Syracuse University partners with New York City Board of Education and the Robin Hood Foundation to train New York City elementary school librarians
Syracuse University partners with New York City Board of Education and the Robin Hood Foundation to train New York City elementary school librariansMay 20, 2002Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
In August, a group of 30 New York City teachers will ride a yellow school bus to Syracuse University, located in picturesque Central New York, and become students again. Their summer journey is part of an ambitious program designed to radically change the city’s public elementary school libraries over the next five years. The initiative was announced by New York City Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott on May 20 at P.S. 101, 141 E. 111 St.
“21st-Century School Librarianship: Reinventing Urban School Libraries” is a partnership between the Robin Hood Foundation, the New York City Board of Education, Syracuse University and a variety of corporate sponsors. The initiative includes the renovation of most of the city’s elementary school libraries, beginning with those in the poorest neighborhoods; equipping the libraries with state-of-the-art technology; stocking the libraries with a core collection of relevant and current books and software; and providing opportunities for teachers to be trained and certified as librarians through Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies.
“We are delighted to be able to respond to the needs of the nation’s leading city with our leadership program in library science,” says Ray von Dran, dean of SU’s School of Information Studies. “We plan to leverage our experience as one of the world’s oldest information schools and oldest distance learning programs to help change the quality of life and learning for New York City’s children.”
SU’s School of Information Studies is a national leader in the field of information science and technology. The school’s Master of Library Science Program (MLS)-among the country’s oldest programs-is ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. It’s school media program is ranked 10th in the nation and first in New York State, and the school’s Information Management Program is ranked second in the nation.
The New York City teachers will enroll as students in the schools MLS Distance Learning Program, which has been restructured to reflect the specific needs of library media specialists working in inner-city schools. Tuition costs will be supported in part by the New York City Board of Education and the University. The University plans to raise the remaining tuition costs through a scholarship program dedicated to the Reinventing Urban School Libraries (RUSL) initiative at SU. In addition to the Board of Education, the Robin Hood Foundation and the City of New York is also funding the library initiative.
“We plan to give the teachers the best possible education in 21st-century librarianship and hope they go out and do great things with the children in their schools and with their communities,” says Ruth Small, professor and director of RUSL. “The teachers will apply what they learn from us to the wonderful new facilities in the schools where children will have a rich new set of resources to help them become information literate citizens.”
After spending 10 days on the SU campus for orientation and initial courses, the students will continue their studies from their homes, communicating with their instructors via the Internet. Some of the courses they take will be totally online, others will include short, weekend residencies in New York City and some will involve intensive, weeklong instruction in New York City when school is not in session, Small says.
All of the courses will include material that directly reflects the situations the students face as school librarians in New York City, Small says. For example, “Youth Services and Resources,” one of the first courses in which the students will enroll, will be structured to emphasize the new resources and books that will be stocked in the renovated elementary school libraries.
Through the Robin Hood Foundation, Scholastic Inc. and HarperCollins have each donated one million books for the libraries, while Apple, Cisco Systems, Lexmark and Sagebrush are donating the technology equipment and software. In addition, Credit Suisse First Boston has donated $1.15 million for the initiative and 10 leading architectural firms have agreed to work pro bono on the project.
Another beginning course, “Integrating Motivation and Information Literacy” will include assignments that focus on motivating children from high-risk, high- need schools, Small says.
“Every course in our MLS Distance Learning Program will be re-thought so that we can find ways to make the courses as relevant as possible for these students,” Small says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the teachers-soon-to-be library media specialists-and it is a wonderful opportunity for us in the School of Information Studies to be a part of a program that will help disadvantaged kids reach their potential.”
The School of Information Studies at Syracuse University is a leading center for innovative programs in information policy, information behavior, information management, information systems, information technology and information services. The school has professional degree programs at the undergraduate and master’s levels and a research degree at the doctoral level. The school also has a distance education program at the graduate level.
Officially chartered in 1870 as a private, coeducational institution of higher education, Syracuse University is a leading student-centered research university. Syracuse’s 11 schools and colleges share a common mission: to promote learning through teaching, research, scholarship, creative accomplishment and service while embracing the core values of quality, caring, diversity, innovation and service. The 680-acre campus is home to more than 18,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and 90 countries.