September 22, 2023

The League of Extraordinary Librarians: SLJ’s latest tech survey shows that media specialists are leading the way


Meet the latest tech superheroes: school librarians. According to School Library Journals 2012 School Technology Survey, media specialists are leading the charge to bring new media, mobile devices, social apps, and web-based technologies into our nation’s classrooms.

So far, the results have been pretty impressive: 87 percent of school librarians report that they’re in charge of their library’s technology, with 60 percent adding that they’ve also introduced it into the classroom. Furthermore, 44 percent now serve on their school’s tech team, and in these budget-troubled times, when many library positions are on the line, that role may mean increased job security. In fact, 55 percent of the elementary, middle, and high school librarians that responded to our survey say that their tech skills have increased their value in administrators’ eyes.

The Dossier ChartsWhat are many librarians’ biggest challenges? Not surprisingly, money and time—from the funds necessary to upgrade existing technology to the time needed to teach students how to use these tools. Case in point? Erica Braverman, a media specialist at Lindenwold School 5, an elementary school in New Jersey, says it’s tough to find time to make sure kids know how to use the latest technology competently. “Students need to learn how to use technology before they can effectively create with it,” writes Braverman. “It’s like learning to drive a car: if they don’t receive the proper instruction on how to drive, they will crash! We don’t want any Web-based crashes! But the time to teach students how to use the tools is limited, and classroom teachers have so much to teach as it is, it’s very challenging.”

Another trend we spotted? The number of schools creating one-to-one programs, in which each student is issued a tablet, a laptop, or some other digital device, has risen from 21 percent in 2011 to 27 percent in 2012. The use of tablets has especially soared, with 26 percent of librarians using them with students and teachers in 2012—more than double the 10 percent that reported using them in 2011. “We are in phase one of a one-to-one initiative putting netbooks in every student’s hands,” explains Laura Schachet, a media specialist at Webber Middle School in Fort Collins, CO. “They also make videos using flip cameras in a Web 2.0 class.”

Kids are also taking advantage of free Web-based resources, including Animoto, Google Docs, and Wordle; video equipment and software; digital subscriptions; and interactive whiteboards; plus photo equipment and software. And in the coming year, media specialists expect to see even more tablets, ereaders, apps, and ebooks on campus.

The Dossier ChartsThe use of ebooks, in particular, continues to climb, with 47 percent of media specialists saying they’re currently using them, up from 31 percent last year. Students are also reading digital books on a variety of devices—whether that’s the 63 percent who are perusing titles on library computers, the 17 percent who are reading on tablets, or the 21 percent who are fans of dedicated ereaders.

Mobile devices are also playing a larger role in learning, as 23 percent of schools are now allowing students to use their own devices in school—compared to a measly 13 percent in 2011. And in high schools, where students are more often encouraged to whip out their smartphones, the use of mobile devices has spiked from 29 percent of schools in 2011 to 49 percent today.

Nearly half of all schools have turned to social apps for classroom learning. The top app? Edmodo, a site that enables students and educators to network, share, and collaborate online. Launched in 2010, the platform is now used by 18 percent of school librarians to support teaching and student learning, followed by Google+, Delicious, and GoodReads. Where’s Facebook? Dead last, with a mere seven percent of respondents using the social network with their kids.

School librarians are also having an easier time gaining access to websites and apps. Sixty-nine percent have successfully negotiated with their administrators and school district to unblock YouTube, 66 percent have gotten the green light on blogging sites, and 30 percent managed to get Twitter unlocked. Only eight percent of media specialists report that their school’s filtering program “is severely restrictive.”

With purse strings still tight in most places, 78 percent of school librarians have opted for free apps—almost double the 42 percent who were using them in 2011. They are “the number-one tool used by librarians with students and teachers,” according to our survey, and an additional four percent of media specialists plan to incorporate tools such as Google Docs, Glogster, and Prezi into their lessons next year.

Not only do many media specialists find these apps budget-friendly, but also many, like Sabrena Wetzel, a librarian at Chicago’s Josephine Locke Elementary School, have noticed that their students have fun using them. “I used an online continent site to review where we wanted to send Flat Stanley, and…they had to figure out the continents,” writes Wetzel, who uses popular stories and technology to help her second graders learn about geography. “They really enjoyed it.”

And that may be the best outcome of all.


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


  1. Could have a more concise heading: Leagues of Extraordinary Librarians are Leading the Way. It’s true: Librarians are handing out Ipads to teachers and students, showing them how to use them, loading books to nooks, and generally school leaders in social technologies and web 2.0 tools. Not to mention all of the curation tools that librarians are using.

    Please tag this comment: Librarians

  2. Oh, Lauren, sorry for my bad manners. I forgot to say thank you for such a great article! Awesome.

  3. With all that access to computer labs, the need for information literacy, and opportunity for school librarians in the classroom, I’m not surprised that they’re leading the way on this. I find school librarians like <a href=""The Daring Librarian are reporting on tech trends that the majority of the library science field is yet unaware of.

    I love that you mentioned ebooks and tablets since I think the most appropriate usage for these tools are nonfiction or textbooks in schools! How cool would it be to search your assigned history chapter for a keyword that you’re writing a paper on? Wish I had access to that when I was in school!

  4. Founder Seymour Simon and I spent a good deal of time in schools around the U.S. over the past three years, talking with Library Media Specialists about kids, technology and learning. Their thinking and guidance had a profound influence on how we have developed our StarWalk Kids Media collection of eBooks designed for use in elementary and middle schools. What we developed based on their advice? 1. Multiple, simultaneous access to our eBooks by an entire class. 2. Device neutrality – our streaming eBooks work on any device that has Internet access. 3. Affordability. We know that budgets are challenged, and our subscription model delivers a collection of 150 high quality ebooks for less than $1.50 per student per year in an average-sized school.

    Your article is correct – media specialists really are leading the way!

  5. Melissa Smith says:

    I am happy to see what I already suspected – librarians leading the way with technology. Anyone that believes that librarians and libraries are dying is very wrong. I was happily surprised that there has been a large jump in allowing students to use their own devices in schools. It makes sense – the kids have the resources, so why not let them use them? Interesting that Nooks are the most popular choice when it comes to eReaders in schools. I wonder if Amazon’s new service Whispercast will change those stats in the next couple years?

    • Melissa, it’s great to see someone else who agrees that this is the best time for libraries to show what they have to offer! Great point about kids using their own devices. An awesome opportunity for information literacy conversations with them!

  6. Melissa, libraries have so much to offere. They are setting the bar pretty high for getting into and out of school though. It’s a hard run to become a librarian but with all that information technology has to offer the run should start to become a bit easier.

    Conrad <<