tool, not so much a source for gaining information. In other words, go there to start your search and use the references section, but do not simply quote JFK's Wikipedia page in your report.

Who is going to teach that? A classroom teacher? On top of the standardized test she is tasked to teach our kids? (That's a dig at the system, not teachers!) Why not a librarian who say went to library school and has been taught how to teach children the methods of research and analyzing sources? How else did we know that we can quote a book, but not the National Enquirer? Seriously, that is what our children are deciding when they go online to do research.

In the internet age we have to allow for students to quote websites, but are we teaching them how to figure out if the site they are quoting is a talking out of their ass or writing a well researched article? That's what librarians are doing on top of making sure our kids have access to books and magazines.

If you haven't guessed by now, I'm terribly disappointed in Gery Chico for falling into a this or that trap. Our children need both access to libraries and laptops. Plain and simple.

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