Kathy Broderick recalled that when she began teaching at All Saints Academy in the mid-1990s, student computer usage at the Corning school was limited to such activities as drawing and other tasks involving graphics.
"We had no Wi-Fi connection, no cable connection," she said.
Just 20 years later, computer technology pervades much of the elementary-school experience, with library curriculum being a prime example. As part of that curriculum, students are taught to utilize technology for such tasks as accessing the card catalog, doing research and taking quizzes about books they’ve read. In fact, computers and libraries go so hand in hand that Broderick, the education technology coordinator at All Saints, also has served as the school librarian for the past six years.
Anthony S. Cook III, diocesan superintendent of schools, said that technology and library — though seen as specific subject areas — often are cotaught and approached in other collaborative ways, "as there are so many resources for library media efforts through technology," he said.
"Cataloging and leveling of books is assisted by technology, and students must develop the technological literacy to be successful in technology, library studies and all other school subjects," Cook added.
Broderick noted that recently, her fourth-grade students read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and they started out by looking online for background information about the author.
"Then as we continued our reading, if there was a word they weren’t familiar with or a concept, we looked it up on the tablet (computer)," Broderick said, adding that her students were enthusiastic about this style of reading and learning: "The use of both the book and the tablets is getting home the aspect of using multiple sources for learning and enjoyment."
Susan Conlogue, librarian at St. Louis School in Pittsford, said her library utilizes Scholastic Reading Inventory, a computer-adaptive assessment measuring how well students read and understand literature of varying difficulties, and the Accelerated Reader Program, in which students read select books and then challenge themselves with computer-based questions about those books.
Broderick and Conlogue said that although present-day librarians must be technologically savvy, their chief mission remains unchanged: to foster a love of reading, particularly of books. To that end, Conlogue said that St. Louis School offers a Newbery Club, which encourages the reading of high-quality literature. The school also arranges guest visits by authors.
Conlogue said a mark of satisfaction for her is introducing a book to a library class and hearing students say, "I love that book, I love that author."
"That’s what I love to hear," Conlogue said. "That is what we as educators and parents work to encourage, obviously. We do have really avid readers."
These days, the love of book-reading can be enhanced by electronics, such as reading digital versions of books on hand-held devices. At All Saints Academy, Broderick said that "the children are used to that form and are drawn to it." However, she added, "Many students still like the texture variations, size and authenticity of a paper book."
Since technology can readily provide books and vast amounts of information, Broderick acknowledged that public libraries aren’t the first option for as many functions as in yesteryear.
"It’s definitely different. Where before it was natural to go to the library, now we have to teach it," she remarked.
However, Broderick still sees great value in libraries and wants her students to appreciate libraries as well, even in this computer age.
"We have to teach those life skills, whether they’re using the library for studying or as a relaxation tool," she said. "They need to have that down time instead of being on the go all the time."