May 24, 2022

Former CNET Reporter Logs Her First Year as a School Librarian

With a degree in engineering, former CNET editor Margaret Schoen brings a unique background to her new role as library teacher at a Massachusetts elementary school 

Margaret Schoen at her library.

When Margaret Schoen talks technology, she knows her stuff. The library teacher at Franklin Elementary School in West Newton, MA, is tapping her background as a former technology reporter and editor to instill 21st-century skills in the school’s 400 K–5 students.

“I think it’s helpful because I have more of a careful eye,” says Schoen, who is finishing her first year as a school librarian, working three days a week at the school. “Because of my background in tech, I remember when everyone would say, ‘This is the thing,’ and then two years later, it’s dead.”

That hasn’t stopped Schoen from diving right in with the students. She’s had them create using the online storytelling tool VoiceThread, Google presentations, and word clouds, which the students still clamor to make when they arrive in the basement space to work on the library’s iMacs and laptops. “Coming from tech media, I’m familiar with the technology we’re integrating into school systems,” she says. “When Twitter started, we were tweeting. I was doing all of these things because I was covering social media.”

Schoen’s path to librarianship took her from working as an editor for tech news site CNET to freelancing to getting her master’s from Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science in Boston. Schoen, who has a bachelor’s degree in engineering, says becoming a librarian sort of made sense—she used to joke as a kid that she’d grow up to be one. And her CNET colleagues would teasingly refer to Schoen as their in-house reference librarian. “I was always so interested in trivia,” she says.

After leaving CNET in 2008, Schoen freelanced as a journalist and then decided to explore her longtime interest in libraries by volunteering in her daughter’s elementary school library. She performed a similar stint at Newton Public Library. There, she tackled projects ranging from updating databases to helping create book lists for teen reading groups. Eventually, the idea of actually becoming a librarian just made sense.

“I was trying to figure out what I could do with my skills,” she says. “I can write, edit, and find information. And who does that? Librarians.”

Before she had even finished her degree, Schoen was offered the librarian job at Franklin and allowed to count her first fall semester on the job as her practicum, to the benefit of her students. Among Schoen’s first tasks: assessing the need for online reference sources, as well as evaluating and weeding the nonfiction collection, a major step toward aligning materials with the Common Core standards.

Schoen’s also helping build a Web page for the library and dabbling slowly with ebooks. Working with one of the fourth-grade teachers, she’s acquired two digital science titles to work into the curriculum. The purchase made sense in light of her $2,500 materials budget—digital reference works usually allow for simultaneous licenses, where multiple students can access them at the same time. Not so with popular fiction books, like Harry Potter, which tend to be one-to-one.

For Schoen, her personal transition has been fairly seamless—and exciting, allowing her to work her former career into her new one and blossom in a new way. Still, even she couldn’t avoid at least one technology hiccup along the way.

“My biggest shift was going from PCs to Macs,” she says. “I kept saying, ‘Where’s my right click?’”

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.